For this customer spotlight, we’re talking with our friend, Tom Esposito, owner of Espo’s Powder Coating in Staten Island, New York.
Tom has had a professional relationship with Reliant Finishing Systems for years. He was featured on the cover of Products Finishing magazine (https://www.pfonline.com/articles/young-powder-coating-guns) and has been recognized as one of the country’s premiere customizers and refinishers of alloy wheels.
Q: Tom, why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about your business?
A: We mainly do wheels for the automotive industry. That’s how we got started and made a name for ourselves. We’ve coated just about anything for high-end cars and trucks, from valve covers to turbo housings to intake manifolds to wheels.
After about three years of doing automotive parts, we’ve started to include more of the commercial side of the industry. We’re doing fencing, railing and fixtures for businesses in the city who need high quality finishing work.
Q: What made you want to get into powder coating?
A: When I was younger, around thirteen, I built a quad. I was on a forum where I met a guy doing powder coating in West Virginia. I sent my stuff out to him to get coated. It took about six months to get it back, but it came out great. There was no one around my area doing powder coating at the time. I’d call a place and they’d tell me they could powder coat a thousand light fixtures, but they weren’t interested in doing my parts. I got out of quads and into BMX but remained interested in powder coating. When I was seventeen, I was on Craigslist and found a hobby powder coating gun for around $120.00 that came with some powder. I took an hour ride to New Jersey and picked it up. I stole my mom’s toaster oven and the first part I ever coated myself was a little Razor scooter brake. That brake is now on display at my parent’s house.
Q: What are some of the obstacles you’ve faced while growing your business?
A: Because of our location, our biggest obstacle is room. We’ve run out of room and we’ve run out of utilities.
Do you remember that last blast booth I purchased from Reliant?
When I purchased it, I didn’t have a large enough electrical service to run it. I had to take over my neighbor’s service to make it work. Once we got it powered up, it has done a great job for us.
In anyone’s business, one of the hardest things is to find good employees. I would say once I found my main guy, Dillon Howard, that was a game changer for us. He can do it all and he cares about quality the way I do. He’s helped grow our business tremendously. Although I am happy about our growth, we’re at the point where we’re pretty much out of room.
Q: What would you say sets you apart from your competition?
A: I sell quality. No one else around here focuses on prepping parts the way I do. Nobody is prepping their parts correctly and it reflects in their final product. I get calls from people asking for quotes, and sometimes they’re expecting our prices to be as low as the shops that don’t put the effort into prepping parts. I have to educate them about why our work looks better and lasts longer—and costs more. I also ask potential customers to do their own research. We aren’t charging more for no reason. We’re giving them quality results that are going to last longer than the guys who don’t utilize pretreatment. We get lots of calls from customers of those other shops asking us to rework their parts. Our customers know if they come to us, it’s going to be done right and it’s going to be done right the first time.
Q: Why did you choose Reliant Finishing Systems?
A: When I did my research at the very beginning, I focused on purchasing equipment I could upgrade as my business grew. The modular design of Reliant equipment allowed us to do that. I was looking for something that I could add onto when the time came—and that’s exactly what I got. Also, the price point was a lot better than everyone else selling professional quality ovens.
Q: How often do you run your Reliant oven? How is it holding up?
A: We run our oven five days a week, from 9 to 5 all day long, non-stop. The only repair issues I’ve ever had was replacing the exhaust unit belt and one bearing. I bought that oven when I turned 19. I just turned 29, so it’s ten years old.
Q: What would be your best advice for someone looking to get into powder coating?
A: When it comes to the business of powder coating, do things the right way from the very start and don’t compromise on quality. Let your work do the talking for you. You want to make sure you build your name up the right way. It’s hard to build your brand if you get off on the wrong foot with people.
As far as the equipment goes, don’t cut corners. Get professional quality equipment and take good care of it. Although they cost more, a high-quality cartridge filtration system on a powder booth is a must in my opinion. The cartridge booths save so much time and they’re so efficient. If I had known what I know now, I would have found a way to buy a more expensive cartridge booth from the get-go.
Tom, thank you for your time and thanks for your company’s devotion to quality! We appreciate your loyalty to Reliant Finishing Equipment and our products.