Community Ties and Public Projects
Red Feather Group Co. restores, builds and thrives in Chicago
More than 30 years ago, communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe collapsed, providing the opportunity for millions of families to rebuild and pursue a new way of life. Those years of change motivated many people in Poland to make their way to the United States. Thus began the third major wave of Polish immigration to the United States—a time when job opportunities for Polish skilled labor were abundant. During these years, Polish workers pursued their livelihood and independence, while maintaining close ties with their community in a new country they now called home.
The origins of the Red Feather Group Co. date back to 1989 when owner John Sochacki started the company. That is also when he met Andrew Minossora for the first time in Chicago. This is a story of John’s vision, his lasting friendship with Andrew, trust in the talent and commitment of this team, and how his focus on excellence and quality craftsmanship created a company that is now well known in Chicago for its work in the public and private sectors.
“I left Poland in the late ’80s about two weeks before the first free elections,” Andrew says. “John and I met in Chicago in October 1989. We were both in our 20s and we had the same background. We were two guys who came to the U.S., and we didn’t see any future in Poland at that time. Then I got married and he got married, and it became important for us to provide financially for our families. So many people at that time were leaving Poland for the United States. Chicago is the biggest Polish community outside of Warsaw. The culture is intact. The only difference between Chicago and Warsaw is the currency. There have been big Polish companies that developed in Chicago, and people of Polish descent still work with one another, mostly because many don’t speak English. But there are a lot of good tradesmen that look for jobs within the Polish community.”
Growing into the Public Sector
John established and grew the Red Feather Group from a company that specialized in painting to the one that thrives today in all areas of general construction, as well as roofing, waterproofing, floor coatings and masonry restoration.
“John went into epoxy flooring and finishing and started doing jobs for big contractors,” Andrew says.
Andrew’s experience as a project manager on municipal projects complemented John’s expertise in general construction. It was perfect timing for the Red Feather Group to expand from the private to the public sector.
“John was doing private work and secured contracts and built a good reputation and moved from painting to general construction,” Andrew says, mentioning that the company still has an active painting division that handles all interior and exterior painting. “At that time, I had my own company and was getting jobs by the federal and state government and went into roofing and exterior waterproofing. When I started working for John, we brought in jobs as a joint venture to boost up our bonding capacity and took on bigger jobs. I was sourcing from A to Z, and we increased our bond capacity while doing a range of government jobs, siding and waterproofing, gutters, outside construction and a whole spectrum of work. We learned the whole trade of house speculation and excavation.”
Andrew explains that to win local government contracts, the Red Feather Group puts down a bid backed by a surety bond, which acts as insurance for the owner. It’s a thorough process to obtain and increase bond capacity, one that reflects quality of work and trust in the company. The Red Feather Group spent 28 years growing its portfolio and bond capacity in Chicago. Today, the company is expanding its roofing division and has secured major projects in general construction, waterproofing and masonry restoration.
The Currency of Trust
For John, leading his team meant leveraging their complementary talents and temperament to run different aspects of the business.
“John is very thorough. He finishes things,” Andrew says. “I’m always looking for new ideas, and John takes care of it from that point. I always need a new challenge. I get bored quickly. I need new projects and like to deal with new people. I like to cut to the chase. John will sit and listen to you. He’s very polite and will thank you for everything and will not burn a bridge. But I will tell you straight right away. We are a very good team.”
Andrew says that he and John have to trust the people that they work with. They have been working with the same subcontractor team for more than a decade. There is a level of trust that they have built with their team, and they treat them fairly and pay them well because of their expertise and the relationship they have secured over the years.
“I have good sourcing abilities,” Andrew says. “I source all the jobs for the Red Feather Group. I get the subcontractors and project managers together and I rely on them. I know if I call them, the work will be done. It’s a privilege to work with people like that, and it’s very hard to find them. When you do, you have to reward them. People want to keep the job and do better because they know they’re getting paid well. The profit is divided, and the team appreciates it.”
Halfway House in the Glencoe Park District
A notable Red Feather Group project that the team is proud of and that reflects their focus on quality and commitment to excellence was their restoration of the roof on the Halfway House in the Glencoe Park District in Glencoe, Illinois.
Established in 1918, the Glencoe Park District built the Halfway House in 1928 as a point of relaxation, community togetherness and recreation. Andrew mentions that the city of Glencoe takes great pride in Glencoe Park, especially in the maintenance of the recreation environment. The park has an ice rink, swimming facilities and is a long-standing historic site and community employer.
Andrew states that when the Glencoe Park District was looking for a company to restore the roof on the Halfway House to look just like the original, it wasn’t just looking for the lowest bid. The district was looking for a company that would do the best job. And it found that with the Red Feather Group. This job is a testament to the park’s history and to the legacy of the public district and community.
“This was not just another project for this team,” Andrew says. “We all developed an emotional attachment to the work we were doing, and it showed in the results. It’s this type of attention to detail and focus on quality that sets this business apart. The building has a 700-square-foot clay tile roof, and we had to restore the tiles in the same color and structure. The people of Glencoe are very proud of that building. This was a restoration project, and the district was impressed by the job we did.”
The Red Feather Focus
Today, the projects that the Red Feather Group handles are predominantly all public. They include projects with police departments, fire stations and forest reserves. They are usually local state jobs where the city of Chicago and state of Illinois are the owners, paid for with federal or state funds.
“In general, our jobs are between $50,000 and $200,000,” Andrew says. “Bigger jobs bring bigger headaches. It’s better to do small jobs, the in-and-out jobs that you can finish within a month. The turnaround is quicker, and it allows you to invest your money, get your money back and create a positive cash flow. We don’t entertain anything over $200,000. We have great references and finish all of our projects on time and on budget, so everyone is happy.”