Niche Market Generates Success for Ethos Enterprises

From shopping mall parking lots to entrance ways, stamped asphalt is making its mark. While many contractors view stamped asphalt as an add-on service, one Phoenix-based contractor has found great success in focusing in on this niche market. Mario Flores and Baron Avratin, owners of Ethos Enterprises, continue to set the standard for stamped asphalt by putting their full attention on a growing decorative application.

Currently, Ethos Enterprises earns 90% of its revenue from stamped asphalt, 7% from concrete coatings, and 3% from pool deck restorations. With five full-time employees, Ethos Enterprises has a service area of Phoenix Metro, southern Utah, New Mexico and Nevada. Nearly 90% of Ethos Enterprises’ clients are in the commercial market while 10% are in the residential market.

Flores’ beginning with stamped asphalt

Prior to Ethos Enterprises, Flores worked for 14 years as a street superintendent for the town of Gilbert, AZ. “It was a very fast growing community, as a result we had a lot of people moving in and a lot of roads with a little budget,” Flores says. “I had to look at some more creative ways of getting things done in the roadway, and that is where I ran into stamped decorative asphalt.”

After researching stamped asphalt, Flores saw a great value in using that process. “Typically the municipality would use stamped concrete or brick pavers, and we found several challenges with them,” Flores says. “They were fairly expensive, and the maintenance is difficult because brick pavers move around. If the stamped concrete broke, we would have a hard time matching it back up. When we went to stamped asphalt that changed everything. Now, most of the municipalities in the Phoenix Metro area have adopted that detail.”

Then, in 2006 Flores began working with a company that offered decorative asphalt services. Three years later, he partnered with Avratin to open Ethos Enterprises. Both men have several years of experience in the pavement maintenance industry.

Setting the standard in a niche market

While some contractors offer stamped asphalt as an additional service, Flores believes focusing strictly on stamped asphalt sets Ethos Enterprises apart from competitors in the area. “The fact that it’s [stamped asphalt] all we do, it doesn’t become second hand,” he says. “Because we specialize in stamped asphalt we can pay our full attention to making sure our stamped asphalt is the best.”

Because Ethos Enterprises focuses solely on stamped asphalt its partnerships with paving companies is extremely important. Flores has a few paving contractors that call him regularly with projects. “Our main focus is working for municipalities,” Flores says. “A lot of times we do the work through a general contractor that has a road improvement project.”

Ethos Enterprises uses StreetPrint equipment manufactured by Integrated Paving Concepts. Specific units include StreetHeat heaters, templates and plate compactors. For most projects, Ethos Enterprises uses one heater, but Flores has three heaters for larger projects such as entry ways to shopping centers.

Coatings are also an essential item in decorative asphalt, and Ethos Enterprises uses coatings from Quest Construction Products and United Coatings. Coatings are designed for areas with heavy traffic; however, Flores also uses the coatings for concrete garage floors and driveways. Because of the coating’s 100% UV resistance and solar reflective ability, he also uses it on pool deck restorations.

Ethos Enterprises uses StreetBond150 for high traffic areas, Street BondSR – Solar Reflective, StreetBondCL – Cycle Lanes and StreetBond120 for pedestrian applications.

The coatings Ethos Enterprises uses comes in three parts — dry product, water-based acrylic and pigment. The three parts are mixed onsite and after achieving the correct consistency are poured into a commercial sprayer. (A commercial sprayer is an essential tool because the coating is too thick to use in standard spray machines.)

One difference between StreetPrint equipment and StreetBond products compared to other available processes is that contractors must be licensed and accredited with the manufacturers. “There are pretty strict requirements as to how much experience you have,” Flores says. “If the material isn’t put down properly it can fail giving the product a bad name. There are only a few contractors that are licensed.”

Creating high-quality work is important for Flores and Avratin. They are so well known for producing quality work that StreetPrint has flown Avratin to Dubai and Abu Dhabi to oversee StreetPrint projects.

“Since I was familiar with hot weather climates, StreetPrint asked if I was interested in going to the Middle East to train some of their crews in the StreetPrint application,” Avratin says. “It was a challenge because they put me out there with 15 people who didn’t speak English. The first time I went over there to train their crews and the second time we did a project in Abu Dhabi.”

Selling the benefits of decorative asphalt

Ethos Enterprises has also discovered several additional benefits with stamped asphalt. Since it is located in Arizona, Ethos Enterprises can complete stamped asphalt virtually all year round because the work must be done with temperatures 50° F and rising.

Another value for customers is in the coating. With the continued desire to be environmentally aware, this service provides customers the opportunity to gain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) credits with their projects. “We see this especially in Arizona and hotter markets where you need the solar reflectivity and durability,” Flores says. “With the economy being tough, this is cheaper to install and cheaper to maintain. We are really seeing it grow, so we are focusing on this niche market.”

Four patterns, five colors and 12,000 square feet

When completing stamped asphalt, the surface must meet specific standards such as no oxidation or cracking. Flores has completed stamped asphalt on surfaces as old as 5 years, but the work is typically completed on new asphalt. “The paving company will pave it like they normally would. Then we come in and reheat the area, put down the template and run the compactors making an impression,” Flores says.

In a recent project, Ethos Enterprises completed stamped asphalt applications at the Riverside Crossing apartment complex located in Tucson, AZ. With four patterns and five colors, Ethos Enterprises completed the 12,000-square-foot entrance way in eight days.

The patterns used included Ashlar Slate, Radial Arches, handicap symbols and cookie cutter borders while the colors varied from Bedrock, Terra-cotta, Black, Down to Earth and Driftwood.

Prep work included making sure the asphalt was clean and free of dust or other contaminates allowing the coating to properly stick to the surface. Ethos Enterprises’ crew used a water truck, scrubbing any areas where there was residual dirt. “If we get a nice clean surface, the coating can bond so well to the asphalt that it becomes part of the asphalt,” Flores says.

Next, the crew laid the patterns on a grid allowing them to interlock the templates when adding additional pieces. This portion of the job always requires great accuracy. “If you are a ¼ of an inch off at the very beginning of a driveway, and it’s a 100-foot driveway, because you have to line everything up by the time you reach the end you could be several inches off,” Flores says. “We lay everything out with squares and string line to make sure it lines up perfectly.”

After placing the templates, the crew completes the final steps of the process. First they make a mark, then heat the grid, move the heater off and then put the template down. “While they are working on that, the heater is heating up another area,” Flores says. “Then we kind of checkerboard throughout the area with the heaters and the template until we have everything stamped in the main field.”

An eye for detail is an essential part of the Ethos Enterprises crew. After completing the stamping, the crew uses hand tools to finish the edges. “We get right up against the curb and driveway, making sure everything is nice and clean,” Flores says. “Once it is all printed, we mix up the coatings as we go and start spraying.”

The Ethos Enterprises crew masks everything off to avoid overspray. To guarantee a successful coat, the crew will brush the coating into the asphalt making sure to hit all of the crevices and pores. Several coats are applied.

Along with the basic coatings, Ethos Enterprises also applies accent colors to boarders and trim enhancing the look of a property.

Not only are patterns used to create designs on a surface, but Ethos Enterprises also uses stamps for the handicap symbols. “Typically you have to paint the handicap symbols, and then you have to keep repainting them as the paint wears off,” Flores says. “We actually make the symbol an impression in the asphalt and coat it with our coating making it last virtually the life of the asphalt.”

The Riverside Crossing property owners were so pleased with the final result they are having Ethos Enterprises complete additional stamped asphalt for crosswalks.

Producing quality work is the mantra of Ethos Enterprises, and Flores looks to the same dedication in the contractors he works with. It is this focus and dedication to creating a great product that he believes has helped the company find success.

“We are grateful for the contractors that work with us because they understand our philosophy of high quality and not cutting corners,” he says. “I appreciate working with companies because we can get together, work on the design together and make sure it is a great project. The importance of having great people to work with is key to our success to consistently deliver a great product.”

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