Until Competition Do They Part

Wife, Husband Battle For Customers With Separate Machine Shops

October 23, 1991|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — Chris H. Russo loves his wife, but he's not about to let her steal his customers.

Linda Russo already has succeeded in winning at least one of her husband's customers after opening her own machine shop in July.

"I don't talk business with her," he said. "I'm out to get as much work as I can get. I guess she's the same way.

"I love my wife. We have four beautiful kids. But we have to be competitive."

The Russos worked together at Chris' shop until last summer. They no longer talk business at home.

"Now he has his, and I have mine, so our family time is better," Linda said.

And they try to stay out of each other's shops, which are in the same building at the Air Business Center on Route 97.

Barry S. Orvis of Owings Mills, Baltimore County, worked for Chris for two years before moving to Linda's shop.

"I was kind of worried at first because we didn't know what to expector how things would go," he said. "They both want to make a go of it.

"Everybody's going for one thing: We're out to make money."

Linda, 37, said she opened Metal Tech Enterprises Inc. after realizingshe had the experience and contacts to make a business go.

"I wanted to have something on my own," she said. "I just felt I could do it."

She also knew she could make money.

"It'll help us (the family) out; it's a rough world out there," Linda said.

Chris, 38, a former engineer at Martin Marietta Corp. and owner of Metal Tech Engineering Inc. for three years, was surprised when Linda started talking about her own company last spring.

"I said, 'Get out of here,' "he said. "I'm still baffled.

"I know she does a lot, but I didn'tgive her credit that she could do something like this on her own.

"I was always the breadwinner. But it helps us both in the long run."

Linda smiled when told her husband said that.

"I think he's proud," she said. "He's always encouraged me to do what I want to do."

Christa B. Crone, owner of Cris Craft Limited, a sewing factory in Manchester and a friend of the Russos, also encouraged Linda to start the business.

"It's unusual, a husband and wife competing," shesaid. "It's going to be stormy at times.

"But it makes each business a little more interesting. As soon as you have competition, you try harder."

Chris said his wife of 19 years will be successful because of her contacts in the field, experience and business skills.

"She's more efficient in different areas than we are," he said. "She's strictly business, dollars and cents. I don't know if I could workfor my wife because she's more regimented than I am."

Linda is better at dealing with customers and keeping costs under control, he said.

To compete with his wife, Chris said he is counting on customer loyalty and the fact that he does metal fabricating and machining, while she only does machining.

Linda is hoping to qualify for government work as a minority contractor, something her husband can't do.

She has one part-time and four full-time employees working in a 1,500-square-foot shop. She hopes sales for August through December will be $200,000.

Chris has one part-time and three full-time employees and a 2,400-square-foot shop. His sales last year were $567,000.

His customers include Westinghouse Electric Corp. and Martin Marietta.

Her employees have been making parts for Omega/Arkay, a photoequipment company in Hampstead, and Allied Signal Aerospace Co. in Baltimore, among others.

Omega/Arkay had been one of Chris' customers.

Anna M. Wellman, purchasing agent for the company, said she started working with Linda after receiving a mailing about the new business.

"Her prices are cheaper," Wellman said.

Before going to work with her husband, Linda worked for 12 years at Baltimore Valve & Fitting Inc. where she did office work, sales, purchasing and customer relations. She also worked for two home-building companies doing accounting work.

Linda and Chris live near Tyrone with their children Cara, 12; Ryan, 8; Anthony, 4, and Aric, 2.

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