One Cool Customer

Wednesday, March 06, 2002
The way in which a person reacts under stress - not success — is generally believed to show a person's true nature. If so, Richard Vassallo proved himself a creative and rational businessman, starting Adrick Marine 26 years ago and building it with his two sons, Richard and Thomas, to the success it is today. Adrick Marine, which provides custom air conditioning and refrigeration solutions to the marine industry, and is the largest supplier of AC and refrigeration units to the U.S. Coast Guard, is, by conventional standards, small, generating about $2 million per year. However the company has successfully carved its niche in "building the specially designed solutions that no one else wants to do," Vassallo said. The company manufactures low pressure air conditioning units from .5 ton to 15 tons capacity, engineered air conditioning systems up to 600 tons capacity, and supplied custom engineered solutions for just about every shipboard use. A 1961 graduate in Marine Engineering from Fort Schuyler, Vassallo started his career not with the intention of creating his own business, but to make a living. He started with M. Rosenblatt & Sons upon graduation, soon after moving onto Bailey Refrigeration, where he served as a chief engineer for 13 years. He then moved to Frigitemp in Brooklyn, ascending to the vice president rank. But, in the mid-70s, Frigitemp went bust, leaving Vassallo in search of a new direction - and an income.

Utilizing his experience, technical knowledge, shipboard experience and expansive list of industry contacts, Vassallo, with the urging of friends and colleagues, decided to strike out on his own, creating Adrick Marine in 1976. Competing with the large, established, corporate suppliers of "catalog" marine refrigeration and air conditioning was, obviously, not a viable option. Instead, Adrick sought to establish itself as a supplier of custom marine solutions, relying on the marine industry's need for unique systems as it constantly seeks to trim weight and save space. "When we go aboard a ship, we have practical shipboard experience," Vassallo said. "For example, we know how to design and position a unit to minimize maintenance." Adrick, with the owner, designs the custom solutions, then buys the equipment and creates the unit. If the custom design is the soul of the project, then the heart is the company's own Electro Control Panel. Standing in testament to the Adrick solution is the diverse list of references, starting with the U.S. Coast Guard and including Israeli Navy ships and some of the world's most advanced workboats.

Expanding the Business "The biggest challenge in building a company is planning for future business — that crystal ball is sometimes very foggy," Vassallo said. That lack of clarity, which is shared by companies both large and small, has led Vassallo to diversify Adrick Marine within and outside of the core marine business. For example, the company has a rapidly growing land-side business producing sheet metal ductwork for buildings in Manhattan. Adrick is seeking to extend this to shipboard applications as well. Just as significantly, the company signed a landmark deal to distribute Novenco Hi-Pres marine equipment — a top world supplier of high pressure air conditioning systems and associated air side components for installations in accommodation areas, engine rooms and machinery spaces — as its U.S. East Coast representative. In addition to its high-pressure air conditioning system, Adrick will present the Danish company's firefighting system as well. The FiFi system has been developed to meet the requirements of SOLAS MSC/Circ. 913 for the local protection for fires within machinery spaces. The Novenco Local Application system is approved by major classification societies and the U.S. Coast Guard. The territory is large, and encompasses the entire U.S. east coast extending west around the Great Lakes to Minnesota, and around the coast of Florida up to East of Apalachee Bay, including the East Coast of Canada.

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