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Close-Up: Barry Garson

Restoration company helps property owners 'put it all back together again' following devastation

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Homeowners and commercial and residential property managers have the continuous responsibility of making sure their structures are safe and comfortable. This is achieved through routine maintenance, but there's always a chance that the unexpected may happen -- like a busted pipeline or fire -- and result in devastation to tenants and property owners.

As Barry Garson, vice president of J&M Keystone explains, people do not prepare for this type of implosion on a day-to-day basis.

"They didn't ask for this to happen to them. It's a disruption to their lives, disruption to their business, to their livelihood," Garson said.

Barry Garson

J&M Keystone, a San Diego-based restoration company and general contractor, serves all corners of San Diego County. With 15 equipment trucks dispatched with 100 employees who live all over the county, a one-hour response time is guaranteed.

"When we respond to an emergency ... we are able to put it all back together again. So it's as if the fire, smoke damage or flood never happened," Garson says.

The company's history began in 1985, when it was first called J&M Carpet Services before becoming incorporated in 1991 as J & M Keystone.

Ron Martin, president and owner of J&M Keystone, had 17 years as a general contractor under his belt before forming J&M Carpet Services.

"We started out as a small service company. It wasn't long after that that we saw the need to expand our services. After years of servicing the apartment industry, we decided to expand into more restoration [contracting work] than simply limited services," Martin said, adding that his client base gained widespread solidarity. "And the natural progression was to service the insurance industry and commercial industry."

Today, J&M Keystone responds to calls from the Irvine Co., CarrAmerica and American Assets. Other major clients include the cities' municipalities and San Diego State University, University of San Diego and University of California, San Diego.

Depending on the job, the breakdown of insurance claims can get complicated, said Martin. "While splitting up the claims, the claims often times get multi-faceted," he said, explaining that J&M may work for either the owner of the building or an insured tenant. "Oftentimes there are multiple insurance carriers, so an attention to detail is important." Martin and Garson have been in the front lines of some of the most disastrous situations, including a ceiling leak resulting in rain showering over an information technology room in a commercial building. "Because of our quick response time, we were actually able to save the data inside the server, which was priceless for them," Garson said.

In a high-rise condominium building, a major leak will cause a domino effect, starting from water draining from the 17th floor all the way down to the first floor. Garson says that each tenant takes responsibility.

"It's like a car accident -- it's the guy in the back's fault if there is a pileup, but everyone still has to turn in their own insurance claim when there is a malfunction of a pipe, toilet or kitchen sink overflow," Garson said.

Part of J&M Keystone's service is to document the aftermath of the damage, through photographs, videotape and thermal imaging, so that the full amount of damage is adequately communicated to their client's insurance company.

"When the insurance company assigns an adjuster, by the time they look at the area, it looks a lot better," Garson said. "It has stabilized."

J&M Keystone is one of the largest restoration companies in San Diego. It has not only a general liability policy, but also an additional policy that covers up to $2 million for mold pollution. Garson explained that sometimes within a year, mold will sprout up where drywall was repaired following extensive water damage. The policy is expensive, but Garson says J&M holds this policy to elevate the company's customer service level.

"It adds peace of mind and shows on our part that we are confidant in what we do," he said.

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