Famed roofing expert still going strong

Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Wayne Gretzky, Greg Norman — these are just a few customers of roofer Joe Zappone. In an article in The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., Zappone, 70, talked about how his copper-shingle business has served him well over the years. In fact, some clients are so secretive that they won’t reveal their identities, even if it means they can’t register their roof warranties.

His copper shingles sell for about $900 for every 100 square feet — and that doesn’t include installation costs. That compares with approximately $100 per 100 square feet for typical asphalt shingles.

Zappone, who grew up in Spokane, earned a degree in business administration from Gonzaga University. One of his first jobs out of college was at Kaiser Aluminum, which manufactured an aluminum roofing product at the time. “But people were installing it wrong, and it leaked,” he says. “I figured I could make a better aluminum shingle — one that looked more like tile or slate — so I started my own company.”

He says he knew nothing about roofing at the time, but he was soon selling aluminum shingles “in Hawaii and all over. But not around here. People figured, ‘He’s a local. He can’t make anything.'”

In the late 1970s, he added copper shingles to his company’s line. Today, 75 percent of his business is in copper shingles. When this type of shingle is first installed, it’s shiny, but years or decades later, it turns to an earthy green. Zappone says the latter color is what his customers want — and in fact, “Those who are in a hurry apply a chemical wash.”

After being in business for 46 years, does he have an exit strategy? 

“I’m working on it,” he says.