New Rochelle entrepreneur Pierre Blanc and his
wife had just returned from a brief anniversary celebration at Manhattan's Sherry-Netherland hotel. "I had no idea
the place was so expensive," said Mr. Blanc, the 43 year-old founder, owner and chief executive officer of Sunshield Energy
Control Systems, a major player in the field of protective window coatings. But at least Mr. Blanc could take comfort
in the fact that one of the world's chicest hostelries was also his client.
The rich, the famous and the merely prudent
have made the decision to invest in what Mr. Blanc's company has to offer, along with many museums and other institutions
with price-y and pricelss furniture and art to protect. Here is what Sunshield's coatings provide, according to the
company's brochure: "By selectively inhibiting the infiltration of ultraviolet, infrared and visible light, our coatings
provide the greatest degree of solar protection and energy management that current technology permits." In other words
if you have a valuable art or antique collection that needs protection from the damaging effects of the sun's rays, or your
house or apartment costs a mint to heat and cool, Sunshield can help.
The Rockefellers, the DuPonts, the Vanderbilts
and the Hearsts all have window coatings from Sunshield, according to the company's publicity material. So do Leona
Helmsley, Allen Ginsberg, Ed Koch, Elton John, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin and George Steinbrenner. The Boss must
have spread the word because Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman also signed on with Sunshield. Post installation
Dan and Jean Rather sent a note that said "Terrific! Thanks!"
With such an exacting clientele- George Steinbrenner
and Leona Helmsley- you'd think Sunshield's proprietor would be just a little bit crazed, just a tad hyper. But Mr.
Blanc is a quietly affable and forthcoming man, seemingly secure in his company's products and his ability to maintain market
share. With a generosity a least a bit unusual in the genus CEO Americanus he calls long time staffers Christopher Brace
and Beth Schneider "key employees" who've made many contributions to the firm's "expolosive" growth.
Pierre Blanc and his wife live in a house in
New Rochelle overlooking the Long Island Sound and he employs his own product at home. "It protects fabric colors and
artwork and helps with energy bills without interfering with our water views," he said.
Mr. Blanc, who grew up in Pelham Manor, was
an undergraduate at Fordham University en route to law school when he began applying window coatings "to make a little money,"
about 20 years ago. In so doing he discovered his life's work. Today Mr. Blanc runs Sunshield Energy Control Systems
from 129 Union Avenue, a restored early 20th century building on New Rochelle's West Side.
Long ago collectors and curators noted with
alarm that the sun's rays could demage and even destroy all manner of organic materials, bleaching the finish on furniture
and damaging fabrics, carpeting and paintings and prints as well. Protective
coatings for windows came into general use beginning about 40 years ago. In the early days many customers complained
of cracking, yellowing and the resultant interference with views, problems that are minimized with his products, according
to Mr. Blanc. His application, says Mr. Blanc, can reduce nearly 100% percent of the ultraviolet radiation and up to
88% percent of the sun's heat and glare, while containing valuable room heat during the winter months.
Sunshield's coating can be just as valuable
during the hot summer months, in terms of energy conservation. "We've done extensive computer analysis of the conservation
benefits of the film," said Mr. Blanc, "indicating that buildings will experience a reduction in fuel usage of about 30 to
40 percent in summer and 20 to 25 percent in winter." This means that an apartment owner currently spending $600 a year
on air conditioning could reduce that cost by about $200. "Multiply that by 100 units and add in the reduction in oil
or gas usage during the heating season and you have substantial savings in the building," said Mr. Blanc. Additionally,
says the firm's promotional material, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends the window procedure as protection for the skin
from UVA and UVB carcinogens.
Since entering the field two decades ago, Pierre
Blanc has been tweaking the formula and refining the process by which the material is bonded to the glass, with an eye to
better performance and optical clarity. "The system we use now is called covalent bonding," said Mr. Blanc, a statement
he followed with a scientific explanation centering on positive and negative charges. Whatever, if it's good enough
for Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russel and Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, it's good enough for the rest of us, right?
"Most of our work comes
from recommendations," said Mr. Blanc, adding that about 70% percent of clients work from email and digital photographs, so
he never meets them personally, while 30% percent prefer face to face meetings. The company welcomes jobs large and small, so prices for the procedure run from a few hundred dollars for someone who
just wants the dining room done up to eighty or ninety thousand dollars for the largest homes that are so popular now.
When he was a very young man in a very new business
years ago Pierre Blanc decided to offer a universal service to all comers, and not just do big jobs for big spenders.
He likes to tell the story of the woman who came to see him long ago looking to have ultraviolet film applied to her eyeglasses.
The woman had been to several places where she had been more or less told she was nuts. Mr. Blanc obliged her at no
cost and some time later the woman bought a large house in Greenwich and- you guessed it- Sunshield got the nod for
a major residential installation.
Aside from residential work Sunshield also works
for historic houses and museums of all sorts. The Bartow-Pell Mansion at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx has long been
a favorite destination for history buffs and old house devotees. A Federal-style building with Greek Revival interiors
the Bartow-Pell manion was built in 1842, with formal gardens designed by Delano & Aldrich. The site has a history
reaching back to the 17th century; the nine acres the house stands on now were once part of a 9,000 acre tract that Thomas
Pell bought from the Siwany Indians in 1654. In 1666 Charles II granted him a charter, creating the Manor of Pelham.
In 1675 Pell's heir and nephew built a house on the property that sheltered four generations of Pells, until it was destroyed
during the American revolution.
Today's Mansion house is decorated in several
styles that were au courant in the early years of the 19th century, including late Classical and Empire. In addition
to its own collections, the mansion includes period paintings and furniture on loan from private collections, the Metropolitan
Musuem of Art, the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of the City of New York.
For Director Barbara Hammond, protecting this
pricelss trove in an efficient and unobtrusive way was paramount. Having chosen Sunshield to do the job, she said, "Our
visitors are totally unaware that the windows are filmed. Only we know it is there, protecting our valuable exhibits."