For a guy who never finished high school, John LoPorto learned a lot throughout his 40 years up until today. He learned, for instance, that if you have a dream you should follow it--keep the focus on that dream, never give up the quest. And early on in his career, John LoPorto learned a valuable lesson – one he lives by daily: treat people the way you want to be treated--always.
Today, John has achieved his dream. He’s reached the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, so to speak. Through life’s ups and downs, with a curve ball thrown in here and there, John LoPorto managed to open and expand his own fence company. Today he’s in a brand new location, complete with a showroom! The nine-year-old LoPorto Fence Company. held its grand re-opening celebration at a new half-acre site off Hylan Boulevard in Old Town. Now, for the first time, just as in John’s dreams, he has a building, a supply yard and most importantly, a showroom. All in one location!
And John hasn’t forgotten the people who helped him achieve his dream. “This is not about me,” says John. “I got here through these people. They helped me.” Here is a capsule look back at John’s career and dream, and at the many people who advised him, pushed him, pulled him, and cajoled him -- in short, helped him -- achieve that dream.
John grew up in New Dorp, graduated P.S. 41, and went on to Intermediate School 2 in Midland Beach. At age 16, however, he was forced to leave school and head straight into a job to help with family expenses. That was in 1986. He’s been working ever since.
“I saw an ad in the paper for a fence helper at Artcraft Fence on Hylan Blvd in Grant City,” John recalls. He read a book on how to put up a fence, studied it, and arrived at Artcraft for an interview. Artcraft’s owner, Ralph Oliva, was so impressed with John’s knowledge of fencing that he immediately hired him.
John cut his teeth at Artcraft. Before long, he moved to a competitor – LaTorre Fence Co. in Mariners Harbor. “Bob LaTorre and Jeff D’Albero groomed me and taught me the business,” recalls John, who began as a helper and advanced to truck foreman and company manager. “I looked up to Bob as a father.” Installing fences agreed with John, and apparently John agreed with installing fences. He liked the work, and customers and co-workers grew to like him.
As time progressed, John and his wife, Christine, dreamed of some day opening their own fence company--someday. That day came in 2002.
With 25 years under his belt, John resigned from LaTorre Fence, which had now become Fence Depot with Bob in retirement and Jeff at the helm. It wouldn’t be easy in the beginning, but he and Christine had it all figured out. She would act as secretary--handle phone inquiries and book installation jobs during the day from their New Dorp Beach house. Meanwhile, he would be out in the field installing fences. LoPorto Fence Company. was up and running.
But the telephone hardly rang. So John and Christine did what they saw Bob LaTorre do with his firm – they advertised. In fact, Christine contacted the same advertising representative they got to know at LaTorre Fence – Bob Williams. Bob met a number of times with the two new business owners and devised a print advertising plan to get the phone ringing. The plan worked--the phone began to ring and the orders began to mount. Then Bob told the LoPortos they could get even more business if they accepted credit cards. They agreed, and Bob scouted out a few credit card companies before recommending a local firm.
“One of my good friends from the old company, Vinny Ferrara, came with me to my company,” John says. “Vinny and I gradually built up the business. We started as the sole crew; then we bought a truck, then two trucks, and crews to go with the trucks.”
Before long LoPorto Fence Company had three installation crews and two full time salespersons fanning out across the borough. It later grew to a staff of 10. When Vinny passed away three years ago, John’s wife, Christine, devoted even more time to the growing business. She and John moved to a new home in Oakwood and continued to operate the business from home (even though they continued to have a storage facility in Bloomingdale).
But as excited as she was in growing the business, Christine noticed in early 2009 that she was beginning to slow down. Doctors eventually spotted a severe illness, which led to her death later that year. John saw his world – and especially his dream – begin to crumble. But his three sons kept insisting he had to go on. They, too, had dreams. Each wanted to join the company when he got older, they told him.
“I thought about it, I thought about my sons, and I decided to continue the business. After all, I figured I couldn’t leave the kids a fence company that was run out of a house with a storage yard way out in Bloomingdale.”
John took some time to study the situation. He knew that Artcraft Fence was now out of business. It had moved to a site on Dumont Ave. in Old Town, and eventually closed. He wondered if that site was available. It was. So he sent a letter last year to the owner expressing his interest in renting or buying. One thing led to another, and eventually to a deal: John closed officially on the half-acre site on June 14, Flag Day. The site was just the ticket – enough square feet for a storage yard, a work area for his installation crews and, most importantly, a showroom!
John was ecstatic. He spent the entire summer moving supplies from his Bloomingdale facility, and sprucing up the new Dumont Ave. site. Now, John is quick to say that credit for the new facility goes to “my guys.” And he ticks off their names:
- Thomas Reen
- Angel Rodriguez
- Matthew LoPorto
- Eduardo Cruz
- Juan Acevedo
- Louis Rodriquez Jr.
- Mike Accornero
“It’s funny,” John recalls. “When my son Matthew graduated high school, all he talked about was helping me run the family business. I tried to point him to college. He didn’t want college. He wanted the family business.”
“My son Joseph is only 14 and attends Tottenville High School,” John says. “Know what he wants to do after graduation? You guessed it – he wants to join us, too! I guess that’s ok, because in reality I worked so many hours each day that I missed my kids growing up.”
John points out an irony: his wife, Christine, raised their three children while she helped run the fence business from their home. Now the children they raised want to help their father with the business, he says.
Looking back, John is quick to point out that the road that led to LoPorto Fence Company wasn’t always smooth.
“For 18 years, while I was with Bobby LaTorre, I worked three jobs,” he says. “I worked the fence company full time during the day, worked nights with my own installations, and worked weekends building and refurbishing houses. Those were 12 to 14 hour days, seven days a week.”
But John adds that “I still give special thanks to Bob LaTorre and Jeff D’Albero. They groomed me. Hey, I’m 40 years old but I have a lot of miles on me,” he says with a smile.
Rounding out the firm today is secretary Kari Gervais.“As office manager she runs the ship,” John says. “It it wasn’t for Kari I’d be pulling my hair out of my head.”
So that’s a brief look back at John LoPorto and the many friends he insists are responsible for his success.