Fifty years ago, Steubenville-based Edward and Delores Pestian purchased the first steam carpet cleaner equipment east of the Mississippi River. Using steam to clean instead of scrubbing was a revolutionary idea at the time, and Vapor Jet soon became one of the area’s most successful businesses. In 1971, their son, Tim, joined the company. He carries on his parents’ legacy to this day.
Tim took time this week to answer via email a few questions we posed to him about Vapor Jet’s past and future.
Chamber: Your parents took a chance 50 years ago when they founded Vapor Jet. For all of the entrepreneurs and small business folks in our audience, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned from the risks they took, and how do your parents continue to influence you a half-century later?
Tim: Back in the day, some 50-plus years ago, my parents owned a company called “Clothes White Bleach.” The business did well. Dad made door-to-door deliveries of household cleaning supplies, soaps, detergents, bleach, etc. at least four days a week. But with the advent of the “Grocery Stores,” consumers started purchasing their household cleaning supplies from Kroger, A & P, etc.
With my parents’ market share dwindling, they knew that something had to be done. My Dad was the one who researched “steam carpet cleaning,” and they purchased the first steam carpet cleaning equipment east of the Mississippi River (the equipment was called Steam Genie).
Soon after, they became Steam Genie’s master equipment distributor of all states east of the Mississippi and Louisiana. So, with that said, I think of my parents literally back against the wall. With five sons and one daughter, they took a huge risk, and here we are some 50 years later.
I’ve learned just like back in ’69, things will constantly change, so be prepared. My parents are both gone now, but there is not a day that goes by that I do not feel their presence, and I think of how we did things “back in the day.” And sure enough, it’s similar today.
Chamber: When you first joined the company, you brought it up to speed technologically, which seems to be something you’ve continued to do throughout the years. How do you think this goal of constantly being ahead of the curve has impacted your success?
Tim: Technology is constantly changing. Back in the day, I would receive my assignments via telephone from an agent or an adjuster. Now, I get an email with the assignment information. Back in the day, I would use a tape measure to take field dimensions. Now, I use a laser ruler. I would sit at my desk (or at home at my kitchen table) with a calculator for hours on end to figure my bids. Now, it’s all done within just a short time over the Internet with my laptop . Now, especially with the Internet, I have been able to stay ahead of the curve.
Chamber: What are a few of the happiest memories you have of the past 50 years?
Tim: Oh, without a doubt, marrying my high school sweetheart, the birth of our son, our son marrying the most wonderful daughter-in-law anyone could ask for, and then the birth of our 3.5-year-old grandson. I have been blessed with an awesome staff and personnel, and with all the technology that keeps us ahead of the curve, we are still “old school” and remember the customer always comes first.
Chamber: What are some of the obstacles you’ve overcome?
Tim: Looking back, there have been “bumps in the road,” but the biggest obstacle was when my wife was diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian Cancer. We were married 46 years – sweethearts 51 years. With my passions in life being my family and my business, I quickly realized my passion for my family was the greatest. With the awesome staff and personnel I have, I was able to become Gina’s caregiver, and although I checked into the office several times daily, I devoted my time to my wife. Unfortunately, the cancer took her from us this past June 3rd.
Chamber: What would you like to say to your clients on this anniversary? Is there anything else you’d like to communicate to our audience?
Tim: I want to thank each and every client for allowing Vapor Jet to be of service to them. I promise to deliver the best services. All our clients can rest assured we will always be “old school.” My only other communication would be to again say, “thank you.”
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