He opened The Window Gallery in 1985 in a small business incubator in North Augusta. A year later, he moved into his current space at 1129 Broad St.
“We were really one of the first to have a vision for what Broad Street could become – specialty stores,” Steele said.
With fewer new home jobs available because of the economic downturn, the window and door supply business has concentrated on commercial, replacement and remodeling work, including projects at Tubman High School and C.T. Walker Traditional Magnet School, he said.
Steele was attending college in the Northeast when he was drafted into the military.
In 1972, he was stationed at Fort Gordon and then sent to Germany.
After being discharged, he worked as an inner-city missionary at Greene Street Presbyterian Church. He later decided to become a social worker.
“My primary motivation in life was to help people,” Steele said.
As a graduate student, he worked as a social worker with the Council on Aging in Aiken.
When the energy crisis hit in 1980, he became interested in energy conservation and helped the elderly with their large power bills.
He had a job lined up at the VA hospital after graduation, but President Carter cut the funding three days before he was supposed to start. Steele found a job at a local business and started its window division. Six years later, he opened The Window Gallery.
Steele opened locations in Nashville, Tenn., and Columbia, but he closed them several years ago because changes in the residential materials business didn’t make it economical to run the stores.
Today, the self-taught entrepreneur is a guest speaker for business classes at Augusta State University.
“I never dreamed that I’d be in business, but what I enjoy about it is being able to help people fulfill their dreams,” Steele said. “Very often, the designer of the home has not listened to them and has not really captured what they were hoping to create. Or they haven’t been able to communicate what they want. We sit down and make sure they have really thought through all of the issues related to windows and doors.”