Ties that Bind
Ties that Bind
After 35 years, most successful business owners can usually identify a turning point for their company: a new product is launched, a big contract is signed or a key employee joins the team. Few companies, however, view one of the nation’s most devastating natural disasters as the moment when their business was defined. In late August of 1992, Hurricane Andrew, packing winds of more than 200 mph, struck South Miami-Dade County, Florida, forever changing a community but helping to define then little-known Deco Truss Company.
The Espiñeira family had been building trusses and selling building materials for nearly 10 years when Hurricane Andrew leveled almost everything in the area, including their business and their home.
More than 25,000 homes were destroyed and 100,000 more were damaged by Hurricane Andrew, causing more than $25 billion in damage in Florida alone. For some additional perspective, power in the area was out for more than a month, traditional phone lines were down for more than 60 days, and cable television was out more than three months.
On the morning of August 24, 1992, after the hurricane had passed, Mario Espiñeira Sr. wanted to get to his office and start with rebuilding efforts, but there was one problem: he couldn’t get out of his driveway. Hurricane Andrew snapped hundreds of pine trees in his yard and throughout the neighborhood. Mario Sr. and his family worked to get their home in order and try to clear their yard. Roads were impassable, homes were destroyed, and spirits were crushed. A few days after the storm, Reverend Bill Baggett, then pastor of First Baptist Church of the Redlands, found his way to the Espiñeira home and delivered marching orders.
“Forget the trees,” said Baggett. “I will get these trees cleared because you guys need to start building trusses. Your community needs you.”
Mario Espiñeira Jr. recalls that Baggett somehow convinced a group of Navy Seabees that were deployed to the area to clear the Espiñeiras’ lot and neighboring roads. Deco Truss got to work fixing their facility and assembling much-need trusses. “At that moment, we knew we were going to be okay,” says Mario Sr. “We knew our community would work together to get through this. We had built strong ties to South Dade.” Deco Truss did overcome, and today the company celebrates 35 years in business.
The story of Deco Truss begins a few years before Hurricane Andrew, when Mario Sr. ventured out on his own after spending about 10 years working in the truss industry in Homestead, Florida. The Cuban immigrant learned the fundamentals of the truss business and built a solid reputation.
“I learned how to build trusses during the day, and then I put together a small crew to install them for customers on the weekends,” he says. “Eventually, I built a following and felt confident to start my own company.”
Miami structural engineer Hoshmand Vaziri of Vaziri and Associates, Inc. remembers working with the Espiñeiras as far back as 1984. The company was small back then but has grown into a large, well-respected firm.
“They are always professional and helpful,” says Hoshmand. “We have worked with them many times over the years and regularly recommend them – and have never heard of anyone who wasn’t happy with the company.”
As the company grew, the back office had a few hiccups, according to Mario Sr. He learned that while he was great at designing and building trusses and delivering a great product to his customers, the billing and paperwork sometimes suffered. So, he called in the cavalry: his wife Sonia, then a prominent banker in Homestead. “I had a great job in banking, but I saw that with some tighter controls and closer attention to the back office, we could build something truly great,” says Sonia. She quit her job at the bank and has been managing the Deco Truss finances and billing ever since.
As the company grew, it remained true to its roots in South Dade. Mario Sr. insists that they only use the best quality materials and work to treat all clients, whether they are in other parts of Florida or in the Caribbean, like their South Dade neighbors.
“We have maintained an excellent reputation because we work hard for our clients,” says Mario Sr. “Living in a hurricane zone, we often see our competitors jacking-up prices during tough times. We always think about all the opportunities we have been afforded and know that we can make a profit while being fair with our clients.”
Mario Jr. literally learned the business at his father’s hip, working every job in the business from the drafting department to the assembly floor. The family work ethic was passed on to Mario Jr., who jokes that “vacation” was when he was in school because anytime outside of his education was spent at Deco Truss.
Since joining the company permanently in 1991, Mario Jr. has overseen much of the company’s international growth while helping to keep an eye on quality assurance at the South Dade headquarters. “We have independent inspectors making unscheduled visits monthly," he explains. "We feel it’s important to have independent verification of our lumber grades and our overall quality. We meet the highest standards and it sets us apart.”
On the residential side, Deco Truss counts among its clients internationally known business executives, Miami Dolphins players, and celebrities like Andy Garcia, Enrique Iglesias, Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Rosie O'Donnell, Sylvester Stallone, and Dwyane Wade.
On the commercial side, you can find Deco Truss customers ranging from Central Florida to deep into the Florida Keys and the Caribbean. “We have worked with many national and international companies like Fiesta Restaurant Group, Sandals, Wendy’s and Yum! Brands,” says Mario Sr. “And whenever we drive south, I can’t help but stare at our work at the Florida Keys’ landmark Whale Harbor Restaurant near the entrance to the vacation paradise of Islamorada.”
Eduardo L. Carcache, PE of CKE Group, Inc. in Miami says that Deco Truss is not a typical truss company. He notes that he regularly consults with Deco Truss when bidding on jobs, and he specifies in building plans that contractors use Deco Truss. “We started many years ago working with the father and now we have the son,” Eduardo jokes. “Our clients don’t like delays, and we know that Deco Truss will get the job done right and on time. They have become our friends over the years, and we enjoy working with them.”
With consistent 30 percent year-over-year growth, Deco Truss is not slowing down. Executives are thankful that demand has been steady, even if some of that business comes from replacing trusses damaged by recent hurricanes. The executives were smart with their long-term plans as their South Dade facility has plenty of room for growth. The future is bright.
“We have truly been fortunate over the past 35 years,” said Mario Sr. “We have a great market in South Florida and access to new opportunities in South America and the Caribbean, but we will always be closely tied to our home in South Dade.”