By Claire Harlin
When Eric Johnson started his roofing business in 1990, little did he know that he would unofficially become known as “the Rancho Santa Fe roofer,” a recognizable face who has completed at least 510 jobs in the area — and counting.
“It’s amazing I’ve been doing roofs this long,” said the longtime San Marcos resident. “I don’t live there, but when I go to the bank or I see people at events or in restaurants, people always say, ‘Hey Eric, Hey Mr. Johnson.’”
His first job in the Ranch was in 1994, and not knowing anything about the area, he learned quickly that there are very strict building parameters — and they were even stricter back then, he said.
“The owner told me exactly what I had to put on, and as soon as I did the roof, the homeowner was so happy,” Johnson said.
Not only did the client tell his friends, but Johnson said the client also told the Rancho Santa Fe Association, and someone from the homeowners group promptly called to ask questions.
“If they didn’t like the way you were doing a roof, they would kick you off the job,” he said. “But once they vetted me, every week someone would call me in the Ranch to do a roof, and it’s been that way now for almost 20 years.”
Residents may have seen Johnson on theirs or their neighbor’s roof over the years or at a local event, but it’s also likely they recognize his smiling face from his ad in the Rancho Santa Fe Review that has run at an unwavering rate since the mid-1990s. After doing about 20 jobs in the area, the Rancho Santa Fe Association recommended that he place the ad, he said.
“Instead of just putting ‘roofer,’ I put my picture in the paper like the realtors do,” he said.
The ad has run consistently at about the same size and in basically the same form, save for one change: As he completes more and more installations in Rancho Santa Fe, he crosses out the number completed and updates it with a new number, letting residents watch the number grow steadily over the past two decades.
“Now I’m up to 510 and that was a few months ago,” Johnson said, adding that he’s gotten calls from former clients congratulating him on his continued success. “People say that I’ve done more roofs than anyone in Rancho. I’m not sure, but that sounds about right to me.”
A Rancho Bernardo native, Johnson learned the ropes working as a roofer while earning a business degree from the University of San Diego. At first, he did the job to save money for a trip to Europe, but Johnson returned from seven months overseas to find himself back in the roofing business, working in management and running a division out of Los Angeles.
Once in L.A., he decided he wanted to run a company himself, but he wasn’t sure if he had what it takes. The realization that he was indeed capable of starting his own company came in his mid-20s when he vied for a sales position at Mobil oil company and got the job, beating out candidates from top universities nationwide.
“I thought, ‘OK, I have enough moxy to get a job at real company,’” he said. “I knew then that I had the wherewithal to get a job anywhere.”
But the affirmation was all Johnson needed, and he turned down the sales job at Mobil the moment he was offered it in order to start his own business: Eric Johnson Roof Systems Inc.
“I like building and construction and roofing,” he said. “I just like it; I don’t like being inside; I like doing what I am doing and I’m so happy for the years I’ve done this that I’ve been my own boss.”
Johnson said the newspaper ad, which usually takes up a little more than a quarter of a page, has contributed in large part to the growth of his business in the area, however, his main claim to fame has been the result of a two-part formula — honesty and integrity.
“Reputation is everything in Rancho Sante Fe,” he said. “If you mess up once, then you’re out.”
For more information or to contact Johnson, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (760) 744-1144.
Note: Business spotlights are developed through this newspaper’s advertising department in support of our advertisers.