BRIGANTINE — Greg Knight, owner of the Brigantine home-improvement business Fence Doctor, likes to joke that all of his workers are PhDs — post-hole diggers.
Knight, 55, of Brigantine, has been helping neighbors keep the peace one fence at a time since launching his business in 2002.
People put up fences for all kinds of reasons — for privacy, for pets or pools or to create a safe children’s play yard, he said. Some homeowners are simply sick of looking at a neighbor’s ugly boat, he said. His goal is to find a fence that meets the specific need.
He specializes in sturdy vinyl and cedar fencing that is designed to hold up to the brutal winds that Atlantic County’s coastline sees every year.
Knight is a former leasing agent who performed home repairs on the side. By necessity he began to focus more on repair jobs when banks began expanding their leasing duties in 2001, he said.
He took an active interest in building fences, he said.
“I liked it because you weren’t climbing ladders or crawling under houses, which is good because I’m claustrophobic and I’m a little afraid of heights,” he said.
His market includes all of Atlantic County but particularly the coastline, he said.
He has two employees, Brigantine residents Zack Meisle, 25, and Scott Glen, 50. The three-man crew has the job down to a routine. But sometimes homeowners are unfamiliar with their process, which saves the fine-detail work for last to make sure every piece is level, straight and parallel.
“Sometimes, homeowners will say, ‘It doesn’t look straight to me,’” Glen said. “Well, that’s because it isn’t tightened or finished yet.”
Knight said he recommends high-quality materials that can withstand northeasters and other harsh weather common to South Jersey.
“We take a lot of pride in our work. We live here, so we like to drive past a job we did and puff up our chest, ‘I did that and it still looks good,’“ he said.
Knight said any reputable contractor will return to address any problems with a completed project. But he said he is pleased that this rarely happens with his crew. His business number is his cell phone, so he fields all customer calls directly.
“We say when we’re done you should only have to call us back for dinner or cocktails,” he said.
Besides fences, his company can install glass deck railings for homes or condos with waterfront views or help remodel a garage.
He advertises through is big work trailer, which features a life-size picture of him, and the custom decals on his ’67 Galaxy convertible.
Knight recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. In school, he wrote a paper debating the merits of being a general contractor versus a specialist.
“I think it’s better to be a specialist,” he said. “If you’re going to specialize in something, people will seek you out. And since we started the fencing company, our home-improvement projects actually have gotten larger.”
Home-improvement businesses are notoriously competitive. Knight said he has seen more than a dozen fencing contractors come and go in southern New Jersey since he started 10 years ago.
“We’ve been able to hold onto our business by doing quality work,” he said.
As something of a New Jersey fence expert, Knight said he agreed with the public about the security fences the New Jersey Turnpike Authority erected along the Great Egg Harbor section of the Garden State Parkway.
Under pressure from the public, the authority removed most of the fencing to clear the marsh view.
“They were the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It ruined a good view. Putting those fences up along the bridges was a little much. And they spent a lot of money.”
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