The Switch: From Rock Star to Heating Contractor Extraordinaire

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This is the fascinating true story of Derek Moore, former bassist for the 1970’s band, Nektar, and his transition into the plumbing and heating industry. Derek is now president of Reissmann Plumbing & Heating Inc. and Alpha One Construction in Chester, N.J. Derek used to tour the world and lived the “glamorous” life of a rock star. But the decision to move into the plumbing & heating business became clear, leaving behind his rock-star lifestyle. This is Derek Moore in his own words:

As some of you know, I was the bass player for the progressive rock band Nektar Magic Is A Child, the last album we did, was released in 1977.  It did fairly well and we toured behind it throughout the United States where we were now living as permanent residents. We moved here in 1976, as I realized that once the band broke up— which was imminent—I wanted to live in the USA, and I knew that most of the rest of the band, girlfriends and wives felt the same way. Roye, the original guitarist, left the band to follow his girlfriend at the time back to Europe, leaving us with no way to support the rest of us. We auditioned many guitarists (about 200) and found David Nelson, currently a Fox news financial analyst and chief financial strategist for Belpointe wealth management. It was with him we did the album Magic Is A Child.  We also were working with Ryche Chlanda, currently touring with Renaissance and Larry Fast, Mr Synergy and synth wiz who has played with everybody on the planet, and is one of my dear friends.

Moore rockin’ out to the psychedelic sounds of the 70s with his double neck bass.

Moore rockin’ out to the psychedelic sounds of the 70s with his double neck bass.

We were looking for a new label, as Polydor was worse than useless. We always said the albums had escaped rather than being released. They had no vision.  A year before MTV came into being, I remember trying to convince Polydor that music video would be the next big thing.  Here we were with a sound and light theater, a perfect instrument for the media, and they said it would never happen; who would buy such a thing? Dumb.

So I had a lot of spare time, writing music and being in limbo. I had met Nicki, the love of my life, a few months earlier and was enjoying my time with her (35 years and counting). Nicki’s Dad Franz Reissmann, (my future father-in-law) owned Reissmann Plumbing and Heating.  One day at their house in Chester, New Jersey he told me he and his wife, Inge, wanted to go to Cancun, Mexico with some friends on vacation, and I told him go. I told him that I could look after the business while he was gone. I could dispatch the mechanics he had at the time—1 full time and 1 part time. I mean if you are selling pencils or Mercedes Benz’s, the methods are the same; you have to like it, and the customers have to feel comfortable enough in you to buy whatever you are selling. They were gone for two weeks, and in that time, I handled the business, took calls, dispatched the guys, and generally kept things moving forward.


Now Derek Moore enjoys shooting at the gun club and shooting photography, and spending time with his lovely wife Nicki.

When they came back, Franz asked if I would stay and work for him for awhile until the record company dispute blew over. I thought about it, and, as I had nothing else to do, I said OK. After a week or so I was really getting into it. I took to heating like a duck to water. I found it stimulating, and the possibilities were endless. Meanwhile, I had an offer to try out with Foreigner. It was basically as a sideman, no input musically, and although the pay was good—$100,000 per year—it did not interest me. I thought it would be at most a year or two, and the way I calculated it, I could make that every year if I worked hard in my current situation. I needed an outlet for my creativity and I found it in design. Heating systems, bathrooms, kitchens—I have the ability to “see” what a space will look like after it is changed.  I can look at a plan and see the completed version in my mind’

You gotta scratch that itch, right?

You gotta scratch that itch, right?

Heating, that was my direction.  I went to the IBR school in New Vernon for a three-day course and absorbed it all. The teacher was Ozzy, a legend in the IBR business going back to 1955, and I learned so much from him that was not on the curriculum that has stood me in good stead over the years. I was hooked. I was soon designing and installing hydronic heating systems, balancing existing systems by calculating true heat loss and adjusting baseboard in the rooms. I found extreme amounts of baseboard and realized how little most heating guys actually knew about heat. I saw that as a real opportunity for me. The business grew, and after a few months, Franz allowed me to run the guys. He told me that heating was a gift I had that is intuitive and not everyone had it. In the 35 years I have been doing this, I have to say he was right, not everybody is cut out for it. I still find heat wrapped around the entire outside walls without any thought of heat loss and what is actually needed.

Like a sponge I searched out all the different heating methods, every version of steam — 1 pipe, 2 pipe vacuum steam, etc., etc., and became good friends with Dan the man Holohan, another man with passion.

About 15 years or so ago I discovered radiant heat. It was learn as you go. I read up on it and installed the tubing, and then went out to Wirsbo, now Uponor, to take a three-day class with John Barba. He is another guy in this business with an incredible amount of passion. He took us through the design phase and a lot of hands-on work, and I took it and ran with it. Through this one trip I made many life long friends—Jeff Wiedemann, Cindy Albrecht and Ingrid Mattsson to name 3 that are still with Uponor. I have been on the Contractor Advisory Board for Uponor (currently called RAC) since its inception many years ago. I think radiant contractors are among the most passionate, forward-thinking people I have ever met. Dan Foley, Tim Doran, Robert Bean are just a sampling of the high level radiant entrepreneurs operate. I am currently in contact with at least 50 contractors and friends around the country should I need to bounce ideas. If your name isn’t here it does not mean I don’t think about you all the time.

One of the most innovative people I have ever met is Jeff Weiderman of Uponor who thinks in other dimensions to the rest of us. Creating heating controls light years ahead of others in the business. Finally making radiant cooling possible.

As I sit here in Maui, Hawaii writing this I feel how lucky I am to have found this field. I am happily married to my best friend Nicki now for 34 years (one of the reasons we are here).  And I have a ton of friends, more than I can easily count.  We bought Reissmann Plumbing in 1986 and then Cullen Plumbing in the 90s so we could expand into Morristown, N.J. Twelve years ago we bought Alpha One Construction and can now control the whole job. I absolutely love it! I am truly blessed and thank God every day for his gifts.



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