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Making It | George and Ryan Figlia of Figlia & Sons. - The Local East Village Blog - NYTimes.com


Making It | George and Ryan Figlia of Figlia & Sons.


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For every East Village business that’s opening or closing, dozens are quietly making it. Here’s one of them: Figlia & Sons.

IMG_1025Melvin FelixRyan Figlia with employee Leonard “Lee” Hills.

If he could, 23-year-old Ryan Figlia would spend the steamiest summer days cooling off atop his surfboard, rather than helping run the air-conditioning sales and service business his grandfather started nearly 50 years ago on Avenue A. But his brother is off in Florida – “he’s pursing a golf career and a girlfriend,” Ryan explained – and his father will eventually hand over the family business, now located at 746 East Ninth Street. “My plan is to retire and for him to send me a check every week,” said Ryan’s father, George, “but first this guy has to start making me some money already!” Actually, business has tripled in the last year, according to Ryan: this summer they’ll install a record 5,000 cooling units around the city. We asked the father-and-son team why they aren’t sweating the economy.

Q.

At 23, you are pretty new to this.

A.

Ryan: I started three or four years ago and started developing a company that mainly focuses on cooling the lobbies in the buildings that we already do the residential for. The market for commercial air-conditioning is a lot bigger than residential. So far it’s doing all right. That’s what I want to focus on growing and do more.

Q.

What’s stopping you?

A.

Nothing. Sometimes it’s just explaining to him something else, something new, something different. My father doesn’t always want to try something different.

Q.

He knows what works for him.

A.

He’s a very hard worker. He doesn’t leave here before 8 p.m. He comes every morning and never takes a day off. In the last few years my mom has started working here too and has become a part of the business. Together we’re something to watch that is for sure. We should probably have a reality show about us.

Q.

You have a lot of space here, almost an entire block of real estate.

A.

We own it. It’s like 7,500 square feet. Now we’re trying to build up in this space. We’re running out of space with what we have here. You have to get permits to build up, though, so we’re waiting on that to see what they let us do since it’s residential around here.

Q.

How much did you pay for all this space?

A.

George: My father bought it for a very low price. I’d say the whole kit and caboodle wasn’t much, probably less than a million. That’s pretty good for 7,500 square feet. We own all three buildings on this block. We have three different companies for the manufacturing, servicing and sales of air conditioning. People also know us as Dr. Cool’s Clinic.

Q.

I imagine summer is a good time for your business, especially this summer.

A.

Ryan: Summer is the only time really for us. We do contracts and cleaning in the winter. We use the wintertime as our time to go out and get new and more work for the next summer. The summer is me doing sales and phone stuff, some servicing too. In the winter, my Dad, who knows every building manager in the city, takes me around and introduces me to them so I can start building a relationship with them on my own.

Q.

Does the struggling economy affect your business?

A.

Ryan: Nobody wants to be hot at home and many rentals here don’t come with air conditioning. Restaurants need air conditioning so there is always work. 2008 was a good year for us, but it did drop in 2009 some because of the economy, but not much. Overall our business has tripled over the last few years.

Q.

George, how do you feel about Ryan taking over one day?

A.

He’s very good. He’s the boss here now. Kids are different now. I wanted to take over the business from my father in the worst way. Now I’ve got this guy who comes along and turns it all around. Did he tell you he’s a chemist? He turns money into shit.

Ryan: That’s the joke he tells everyone.

George: Did he tell you he graduated with a Ph.D.? An M.B.A. too. The M.B.A. is a Major Bank Account and the Ph.D. is Poppa Has Dough.

Q.

Is it true you work till 8 p.m. every night?

A.

Bah! I was playing poker here last night and winning! They call me G-Money here. It was a very different business when I was working for my father. It was just window units then. We weren’t manufacturing and it was just a very low-key kind of thing. That’s why I’m here.

Q.

Does it ever get hot in here?

A.

George: We always turn it up but then the girls complain it is freezing.