Celeste Van Kirk/Observer-Reporter

From left, brothers Jay, Jeff, Eric and Marc Nicolella run the show at Nicolella Roofing Co. in Washington.

Nicolella Roofing Co. has been a Washington County staple for 51 years, an impressive run. Jay Nicolella has a simple explanation.

“Dad was really big on doing right by the customer. He wanted to make the customer happy,” he said, reflecting on the foundation the founder – his father, Joe – set during the Johnson administration.

“We have a great name because we’ve been doing this so long. We do quality work, and dad said if you do something wrong, fix it. Too many (businesses) are more concerned about making money than doing things right. We have had good employees who follow the same mindset.”

In other words, while overhead may have a dual meaning in the roofing industry, the Nicolellas consider the part of a building over one’s head to be a higher priority than defraying operating costs.

The local roofing firm has been operating for more than a half-century, mostly at the family’s Amity farm, but for the past decade or so at 305 W. Maiden St. in Washington. The company specializes in residential and commercial roofing installation, repairs and gutter work. The late Joe Nicolella’s four sons – Jay, Marc, Eric and Jeff – are partners who run the business.

They serve mostly the county, but also tend to roofs and gutters in Greene and southern Allegheny counties and parts of West Virginia. “We try to stay within an (hour’s drive),” said Jay, a South Strabane Township resident who primarily oversees commercial endeavors.

Most of the 22 employees start early, with some work crews arriving around 5:30 a.m. Nicolella’s offices open at 7:30.

Word of mouth is the firm’s main marketing tool, and it apparently works. A lot of businesses that opened in 1968 – and later – are no longer functioning.

Business, suddenly, may be picking up for Nicolella Roofing, through an unfortunate set of circumstances no company invested in a community wants. Eleven days ago, in a hillside neighborhood above the roofing firm, a house exploded following a gas leak. The home at 100 Park Lane, North Franklin Township, was blown to smithereens. Five were wounded, including the homeowner, Deborah Braden, but all, incredibly, survived with only minor injuries.

That explosion was felt at least a half-mile away, and heard from points more distant.

The next day, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania took full responsibility for the blast, which deposited debris mostly on site – downhill from Park Avenue (Route 18) – but also in trees, yards and structures. A Scenery Hill resident reported finding a canceled bank check from 1990, signed by Braden, on his farm 10 miles to the east.

Marc Nicolella handles many of his company’s residential interests, and anticipates issues with a number of structures in the largely residential neighborhood.

“When you drive down Park Avenue, you can’t really see the damage,” he said. “You think, ‘eh.’ But there’s more than meets the eye.”

He said the explosion pushed windows of a number of nearby houses inward and upward, “causing ceilings to fall down, walls to split, chimneys to split. There’s flooring and soffit and fascia damage.”

Roofs were lifted and came down, apparently in place but damaged nonetheless, the severity to be determined. A large plate-glass window at the front of Walther’s Hill House Pizza, the only business in the vicinity, was blown out.

Marc said Wednesday afternoon that he had been inside “four or five” homes on Park Avenue “and they all are going to need attention.” He said engineers are scheduled to examine damaged homes Monday.

“There are going to be major projects. It’s a shame. We’re very lucky that nobody was killed, but it may take a long time to fix everything up there,” said Marc, who lives with Eric on the family’s longtime Amity property, which no longer is a working farm.

Fixing, by now, is part of the Nicolella DNA. The company has neatly appointed offices along West Maiden, equidistant from Columbia Gas and All Ways Moving & Storage. They include a spiffy showroom, where customers can check out varieties of shingles and gutters, and where a mock roof is set up.

A family business isn’t always a harmonious endeavor, especially with four siblings at the top. Four brothers, no less. But Jay, Marc, Eric and Jeff (of East Washington) complement one another well.

“Squabbles? We have no more than anyone else,” Jay said. “”Everyone has his own niche. Everyone does his own thing.”

As the Nicolella family has done – effectively – for five decades.

Business Writer

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won eight individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!

Thank you for reading!

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading. If you have a subscription, please Log In.