January 13, 2020
By Martin Hawrysko, Emecole Metro LLC
In the spirit of Peculiar People Day, which falls on January 10th, we use this opportunity to reflect on the founder of our company, Lou Cole.
Peculiar People Day is described as a celebration of individuals who posses unique qualities or exhibit actions described as unusual or extraordinary that results in the challenging of the status quo. The story of Lou’s interest in concrete crack repair and how he went about devising a new and greatly improved method of repairing cracks in poured foundations is most certainly an example of challenging the status quo.
After receiving a double master’s in chemical and plastic engineering from Penn State University, Lou began his career as a chemist at Union Carbide. Over time, he developed a growing interest in business and transitioned into sales, which led to his moving from New York to Chicago. It wasn’t long before Lou would catch the entrepreneurial bug. Wanting to go all in on his pursuit of business, he attended Loyola University for an MBA.
Between his work as a salesmen and attending classes, Lou used any free time he had to scratch his entrepreneurial itch by devising several product ideas while also experimenting with various plastics.
“Based on my experience, success does not fall on your lap,” said Lou in a 2012 discussion with colleagues. “There may be many good ideas to promote, but most often it is not the first idea that is the one. Like any idea, whether good or bad, a requirement is that it has an advocate with the perseverance to succeed.”
While some of Lou’s early ideas may not have panned out, he never gave up. By the early 1980s, Lou had developed a large network of contacts spanning different backgrounds and industries. Among that group included contractors who serviced cracked basement walls. A common discussion point between Lou and his circle was just how inefficient basement wall crack repair was.
At the time, the most common method to repairing a leaking basement crack in either poured concrete or block was by installing an interior drainage system to capture the water and navigate it to the sump pit. The drawback was that it didn’t do anything to prevent water from entering the basement, which complicated efforts at preventing the growth of mold.
An alternate method for repairing cracks in poured concrete foundations was high pressure crack injection. While this method properly filled cracks and prevented water entry into the basement, it required expensive equipment and a high volume of injection materials. While the method was preferable to repairing extra wide cracks, the vast majority of cracks that residential contractors encountered were thin cracks, anywhere from hairline to 3/16 inch thin.
If only the crack injection method was somehow more efficient. Thankfully, Lou had an idea.
He set out to duplicate the convenience of the standard caulk gun by developing a more efficient tool equipped for the dispensing of two-component materials packaged in dual cartridge tube sets. The premise of the two-component dual cartridge concept was that contractors would be able to repair a poured basement wall crack with an easy-to-use dispensing gun and with a smaller volume of injection material. Instead of dispensing at high pressure, Lou’s prototype, today known as the Emecole Metro Jake 300 Dispensing Gun, injected at low pressure (eventually specifying the range of 20 to 40 PSI).
The potential advantages of low pressure crack injection for contractors was less investment in injection equipment and chemicals, less waste of injected material and less time spent at the job.
After successfully testing this concept, Lou determined that low pressure crack injection could in fact be a reality, prompting him to take his dispensing gun to market. This also gave him the impetus to develop his own line of epoxies and polyurethanes specifically formulated to accommodate his dispensing gun and these type of crack repairs. At last, Lou had crafted a proven concept that would provide a more cost-effective and time-efficient means to repairing cracks in poured concrete foundations. Further more, his concept would come to life with the use of his own proprietary products.
By 1987, Lou founded the business that today is known as Emecole Metro, giving him a vehicle to properly market the low pressure crack injection process. Lou’s proximity to Chicago was a distinct advantage for the new business considering that the Chicagoland area had become a prime location where homes were built on poured concrete foundations as opposed to block. Low pressure crack injection would eventually be adopted by residential basement waterproofing contractors throughout the Chicagoland area and eventually across the United States and Canada. Contractors using his crack injection process and products averaged less than a one percent callback rate for their work.
“More than 99 percent of the time, crack injection will fix the problem,” according to Lou. “Most contractors warranty the injection repair up to the life of the structure.”
The upward momentum of success the company had in its early days enticed Lou to continue adding onto the business by developing new basement waterproofing products that his customers could utilize to service their residential end users. By the mid 2000s, Lou’s entrepreneurial drive coincided with the rise of the Internet’s ability to steer potential customers to his website, resulting in record breaking sales and revenue. Emecole had become a nationally recognized manufacturer and supplier within the basement waterproofing industry.
Today, the story of Emecole Metro continues to carry on following Lou’s retirement in 2016. Now under the leadership of Metropolitan Industries, many of the same great people who had the honor of working for Lou for so many years continue to honor his legacy by exhibiting a burning desire towards continued product innovation and superior support of our customers.
On Nov. 30, 2019, Lou passed away peacefully in his home.
While Lou’s entrepreneurial journey could be described as peculiar, we prefer to think of it as extraordinary.
Just as he was.
I knew Lou going back to the 80’s and was not aware of his passing. To his family and colleagues, I am very sorry to hear of the news. Lou was an inspiration and his passion and perseverance is an example for the younger generation of what it takes to be successful.
Richard, thank you for sharing the kind words. Speaking for myself, who was hired by Lou right after I had finished with college in 2008, I had the opportunity to work for him during my mid to late 20s and early 30s. He truly was an inspiration to many, but to me – being quite green and wide eyed at that time – he was also quite the presence, and I will always be grateful for what I have learned from him. Those of us who worked with Lou for any length of time continue to miss him. I will pass your note onto the rest of the Emecole staff and to his wife, Maureen.