Proactivity: The Best Defense
Houston Hurricane & Security Products fortifies structures across southeast Texas
While many people think about hurricanes when the season approaches, Frank Mistretta and his team at Houston Hurricane & Security Products are focused on getting residents, business owners and builders on the Texas coast in that mindset long before the threat approaches.
The Dickinson, Texas-based company specializes in exterior shutter systems for commercial and residential structures.
“Primarily, our systems are for windstorm protection, impact resistance and wind resistance for hurricanes,” says Mistretta, President and Owner of the company.
“A lot of these systems double for security.”
Mistretta says the company stands out as an industry leader that is ready to consult on options and provide products that meet the strict new building code requirements that went into effect Sept. 1, 2020. The codes expand building requirements to make structures better able to withstand high winds and hail along 14 coastal counties and parts of Harris County.
“In short, plywood is not acceptable in a lot of situations now,” Mistretta says.
The code adopted by the Texas Department of Insurance requires that new builds, additions and repairs on the coast meet the 2018 windstorm provisions of the International Building Code and International Residential Code for coverage through the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. The new code was supposed to go into effect on April 1, 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That code change is what Mistretta says will finally make the conversation about wind and storm protection a priority in new construction.
“The challenge is, everybody builds a new house or building, and this is one of the last things to get done—to put on a shutter system. We’re one of the last trades to go into the building, and people don’t take the design of the shutter into account for their building. It’s just kind of an afterthought,” he says.
With an average price point starting around $20,000 for a single-family house, shutters aren’t always easily added into the equation at the last minute for homeowners. Often, they don’t know it’s something to consider. Mistretta says that Greater Houston’s population boom in recent years, with people relocating from inland areas, means there are more residents who overlook storm protection.
“It’s one of those things where you just don’t know what you don’t know,” he says, adding that “locals each have their favorite hurricane story” where they learned how brutal the destruction and recovery can be.
Securing Every Structure
Houston Hurricane & Security Products is in the business of making sure anyone who builds a structure in the region can fortify it from disasters that come its way. The company offers a range of options for hurricane protection, including four types of shutters (roll-up, accordion, Bahama and colonial), plus hurricane screens, panels and fabric.
The fabric and panels are lower-cost options that replace the need for plywood and meet the requirements of the new building code. The most popular option is the aluminum roll-up shutter, which can be controlled in various ways, including manually, electronically with a hand-held remote, and with a smartphone.
“It’s a way people can press a button and protect their homes instead of having to put up plywood or even having to bolt something into place,” Mistretta says.
The roll-up shutters are particularly popular for businesses like cellphone stores, pharmacies, convenience stores and others with high-value inventory, because they provide security from break-ins and activity like looting, he says.
Mistretta says about 60% of the company’s work is residential and 40% is commercial. He’s particularly proud to help protect high-profile, community-oriented buildings, including the 911 call center for Greater Harris County and CHRISTUS St. Mary hospital in Port Arthur. At close to a $1 million project, Mistretta says the hospital was the company’s largest customer yet.
The Decorative Aspect
Mistretta and his team keep an eye toward the aesthetic appeal of their products and what they can bring visually to a structure. And for some customers, the curb appeal of shutters is all they want.
To that end, Mistretta says they’re seeing more demand for decorative louvers to set a structure apart from others. He says they help beautify, shade and add privacy, and are custom-made to accommodate a variety of window shapes and sizes. While some are impact-rated, he says that’s not what the vast majority of louver customers seek. Specifically, the company is doing more decorative shutters for apartment complexes and multifamily structures.
“The shutters set the building off from others around it to make it look nicer,” Mistretta says.
A Consultative Approach
Whatever a customer needs, the team at Houston Hurricane & Security Products works to make the best solution a reality. “We take a consultative approach and help customers from design to completion,” Mistretta says.
“Having a company that knows how to do it right, that has the trained employees, is crucial for these products,” he adds. “We truly do go to each customer and help them solve the puzzle of, ‘How can hurricane shutters work on my structure, be up to code and be reliable when a storm comes?’ ”
The fact that he can discuss specific project details with customers and see it through from concept to installation is something Mistretta enjoys about the company he co-founded in 2009 after several years in general construction and homebuilding. He took over full ownership from a silent partner in 2015.
“For me, this was just a progression, going from dealing with a bunch of different trades to dealing with one aspect of construction,” he says.
Mistretta credits fortunate timing of federal hurricane relief funds for the running start his company got. He says many of their early customers were rebuilding from Hurricanes Rita and Ike. His team of 10 employees has made the most of that jump-start to continue to grow the company by offering strong, reliable products and personalized customer service.
“I think we all agree that the customer service aspect of our business is the most important,” he says. “We make sure, from the very beginning of the consultation or sale to completion, that everyone the customer deals with has their best interest in mind, and we try to go above and beyond. When we [complete] a job, it will be done right.”
Like a Family
Mistretta says that part of his company’s success in customer service stems from the fact that most of his employees have been with the company for at least five years. And those who work for Houston Hurricane & Security Products are generally hired through a connection with a current employee.
“It’s very much like family,” Mistretta says. “One of the guys we recently hired, I went to school with his stepdad. A lot of us have known each other since school.”
Connections like that help Mistretta have a company culture that fits his vision for the organization.
“There’s a lot of trust between us. One of the things I really disliked in corporate America was how rigid and structured everything was. Our working office is really relaxed. We’re all about getting it done.”
“It can be a struggle at times,” he adds, “because we do know each other so well. It can be hard to divide the line between work and personal relationships, but we’ve learned as we’ve grown.”