By Joyce L. Carroll
Special to Delaware Business Times
Look up the definition of self-made man and the example shared may just be Glenn Fedale.
His adult successes, however, have youthful roots. Those 10-cent lemonade stands: child’s play! Even back then, Fedale had his sights set higher. Commanding 50 cents for canned cola, he was turning a supermarket 12-pack into a $3 profit.
By 17, he owned two tow trucks.
At 23, his business savvy reached new heights with the launch of G. Fedale Roofing and Siding. The business, and a good half-dozen others he’s involved in, landed him a segment on CNBC’s “Blue Collar Millionaire” last year.
And while he wears that blue collar with pride, the songs he sings to the bank are anything but the blues. Today, the 37-year-old Hockessin father of three oversees a workforce of 150 and enjoys a net worth in the millions.
As an entrepreneur enjoying ownership in multiple ventures including a commercial business park in Newport and 170 apartments, one might expect to find a ruthless CEO. Instead, Fedale is a humble, thoughtful man — one whose work ethic has been strengthened by the life lessons he has learned along the way. Laughter comes easy; Fedale wears a smile as he talks.
The oldest among his nine brothers and sisters, Fedale learned the art of negotiation early. The family wanted for nothing when it came to necessities, he said, but frugality was essential within a household of 12. He learned to hustle a buck when he could, even subcontracting a brother to perform the labor within his lawn-mowing business. The elder Fedale sought out the jobs, and the younger sibling mowed for half the price Fedale would charge the property owner. Today, that younger brother is a minority business partner and is one of two brothers, two brothers-in-law, and a handful of extended family that all work for Fedale. His father serves as his director of business development.
A two-year business degree from Delaware Technical Community College would provide book smarts, but Fedale was a hands-on guy. As a teen, while peers were out raising hell, Fedale was raising roofs with his uncle. Later, his own career would take off following several years of working for D Shinn Inc. in Claymont. While Fedale left Shinn with greater roofing skills, the job had also instilled the value of earning the workplace respect of one’s superiors.
“Don’t burn bridges,” Fedale advised. Upon starting his own roofing business and after he had become a partner in a concrete business, Don Shinn recommended Fedale for a $100,000 concrete project.
Shinn said Fedale moved up the ranks quickly. Within several years of working for him he was supervising jobs, writing estimates, and, eventually, serving as a project manager. “He always gave 100 percent, and picked up very quickly. … He was a natural leader with the other guys,” Shinn said.
Fedale’s business savvy is closely linked to his ability to recognize the gifts others bring to the table. He points to the pastor who mentored him in his 20s. “He was a dynamic individual. For some reason he saw something in me. He was an organizational genius,” Fedale said, adding that two years ago this same pastor decided to leave the ministry and enter the workforce. “If I come across people I know are going to be good, I find a place for them.” The former pastor is now director of operations.
Calling himself a good judge of character, Fedale delegates confidently, trusting in the abilities of those he puts in charge. Of equal importance, he said, he knows when to cut the ties with an employee who isn’t productive.
Always a saver, Fedale said he made fiscally prudent choices early on regarding spending, opting to reinvest in business opportunities over living large. “I didn’t extend myself too far. Once I had the money, I’d find out where to invest it. … I was able to grow through the worst economy,” he said, and recalled being approached by a bank. Surprised to learn that Fedale was his own financier, the bank extended him a line of credit at a time when banks were more likely to turn borrowers away.
While Fedale’s building trades and commercial real estate acquisitions (he owns 170 residential rental units) make chronological sense, several more recent ventures are off the beaten path. He is now part owner of two Florida tattoo businesses and a popular local restaurant.
An extrovert by nature, Fedale has rubbed elbows with some fascinating personalities, including tattoo artist and reality show celeb Chris Núñez. Núñez has built a following as a result of his presences on “Miami Ink” and “Ink Master,” and is among the growing chorus of those promoting the finer artistry behind the craft. One thing led to another while Fedale was vacationing in Florida. And he and Núñez are now partners in two Florida tattoo shops — one in Miami, which also includes an art gallery, and a second more touristy shop in Fort Lauderdale. “It’s by far the funnest investment I’ve been involved in,” Fedale said.
Most recently, acquaintance and world-renowned chef Brian Ashby approached Fedale with an opportunity to partner in a new restaurant venture in Wilmington, 8th and Union Kitchen, an American and Asian influenced eatery that has received rave reviews.
When asked about family, values, and compassionate giving, Fedale offered some keen insights. Reflecting upon the way in which many of today’s youth feel entitled, Fedale said it all begins with what kind of modeling children see at home.
Moreover, he said, it’s important that parents don’t guard their children from every life disappointment or failure. Regarding his own children’s character development, he credited their education at the Independence School in Pike Creek Valley, where he said they were taught responsibility and accountability. Family is also a reoccurring focus when Fedale considers philanthropic choices. He provides for the five children of a longtime friend who has fallen on rough times; he throws clothing drives and Christmas tree drives for some of the struggling families who reside in the apartment complexes he owns.
What’s his proudest moment? The choice — a tough one between watching his children grow and his parents.
Finally, he shared the story of how his parents needed a new roof on their home. “My parents — they were supportive even through my most troubling times. … I never really offered them much. I took them for granted. My mom wanted a new roof. My dad didn’t think they needed one. I said, ‘Pick the colors. I’m gonna do this roof,’ ” he said. The story, apropos — because regardless of his business successes, of which there are many, Fedale is, after all, a family man.