The Asphalt Lifers

Meet Some Roofing Industry Veterans

Angie Lewis, Writer
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The Asphalt Life is one that most roofers adopt for the long haul. Meet four dedicated roofing veterans, who have more than one-and-a-half centuries of combined experience, and discover what inspires them to build their legacies in the industry.

Helping Others Succeed

Jim Owen

Retired President/COO, JGA-Beacon Roofing Supply

Jim Owen Headshot

A 50-year veteran of the roofing industry, Jim Owen says his favorite part of the job was the people.

“I know this is cliché, but there are truly some great people in our industry,” he says. “I always enjoyed going to the various state conventions and National Roofing Contractors Association conventions not only for the knowledge gained, but to meet and interact with the contractors, manufacturers and other distributors.”

Owen got started in roofing right after college, when he joined manufacturer Owens Corning Fiberglas™ as an inside sales and customer service representative. In 1993, JGA-Beacon Roofing Supply hired him as a sales manager for roofing products, which trained him in all facets of the distribution business. The experience allowed him to grow, and Owen eventually became president of the company.

Retired since August 2014, Owens’ roofing legacy will be putting people in positions to succeed. Owen enjoys providing the training, tools, guidance and nurturing that allows others to do their jobs, make their own decisions and grow.

“I have many former employees in high positions throughout the roofing industry,” he says. “Kirk Villar [Vice President of Atlas Roofing Sales and Marketing] might be a good example. I was his first boss out of college and look where he is today!”

What Owen’s colleagues never knew about him was that he was a former daredevil, racing motorcycles off road into his 40s — until a major crash, small children, his career and two days in intensive care “cured that itch.”

Taking Marketing To The Next Level

Rick Gelatka

Director of Marketing Services, Atlas Roofing Corporation

Rick Gelatka Headshot

Rick Gelatka began his roofing career in the late ’70s, working as a sales rep for a commercial roofing company in Chicago. Shortly after, he helped to develop a use for polyiso insulation — a rigid foam board insulation — in the roofing industry.

“I was very good at what I was doing in Chicago,” he says. “The guys in Atlanta weren’t as good, so [the large roofing manufacturer I was working for] asked me to go to Atlanta to develop that market. Within a year, they asked me to go to corporate.

“Atlas knew of my reputation on the polyiso side. They were just starting out and they recruited me to set up a region in Seattle in polyiso.”

Forty-one years later, Gelatka serves as Director of Marketing Services for residential roofing manufacturer Atlas Roofing. Over the decades, he’s used his position to help the company gain success.

“I learned to listen to what the contractors and our sales reps needed for marketing, and I developed those tools pretty quickly to help them get their jobs done and make their jobs easier,” he says.

One of his favorite projects with Atlas was bringing the Scotchgard™ brand to its shingles with 3M copper granules.

“I thought it was revolutionary,” he says. “Scotchgard differentiated us and that was the fun part.”

Gelatka loves that no two days are the same in the roofing industry. And while he’s worked in building materials his whole career, he sometimes ponders how his life would look if he had listened more in high school.

“They were pushing IBM. I would’ve been retired by now if I had followed that path,” he jokes.

Mentoring The Next Generation

T.K. Hamilton

President, Midian Roofing

T.K. Hamilton Headshot

After working nearly two-dozen jobs between the ages of 15 and 18, T.K. Hamilton received an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“One day, one of my brother’s friends came by my house and asked if I wanted to make $4 an hour painting on aluminum roof coating at a college and said that there would be girls in bikinis there,” he says. “I’ve been hooked ever since!”

Working in the roofing industry for 27 years, Hamilton has helped his company become the success it is today through “a lot of prayer and hard work.”

As an Atlas Pro™ Plus Silver Level contractor, he enjoys being a mentor to young people. Offering tools to be successful in life and in the workplace, Hamilton is proud to watch his mentees grow into responsible, productive members of society.

“I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else,” he says. “I tried doing other things without any success.

“My legacy will be that I tried everything in my power to change the industry from the inside out, one person at a time, with the help of God.”

Hamilton credits his own mentor, Dominick Pennachio, director of operations for Midian Roofing, with inspiring him to be a better man in life and business.

“He has more passion for helping people than any other person I know,” Hamilton says.

Personifying Leadership

Kirk Villar

Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Shingles and Underlayments, Atlas Roofing Corporation

Kirk Villar Headshot

Kirk Villar loves everything about his job.

“I love hiring top-notch people who are fantastic at the profession of selling, and training them to be industry leaders in their particular markets,” he says.

Working in the industry for four decades, Villar started off as a territory sales representative for Owens Corning after graduating from the University of Alabama. Over the years, he climbed the roofing ladder and eventually reached the top, as Atlas Roofing’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Shingles and Underlayments.

He admits that when he first started with Atlas 20 years ago, he didn’t understand what the word leadership really meant. Today, he’s a living example.

“Leadership is affecting other people in a positive way for their benefit, not for your benefit,” he says.

Villar helped Atlas gain greater success by instituting a new hiring process that has improved the caliber of the company’s sales professionals. He also implemented a continuous sales training program that helps sales reps stay knowledgeable and professional.

The die-hard Alabama football fan actively pursues his own professional development as well.

“I try to be inspired by challenging myself to improve who I am and what I do daily,” he says. “It drives me because I understand you never ever get there, but if I push myself to improve, it keeps life fresh and makes it interesting.”

Roofing is the American dream for most who work in the industry. Whether they own their own contracting business or work for a manufacturer, Asphalt Lifers love what they do and enjoy showing the ropes to future generations.

Roofing is the American dream for most who work in the industry. Whether they own their own contracting business or work for a manufacturer, Asphalt Lifers love what they do and enjoy showing the ropes to future generations.