Storming Back From Katrina
How One Film Company Positioned Itself
for Growth After the Storm
by Katie O’Mara
In August 2005, Americans sat with eyes transfixed to their
television sets taking in the images of the sunken city of New Orleans.
Hurricane Katrina, the most destructive hurricane to ever strike the United
States, devastated the famous Louisiana town and the surrounding area.
In the weeks to follow, as reports rolled in, the loss of homes and human
life was staggering. However, the toll that a storm like this one could
take on a small business was not a major headline around the country.
Back to the Beginning
For two window film professionals, the storm forever changed their paths
and eventually brought them together. Peter Kaufmann, former owner of
Solar Solutions of Louisiana, and Gregg Taylor, owner of GT Tint, joined
forces and companies to promote their new joint business, GT Tint. Kaufmann
suffered an injury in the years after Katrina to his shoulder that has
made it difficult for him to continue tinting. Joining forces with Taylor,
Kaufmann is staying in the business doing marketing and sales for the
new company. The former location of Solar Solutions of Louisiana will
now house the new South shore location of the company.
“For the last year and a half I have mothballed my former company Solar
Solutions. I’ve known Gregg since before Katrina and we worked well together
for years,” says Kaufmann. “I finally decided since I can no longer do
what he does, we need to figure out a way to make this work for both of
us. We are small and steady. I don’t believe the one-man operation is
the way to go, but I don’t want to worry about a staff of 12 either. We
have one or two other guys we work with and try to keep our book full
about 3-15 days out, working on a few things here and there.”
“I’m passionate about the film industry and clearbras are another kind
of film we work with,” says Taylor. “A lot of tint shops will have car
stereos and upholstery and things like that. Those kinds of shops offer
window film as an extra service, but this is our main service.”
Kaufmann and Taylor came together to work on the U.S. Customs House, a
historic landmark and the third most prestigious building in the GSA.
The building houses offices for the Department of Homeland Security, the
Department of Commerce, Federal Maritime Commission, U.S. Tax Court, Audubon
Nature Institute, Small Business Administration and GSA.
“Almost as many people came through there as did Ellis Island,” says Kaufmann.
“We wrapped about 13,000 squares. Since then we’ve felt like, ‘why fight
this?’ Some people have it and some people don’t, but Greg has it.”
As the partnership between Kaufmann and Taylor takes off, both are confident
that they have met their match.
“I like to sell and market and I can’t tint any longer and he hates paperwork
and people,” says Kaufmann with a smile.
GT Tint will serve the New Orleans market completing architectural and
automotive tinting jobs. While Taylor and Kaufmann are happy with the
size and offerings of the company, they are open to some additional film
related products in the future
“We are dipping into automotive paint protection,” says Taylor. “It’s
doing well for the word-of-mouth business that we are getting. We really
haven’t marketed it at all.”
“We do like decorative films, plotters and vinyl work,” adds Kaufmann.
“We have been tooling around with a full wide-format printer. It’s a matter
of one or two good jobs or some steady revenue.”
GT Tint works mainly with thinner films, but have good connections around
the New Orleans area and can bring in additional help if needed.
“I was tinting police cars and cars
for FEMA personnel. The water was so bad coming out of the sink that
the FEMA guys would drop off cases of water just so I could tint their
—Peter Kaufmann, GT Tint
“We like to think of ourselves as mainly working with thin
films. That’s where we like to stay,” says Kaufmann. “We are not scared
of safety and security [film], but if it gets stupidly thick or big then
we will partner up with someone or bring someone else in to complete the
Up to the Challenge
The Customs House tops the list for Kaufmann and Taylor as one of the
most challenging projects that they have been a part of.
“You have to imagine the situation—you are outside in the French Quarter
where they don’t ever stop serving alcohol and you are allowed to preach
on the corner. You have drunk people walking through your barricades and
your yellow tape,” says Kaufmann.
“We are working off of an 80-foot articulating boom that you have to drive
around the building and deal with the one way streets,” adds Taylor.
Despite the challenges, Taylor and Kaufmann’s work helped the U.S. Customs
House obtain a couple of LEED points. For Kaufmann the project changed
his path as he sustained a rotator cuff injury that has kept him from
being able to install film. However, the pair continues to work towards
new high-dollar projects like the local aquarium and some of the historic
homes that New Orleans is so famous for, in the Garden District.
“We are in with the aquarium now and everything has been budgeted so we
are just waiting on that. We did a sample floor for a major hotel down
here,” says Kaufmann. “Most of my good money came in these high-end houses.
People here will have $20 million in priceless furnishings and heirlooms.
People have drapes that cost $400 per square yard that need to be protected.”
In addition to tricky projects, Taylor and Kaufmann have found that just
dealing with the competition is a major challenge for their company.
“The hardest thing in the world around here is the phrase, ‘I got a buddy,’”
says Kaufmann. “A lot of our competition is arrogant. They use poor products
and are dishonest. They have super-egos. I’ve been doing this for 35 years
and my competition could at least listen. I might be wrong, but at least
listen to what I have to say. We are educated and accredited with the
IWFA and we are honest.”
Following the storm, the men have dealt with trying to educate the community
about film’s true capabilities.
“I love safety film, but it is not a hurricane product,” says Kaufmann.
“We had water here during the storm and film can’t help in that area.
I find we spend a lot of time policing the industry against others. Whether
a customer is going to buy from me or not, I want to make sure they are
educated and know what they really need.”
Window film can help protect inhabitants from broken glass and flying
debris, but it is not a hurricane-proof product. Taylor and Kaufmann has
worked to give customers realistic expectations and honesty when it comes
to window film’s ability to protect in a hurricane.
Surviving the Storm
Life changed for the city of New Orleans as well as the businesses there
“This building only lost power for three days and the water came within
a block of the building,” says Kaufmann about the former home of his old
business and the new location of GT Tint. “We evacuated, went to Shreveport
and we watched the storm on TV there. We knew it couldn’t get much worse.”
“We just assumed that everything was gone from watching it on TV,” says
Taylor. “We drove back five days after the storm and we couldn’t even
recognize our street. We didn’t have power for three and a half to four
weeks. I got a job in Florida tinting windows while we were evacuated
and [the Florida tint company] really took me in.”
Following the storm, Kaufmann actually moved into his shop because of
damage to his house and the need for his services.
“It was a complete reset to zero,” says Kaufmann. “After the storm I moved
in here and lived in the shop for about four months. I was able to get
back to the shop before I could get into my house. The police would drop
off rations and my wife would drop off coolers of food and tools. The
National Guard and helicopters were here and you couldn’t get in the city
without a pass. I was tinting police cars and cars for FEMA personnel.
The water was so bad coming out of the sink that the FEMA guys would drop
off cases of water just so I could tint their cars.”
Both Kaufmann and Taylor’s businesses experienced an influx of tinting
needs following the storm.
“I couldn’t keep up with the work,” says Kaufmann. “A lot of the people
forced to higher ground would call whoever did the work for them four
or five years ago to come tint their houses again.
“The car business picked up tremendously too,” adds Taylor. “A lot of
cars were damaged and hit my trees so everybody got new cars. From the
end of September through February I was booked three weeks out all the
time. That eventually slowed down and now it’s back to normal.”
Now, more than six years later, Kaufmann reflects on the rebuilding efforts.
“We have so much federal money that is still here. There is a ton of construction
going on here,” says Kaufmann. “One of the ironic things is that I went
to the Hyatt shortly before Katrina and there they had no tint on the
building and management pretty much laughed me out of the building. Well
the roof came off the superdome and took off half of the [Hyatt’s] glass.
They just re-opened it three months ago.”
For many in New Orleans, rebuilding has been a slow process that is still
“We just assumed that everything
was gone from watching it on TV. We drove back five days after the storm
and we couldn’t even recognize our street.”
—Gregg Taylor, GT Tint
“Anytime you have to wait for the government to get permission to do
something it’s slow,” says Kaufmann.
Kaufmann’s house is still undergoing renovation and sustained significant
water damage. Taylor experienced long-term power outages, debris and downed
trees in his neighborhood. Luckily, both men were able to keep business
moving by tinting cars and homes for other New Orleans residents after
Moving forward Kaufmann and Taylor hope to grow GT Tint.
“I still see new hope in this industry,” says Kaufmann. “We really want
the manufacturers to step up and help facilitate us doing what they think
we should be doing. Show me how to sell these buildings without charging
me $10,000 per module.”
At the end of the day Taylor just wants to have a successful business
to support his family.
“I want this to last,” says Taylor. “I have two kids and want to leave
them something to come into when they get older.”
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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.