The Great Changeup
Major League Baseball’s (MLB) opening day lands on April 7, eight days away. Changeups are sure to be constant during the Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees duel, but I have a different kind of pitch on my mind today. I caught up with Kyle Rehatchek to detail the curveballs associated with a daunting career change.
A fire truck manufacturing plant in Nesquehoning, Pa., was Rehatchek’s place of work after graduating high school in 2002. The then 17-year-old applied reflective striping and lettering to an estimated 150 fire trucks during his three-year stay, entering a police academy in 2005. Rehatchek held roles as a firearms instructor, a SWAT (special weapons and tactics) team member, tactical hazmat technician, field training officer, and a bicycle patrol officer during his decade-and-a-half career.
He opened Black Diamond Tint in Pottsville, Pa., in 2010 but didn’t fully commit to film until he retired from police work in March 2021.
WF: You applied vinyl to fire trucks for several years. Did your experiences aid your initial installs?
Rehatchek: I was used to a wet application and squeegeeing things. I learned by hand cutting, and I was good with razor blades. That’s what I did with fire trucks—you had to be able to cut a fine, straight line with a steady hand. I was able to transition to window film pretty quickly.
WF: You tinted on the side for more than 10 years. What inspired you to take that leap and go full time?
Rehatchek: I worked seven days a week between the department and my window film job. Something had to give. You can’t continue not to be able to make it to estimates or schedule things on time. I had to choose, and I was already at my vesting point in my pension.
WF: Were there benefits to balancing both?
Rehatchek: When you have a full-time job, the biggest thing is being able to finance the business by reinvesting all of the money. I was able to buy new equipment and not make myself strapped for cash on the business side.
WF: Do you ever regret not leaving the force sooner?
Rehatchek: I think I did it at the right time. Police and public service work prepare you to deal with people in unique ways. If you don’t know how to deal with different walks of life and people, and all you know is how to tint windows, it’s difficult to run the business. At that point, you’re just an installer.
WF: What was it like retiring and betting your career on film?
Rehatchek: I feel scared every day. When you leave that type of job, you can’t just find a new position. I’d have to go through the whole process again if I ever wanted to get back into that life. I knew I was essentially walking off the cliff when I stepped away—there was no way back.
WF: You had an estimated $200,000 in sales in 2021. What’s the next step for your operation?
Rehatchek: I would like to move into a larger shop and bring in paint protection film (PPF), detailing, or ceramic coatings during the next two years. Right now, we’re in a one-car shop.
WF: How do your day-to-day interactions differ now?
Rehatchek: I laugh about it. I now have a job where everyone is happy to see me. I never had that for my whole police career—everybody hates you, no one wants you to be there, and nobody’s happy with the outcome. Going somewhere with smiling faces—people who appreciate you—is a much better way to live.