Elite Roofing’s Three-Generation History: An Interview with Isaac Glowinsky

Isaac Glowinsky sitting at a desk and smiling.

Elite Roofing is proud of its three-generation history, beginning in 1956. This history is part of what makes Elite Roofing so special. Strong business and personal values have been passed on from father to son and are modeled throughout the company. 

We recently spoke with Isaac (Ike), son of the company’s founder, Abram Glowinsky z’l to get the backstory. Given the length of the total interview, we have paraphrased some of Ike’s responses and had him review the article before publication.  

How did Elite Roofing begin, and how did you get into it?

Ike’s father, Abram, was a sheet metal worker in Europe. Shortly after immigrating to Canada, he founded Elite Roofing. Elite never lost its roots and still offers custom sheet metal fabrication for copings, counterflashings, metal cladding and more at its in-house shop. 

While Ike was a teenager, crews began taking Ike to job sites, where he got a feel for the roofing business. While at university, Ike also helped with estimates and take-offs, still one of his specialties. Two years into his studies, Ike’s father asked him what he wanted to do with his future. In Ike’s own words, he’s not “a book person.” He thought Elite offered the best opportunity. A true family business, Ike worked alongside his brother, Harry z’l,  and his sister-in-law, Sarah, who at the time handled take-offs, estimating, project management, payroll, and other work.

As Elite grew, the company started taking on bigger, more complex jobs, including high-rise apartment buildings and later industrial/commercial properties. Without today’s technology, Ike says they broke the job down into sections, put the blueprints up on the wall and took planning step by step. “We took each step one by one. You have to be organized.”

Elite Roofing history.

What changes have you seen in the industry?

Ike says many things have changed, from products to specifications to regulations. Estimating has become much more complicated and takes more time, but Ike jokingly says,

“I can do an estimate on a piece of paper that’s two inches by two inches…We use our experience to find out if there’s a way to save some money or do things differently so we can come in more competitively. But we don’t take shortcuts that get in the way of doing a good job.”

As an industry veteran, Ike can be skeptical when talking about some of the newer materials and an overload of regulations. Ike expresses that experience remains the key to navigating these changes for lasting, cost-effective solutions.

Can you tell me your perspective on working with your suppliers?

Ike values long-term relationships with suppliers.

“I always maintained high contact with the sales manager or higher level, as well as with our salespeople. I always felt I needed to be able to talk to someone who could directly help us solve problems with product shortages, pricing and other issues, where necessary. Building these connections doesn’t happen with one phone call. During COVID, we really had to scramble because of severe shortages and prices that kept going up quickly. I think knowing people and having long term relationships in place with the vendors and the manufacturers helped us find the materials we needed and work out the best pricing arrangements we could. It all benefits the clients.”

We take the same approach with our customers. Standing by them is key to these vital industry partnerships. If it’s a product issue, we don’t put it on our clients. We stand behind the work we do and we’re the ones to step up and fight for the client on product issues and warranties.”

Elite Roofing history.

How do you resolve disputes?

When asked about dispute resolution, Ike says, “There are going to be arguments, but it’s important to try and find a way to smooth things out.” He continues, “Going to court just creates expenses for the clients and just makes things uglier. You can very quickly get a bad reputation if you leave things on a bad note and walk away. 

“When you keep your relationships with clients secure, the positivity will come back to you in your reputation, referrals and repeat business. So, you just try to be fair and stand behind your work and have relationships where people can trust you.” 

Do what’s right for every job and for every customer

“We want our customers to be loyal, but sometimes things don’t work out. We’ve had situations where architects were pushing certain details and we tell a client, sorry, we can’t do this. It’s not going to work, and it’s just going to create problems. Our reputation is on the line, too.

“Often they come back and say, ‘Okay, which way do you want to do it?’ because they trust us or our reputation. Sometimes we’ll move ahead with the architect’s plans when we would do it another way, but not if we think it’s bad for the client. If we walk away from a job, the client may not like what we did at the time, but they might thank us later because at least we were honest.” 

Elite Roofing history.

What are your thoughts about employees and labour? 

We pay the right pay, don’t play around with employee’s hours, and we give them a bonus or other extras when we can—like in boom times. It’s harder when you hit a recession, but you need to always be fair. About two years ago, during COVID when non-essential industry in Canada was shut down, it was hard to keep the crews going, but we hardly laid anyone off. We cut our own pay first before cutting the crew’s pay.” 

“We try to keep our employees happy, and have anywhere from 50-70 employees, including some sub-contractors. In addition to the roofing crews, we do inspections, we have 24/7 emergency services, and we’re doing estimating, so there’s a lot going on. Some of our employees have been with us for 30-plus years, so I guess they like what they do and our working environment.”

BUR is often the best choice in the Greater Toronto Area

“They said BUR (Built Up Roofing) was going to be finished, but there’s still a big pocket of BUR work in the Toronto area because of the availability of liquid asphalt. Single-ply membranes have taken off because they require less skill and less time to install—so you can triple the jobs you do and make more money. It’s getting more difficult to find skilled employees for BUR roofing. 

Some clients are going with single-ply membranes because they have lower upfront costs. But a BUR roof is going to last 25 years and have lower maintenance and life cycle costs. Our experience is that BUR roofs are more reliable, with fewer headaches regarding water leaking and interior damage, especially for our Canadian climate with large fluctuations in temperature.”

Elite Roofing history.

What is your involvement in the community?

Ike emphasizes the importance of being active in the community by supporting local causes. He was president of a local B’nai B’rith lodge and his Synagogue, and Elite actively continues to support other charities financially, just as earlier generations did. Ike and his wife, Ruth, stressed the importance of these values to their children and involved them in community work

Elite’s volunteers for Second Harvest Food Bank, which redirects surplus food to thousands of Canadian charities, funds scholarships for Canadian military personnel, and contributes financially to numerous organizations. Ike’s three children are all involved in charities. “Even the grandchildren, so it’s a nice tradition to be carrying on.”

The Elite Roofing team volunteering and packaging carrots for Second Harvest.
Picture of Ike volunteering for Second Harvest.

What are your predictions for the future?

Everything keeps changing—materials, regulations, and the availability of skilled workers. You may not agree with everything that’s happening, but you need flexibility and expertise to adapt. For Elite Roofing, loyalty and being fair to people has seen us through boom times and recessions. Giving good guidance to clients, backing our work and keeping a community focus remain essential for long-term viability.

Elite looks forward to partnering with you on your next commercial and industrial project, including new construction, renovation, and restoration. They are known throughout Ontario for its integrity and superior workmanship. Since 1956 we have stood behind our products and the work we do. They value long-term relationships and hope to hear from you about your next project. Contact Elite Roofing for your next roofing project.