EAGLE COUNTY — Steve Moore spends most of his time on the road, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
For the last 30 years, Moore has been “the Novus guy” in Eagle, Summit and Lake counties, fixing motorists’ rock chips and replacing windshields that are too far gone to save. Like most entrepreneurs, Moore got into the business to try to provide a better living for himself and his family. And, like many who go into business for themselves, it took a long time to get established.
In 1983, Moore had been in the valley for nearly a decade, working several jobs — mostly in the food, beverage and lodging business — to keep the bills paid. He’d decided he wanted to stick around — and work fewer weekends and holidays — and started to look for franchise business opportunities. He saw an ad for Novus, then a new idea in the windshield-repair business, and got involved.
Those first few years were tough. The Novus idea was mostly new nationwide, and very new locally. That meant Moore kept a couple of his other jobs, and fixed windshields as he could. After seven years or so, Moore’s wife, Dennie, suggested he take the plunge and put all his efforts into Novus. That gamble paid off, and the miles started to really accumulate on the custom-painted Toyota 4Runner that advertised the business.
But connecting with clients wasn’t as easy as it is today.
“I’ve had every kind of phone there is,” Moore said. “I’ve pagers, I’ve had an answering service, and I used to know the location of every pay phone. I even knew which ones were in the sun in the morning and in the afternoons.”
Those pay-phone stops happened several times a day. When you’re building a business, lost customers mean more than lost revenue for a day. Those early days, when Moore was a one-man operation, family vacations were few and far between.
Eventually, though, the business grew enough to need more people, but the crew has stayed small. These days, the Novus staff consists of Moore, his wife and three other people, which means there’s plenty of work for everyone.
Keeping the people in the field busy means the company’s vehicles get a good workout. One of the company trucks has about 250,000 miles on the clock now, and one of the pickups passed the 300,000-mile mark before being retired.
And, of course, those vehicles sport windshields with multiple repairs.
To demonstrate the effectiveness of the Novus process in those early days, Moore’s first 4Runner didn’t get its first replacement windshield for seven years, and after 44 individual rock repairs.
“That (windshield) was white when I finally replaced it,” Moore said. “And we weren’t doing windshield replacements yet, so I had to go to competitor to get the work done.”
That changed in the mid-1990s, when Novus started replacing windshields. In a stroke of inadvertently brilliant timing, that new venture began just as the Colorado Department of Transportation started using more chemical de-icer on the roads, which meant fewer rock chips on local residents’ windshields.
Still, there are plenty of rocks and sand out there, and Moore said he intends to stay on the road as long as he can. Windshield replacement is heavy work, so another installer position may be on the horizon. But the repair work is always out there.
“I get to hang out with old friends and meet new friends every day,” Moore said. “I enjoy what I’m doing, so I’m going to keep doing it.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2939 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.