JAD Equipment Co. owner James “Jamie” Dagan was a first-class jokester who had spent 32 of his 48 years around spray equipment, making him the go-to guy for customers, colleagues and vendors alike.
Now, the Youngstown, OH, company he founded is searching for a new direction after abruptly losing his decades of expertise and spirit.
Mr. Dagan, 48, died suddenly Feb. 20 at home from a pulmonary embolism. The company is still reeling, says Joe Hunsbarger, Mr. Dagan’s business partner and lifelong best friend.
“He was basically my brother,” Hunsbarger recalled in an interview Wednesday (April 6). “We were best friends forever. He’d lived across the street since he was 5. He was raised by his sister.”
The best friends’ lives in spray equipment began in high school. Through a family connection, Mr. Dagan began working at age 16 for Youngstown Spray Equipment. The high schooler was a repair tech for spray and blasting equipment.
The work was self-taught. “The ‘training’ was, they would hand you something and say, ‘Here, get the book and fix this,’” Hunsbarger recalled with a laugh.
Hunsbarger later joined Youngstown as well, and the friends worked together for a few years until they founded an affiliated business, Blast N Kote, which did abrasive blasting and repairs for area mills and pipes.
When Youngstown Spray eventually absorbed Blasting Kote, the friends started their own ventures: Hunsbarger launched a company called Northeast Spray Equipment, while Mr. Dagan started DFM Equipment.
Hunsbarger later folded Northeast Spray to work for Marco, the Iowa-based abrasives manufacturer and services provider, and other companies.
Meanwhile, by 2001, Mr. Dagan had parted ways with DFM and was itchy for a new challenge (“that’s all he did, was work,” said his partner).
The new venture, named for his initials, would be JAD (or JADCO), which provides sales and service for painting, abrasive blasting and pressure-washing equipment.
The company was supposed to be Mr. Dagan’s alone, but fate had other ideas. Hunsbarger was happily employed elsewhere at the time, but said he would help Mr. Dagan with the start-up.
Four days later, however, Hunsbarger was unexpectedly laid off, and JAD had a new co-owner.
With Mr. Dagan’s knowledge, contacts and reputation, JAD hit the ground running, Hunsbarger recalls. “Jim had the best reputation with all the vendors, and they just set us up,” he said.
With Mr. Dagan handling the books and working the phones to keep the supply chain flowing and the vendors paid, and Hunsbarger overseeing sales and a self-built computer network, the company quickly outgrew its 2,000-square-foot quarters.
“We were good together: Jim had an ego, and I didn’t,” Hunsbarger joked.
After several years, the company moved across town to an 8,000-square-foot facility. But before long, that also became too tight. The next move, set for Feb. 21 of this year, would be to a modern, 21,000-square-foot facility.
Mr. Dagan passed away the day before the move.
Now in its new quarters (the move was rescheduled for March 1) on the eve of its 10th anniversary, the company is scrambling to fill the hole left by the man everyone called “Shrek.” (“He was always joking about looking for his donkey,” said Hunsbarger.)
Between his many official duties and his unofficial role as company funster (he was also an avid golfer, bowler, dart and pool player), the founder’s loss is keenly felt, Hunsbarger said.
“He was a jokester all the time,” said Hunsbarger. “He liked to talk like he was from England. And he was really good at it. He would do it in a restaurant and keep a straight face, and they would believe it.
“He would make everybody laugh. He was the funniest guy you ever knew.
“People would just call him to talk to him. Everybody liked him.”
Mr. Dagan is survived by his sister, Mary Moon; his companion, Becky Dee of Youngstown; his brother, Jeffrey Lee Farrow; nephews and a niece.