WALLINGFORD — Roberto Chabla, of Meriden, said the first five years of starting his roofing business were the hardest. Without any experience, he taught himself how to sell roofs, install shingles and clean up after a job.
The Ecuadorian native learned the technical aspects of his trade from books at the public library, and got professional help to file taxes and register the business. Inspired by his family, Chabla started Rob’s Roofing in 2015 after realizing that he didn’t want to work in an Italian restaurant anymore.
“My wife and kids were a pillar that helped me get ahead,” he said. “One day, I said: ‘You know what, I need to do something different.’ Somebody talked to me about roofing, so I started looking to do it, and here we are.”
Chabla has joined three chambers of commerce and the Home Building Association of Central Connecticut. Most of his clients are near Glastonbury and South Windsor, he explained.
Rob’s Roofing recently moved to fill a vacancy in office space 329 Main St. Before, the business was registered at Chabla’s home. He hopes the change of address will let him meet with more local customers and reduce the commuting time.
Kevin Danby, of Old Saybrook, remembers seeing Roberto’s wife and sister help with cleanup. As a realtor who rehabilitates several houses, Danby said that he has hired Chabla for several projects and highlights Chabla’s fair prices and cleanup skills.
“As far as I can tell, he started with nothing but his tools and has built his business,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for him”.“No nails, no debris, no nothing’’
Chabla is the kind of person that talks through visual aids.
As a 2005 graduate of Maloney High school, he is a proud sponsor of the Spartans and pulls out a forest large green calendar emblazoned with the logo to prove it.
To talk about his business, he pulled out a black binder filled with information about proposals, quotes, licenses, insurance information and pictures of homes he has worked on.
“That’s how you want to see the lawn,” he said, pointing at a picture from a binder. “No nails, no debris, no nothing.”A family business
Ann Chabla, Roberto’s sister, joined the team a few months ago after working at a steakhouse since 2008.
“I got too comfortable. So I didn’t leave,” she said. “I was afraid to explore my options”
As an administrative assistant, Ann Chabla handles the paperwork and visits business expos like the upcoming business showcase and career fair hosted on Sept. 22 by the Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce in North Haven. They attended several business expos, including events in Hamden and Meriden.
“It gave us the opportunity to get to know more vendors, more of the community, and that ultimately helps the business grow,” she said.Roofing in thesame language
Chabla said he is from Biblián, a small city in the South of Ecuador, and moved to Meriden in 2000.
“We all had to immigrate here to get a better life,” he noted. “You might have to work harder here, but at the end of the month, you have enough money to pay everything.”
Since moving, Chabla said he has seen a growth of Ecuadorians in Meriden and an increase in Ecuadorian-owned roofing businesses. For some of the bigger jobs, Chabla says he works with a rotating base of Ecuadorian subcontractors.
“We can speak the same language,” he said. “Sometimes, talking to someone from a different country is hard.”
Latino Communities Reporter Lau Guzmán is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Support RFA reporters at the Record-Journal through a donation at https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re, To learn more about RFA, visit www.reportforamerica.org.