For All of Your Gate, Fence, Shutter and Hurricane-Protection Needs
by Melissa LaScaleia
Gator-Strong Services of Myrtle Beach designs, installs, and services all types of gates, fences, and hurricane shutters for their clientele along the Grand Strand and stretching into the Georgetown, Horry, Wilmington, Brunswick, and New Hanover County areas.
The company is jointly owned and locally operated by Danny Vulin and Jim Leone. Danny met Jim when the former was the owner of Metro Fence, and Jim, the owner of Fence Source.
Jim was a firefighter in New Jersey for eighteen years before moving into the fencing industry. Danny grew up working in the fence business; and operated his company in the Grand Strand area for ten years.
“Jim was one of my distributors,” Danny says. “I sourced a lot of materials from him, and we were in contact often. Over the years, we developed a strong working relationship and a good rapport, and eventually decided to become partners. We merged our companies and opened a company together in 2017, Gator Fence.”
Today the company has grown to include twenty-five employees, two locations, and six trucks.
“We are an incredible team, and definitely like a family,” Jim says. “Jackie Rooney is the manager of the fencing division. She is originally from New Jersey and is a huge asset to our company.”
Jim’s wife, Anne-Marie Leone, manages the hurricane division; Linda Harris handles human resources and bookkeeping; Jeremy Rickrode is a sales manager; Jeff Camp is the field supervisor; Bill Lynch, a sales rep, has known Jim since the 6th grade; and Dean Cooper, who runs the shop, has been with the company for seven years.
Mike Lipinski is a sales manager and works very closely with Anne-Marie. Jake Fullwood is a fencing field supervisor in charge of two crews, and with over 15 years of industry experience, is a great leader for the company. Guy Murphy is a new salesman— Jim used to sell products to him in New Jersey.
“He moved down here, and one day walked into my store to buy fencing for a project he was doing,” Jim says. “I couldn’t beleive the coincidence, and offered him a job.”
Danny lives in Wilmington, in Carolina Beach, and Jim, in the Market Common.
“Where we are right now, between Brunswick and Horry County, they’re two of the fastest growing counties in America,” Danny says. “The amount of people moving here increases all the time. The market is in a spot where we have a lot of new construction and new communities, and people need fences and gates. Everything is growing. And the range of territory we cover— from Wilmington to the Market Common, to Pawleys and beyond, ensures that we can meet all of our clients’ needs.”
The company serves clients with residential, commercial and industrial projects. The quality of their work and the extensive number of years both have in their industry garners them many high-profile jobs.
“We’ve installed all kinds of access systems for communities and apartments, and have built fencing and gates for several baseball fields in the Myrtle Beach area as well as Coastal Carolina University,” Danny says. “We also installed gates and access control panels for the Wilmington and Myrtle Beach Airports.”
The company manufactures the fencing for their vinyl fence at their facility in Myrtle Beach, so they can custom design everything to their clients’ specifications. They also offer aluminum, wood, and chain link fencing. They have two showrooms, where customers can see available options for every product they carry.
After witnessing the devastation of two recent hurricanes, in 2016 and 2018, Danny and Jim were inspired to begin a new company, Gator-Strong Hurricane Shutters, to best meet their clients’ needs. In 2019, they merged it with Gator Fence to become what they are today— Gator Strong Services.
“If a window breaks during a hurricane, the amount of water that can come through the glass is unbelievable,” Danny says. “Even if you don’t have breakage, the pressure can allow water to get into the seals of the window, and the water can then seep into the walls of your house. Recently I came in contact with a woman who was selling her house and had to replace an entire wall because of all the water damage that had accumulated over the years that she wasn’t aware of. Sometimes the damage is happening and you can’t see it, and it creates a lot of problems down the road.”
For this reason, it’s important to board up windows and doors, even ones that aren’t glass, when preparing for a hurricane. Unfortunately, it’s not feasible for many. Anybody who has used plywood knows how difficult it is to fit properly, and it doesn’t retain its structure with repeated use. The experience in 2018 and ensuing consequences, led Danny and Jim to find alternate, functional window and door-protection options to offer the community.
Today, their hurricane division designs, installs, and services all different styles of hurricane shutters including: storm panels, motorized roll downs, accordions, and Bahama shutters.
“The panels are lighter and easy to put up in the event of a storm,” Danny says. “There is a permanent track around the perimeter of the window, and if a storm is coming, you install the panel. Roll-downs will roll down into place with a hand crank, or automatically, with the push of a button. We have options to accommodate and protect any window or door in seconds. We also pride ourselves in educating each customer in order to ensure that the type of shutter picked out will meet the customer’s needs. A lot of second homes opt for shutters during the off-season to protect not only from storms, but also theft or vandalism of their property while the owners are away. Many restaurants and stores select the same thing for similar reasons.”
In January 2021, Danny and Jim expanded their company once more, and opened a fully operational branch with a new office and a warehouse space in Wilmington that has eight full-time employees and two service trucks.
“The sales and hard work of Danny; Ryan Rose, a graduate of East Carolina University; and Erin Scott, who quickly took the reins of office manager; facilitated the opening of another branch in Wilmington,” Jim says. “Drew Ritter is the field supervisor there; he works very closely with James Hunt in that area.”
Gator Strong Services has no intention of slowing down. They plan to open a branch in Charleston by fall of 2022.