- May 20, 2009
LAKEWOOD RANCH — As new franchisees of Fibrenew, Gene and Noreen Leone knew they’d be bringing their business to people’s homes, repairing ripped leather furniture and other items.
They just didn’t expect their first repair to be in their own home.
The couple points to the leather sofa in the living room.
“It ripped when we were moving it in,” Noreen Leone said with a grin.
But with their newfound skills, the Leones repaired the rip and several scratch marks, matching the color and even recreating the texture of the fabric.
The Greenbrook residents recently opened a franchise of Fibrenew, an international company specializing in leather and plastic restoration.
Gene Leone pulled out a folder of repairs he and other Fibrenew franchisees have made.
“This is the bread and butter of what we do,” Gene Leone said, pointing to the pictures. “It’s a mobile business, so it’s designed for us to go to you and do it.”
Both he and Noreen are trained to handle repairs, including everything from refurbishing cracks on dashboards to repairing cuts in leather or scratches from cats.
“We’re kind of in the recycling business,” Noreen Leone said. “We restore and repair it so you don’t have to buy something new. It’s not going to be perfect, but we can bring it to a point where nobody else would know you ever had a rip.”
The couple can even change the color of a leather piece of furniture by re-dyeing it.
Gene, an electrical engineer, lost his job to the economy in October 2008. Unable to find employment, he began to do some local networking, through which he met a man who connected prospective entrepreneurs with franchise opportunities.
“(At that point) we had made a decision to strike out on our own,” Gene Leone said. “Fibrenew kind of struck both our interest.”
Although they looked at other franchise opportunities, the Leones loved that Fibrenew would give them a chance to work together without having to manage employees. And both felt that the repair or refinishing of leather, plastic and vinyl items would be a great service for the area, especially at a time when people may choose to fix items rather than replacing them.
Additionally, Gene’s background in engineering and Noreen’s experience in customer service also seemed to be a perfect match for the business.
“We each have our own strengths we bring to the table,” Gene Leone said. “We have enough differences between us to play well together.”
While Gene tends to be more analytical and hands-on, Noreen is more casual and outgoing. But both are prepared to handle any aspect of the business that is thrown their way and both are eager to begin work for local families.
The Leones said they do hope to expand their business in the future, working themselves into management positions, but for now they want to gain experience in the field and develop relationships with local business that could use their services.
“To start off doing it ourselves is the best way,” Gene Leone said. “Our goal right now is to get to know people in the industry. Along the way, somebody’s going to give you a chance.”
For more information, visit www.fibrenew.com or call the Leones at 932-8098.
Contact Pam McTeer at [email protected].