Erco celebrates 50 years in business

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Erco founders Richard and Esther Sykora of Pitman run the family business with their sons Stan, left, of Elsmere, Del., and Greg, of Somers Point. Erco founders Richard and Esther Sykora of Pitman run the family business with their sons Stan, left, of Elsmere, Del., and Greg, of Somers Point.

SOMERS POINT – A half century ago, suspended ceilings were going into nearly every restaurant and office, and every other home had wooden blinds. Richard Sykora of Pitman installed a lot of those ceilings and blinds. When business slowed for his employer, Sykora was laid off. His response to that, according to his son Greg Sykora, was to go around and see if he could pick up work installing blinds to the smaller end users – local restaurants and homes.

“He took the small jobs that no one wanted. He came to the shore area in the ’60s when there was no other installer around and working out of trailers filled with supplies in Glassboro and with my mother, Esther, doing the paperwork,” Sykora said Thursday, Jan. 31 at the company branch in Somers Point. Erco was born in 1963, he said. The name is short for Esther Richard Company.
As the business expanded and the elder Sykora trained new installers, the number of jobs grew but the initial business plan of giving customers a good product at a good price and in a timely fashion has remained their standard, his son said.
“It is all about the name. The customers’ expectations are high and you have to deliver. It’s that simple,” Sykora said. He remembers riding to different places with his father as a kid and stopping off at pizzerias and thinking how cool it was that they could stroll into these places and get to go in the back. “A few years later I realized my dad was actually working all those times, and we were making service calls,” said Sykora. “I really spent some of the best times with my dad when we were together on those long rides.”
After two years of college and a two-year stint in the Navy, Greg Sykora realized the one thing he really enjoyed was working in the family business. The family spent summers in Ocean City and had a customer base there, so Erco opened an outlet in Somers Point at 5 Chestnut St., where it remains today.
It was initially just one building that housed offices and stored material. “My dad says you can’t sell out of an empty wagon, so we have always carried a lot of inventory,” Sykora said, which helps for a quick turnaround on jobs. The building now includes a showroom and what Sykora said is the only place a builder can bring a client to choose a ceiling. “No one else has that. We are the only showroom like this. While they are looking at ceilings we can ask what their plans are for the window treatments. The ceiling and the window blinds just complement each other.”
His father still works out of Glassboro; the trailers have been replaced by warehouse and office space. Greg Sykora works out of Somers Point. His younger brother Stan has offices in Elsmere and Dover, Del. Greg’s son Ricky, 19, a student at Kutztown University, has gone out to price jobs for clients in that area. Lisa Sykora Weick handles the human resource and accounting for the firm, and Greg’s brother-in-law Scott Weick handles the employee safety and training details.
Together, the branches employ more than 100 people.  Ron Meischker, who has worked with the Sykoras for more than a decade, said that while the company is large and has completed more than 175,000 jobs big and small over its 50 years, it still maintains the feel of a family-run business. 


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