Avenue Road vs. Alpine Roofing, Or When Two Toronto Roofing Companies Look Eerily Similar
There are a lot of roofing companies in this city. At one time, they took up the second largest number of pages in the Yellow Pages - after escort services - and competition is fierce, mostly because nobody looks forward to replacing their roof, and repeat business, if it happens, is often separated by an interval of a decade or more.
In Toronto, the fiercest competition between roofers is at the high end, where two companies, Avenue Road and Alpine, are both the largest and most established in the business. They have other things in common; they were both started in the mid-70s, both currently have owners of Greek descent, and feature logos of striking similarity, plastered across their trucks and signage - tall, sans serif blue letters on white backgrounds.
"Sometimes it's confusing to people," says George Spyrou, Alpine Roofing's office manager. "They want to phone Alpine, but they have the Avenue truck come by and they get the phone number from it and they call Avenue or vice versa ... I've had customers phone to honour warranties on work that Avenue's done. That's because of the big blue letters on the trucks."
"It's been my observation that a lot of these businesses have mirrored their marketing very directly that have positioned themselves to look very much like us," says Craig Bennett, deputy executive director of Avenue Road Roofing, "to the point where some customers think we own both companies, one in the east and one in the west."
While competing with each other, the two companies have to compete with much smaller, often fly-by-night concerns - what Spyrou calls "a guy and his truck" - who can undercut them by hundreds, even thousands of dollars, mostly because they don't have the same overhead or labour costs, or obligations to insurance, warranties or employee safety. This has led to a guerilla marketing war on the street, which has manifested itself in posters pasted on the back of street signs and wire and plastic bag signs, tactics that are as successful as they are publicly unloved.
Bennett says that Avenue Road can take indirect credit for the wire and plastic bag signs, which were pioneered by Avenue Road Advertising, a company started in 1993 by Louie Pateropoulos, brother of the roofing company's owner.
Ultimately, though, the real battle is between the two giants, and there are stories of Alpine sales reps happily undercutting Avenue Road's estimates, though Spyrou hotly denies them. Still, Bennett is proud to admit that his company will charge the highest price for a job, despite the competition.
"It's been my experience in the roofing business that there are a lot of people who truly don't understand the cost of being in business," he explains, adding that "you can't get a Mercedes for the price of a Hyundai."
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