Company’s long history shines light in uncertain times

By Aaron Garcia

For a host of reasons, Adam Wellman said that the COVID-19 pandemic has been different from the other business-blocking issues that Maintenance, Inc., has faced in the past. Oil embargos, fuel and supply chain interruptions – even a world war – have all forced the company to adjust its plans at different points in its 82-year history. And while things may feel uncertain as the industry crawls through what should be its busy season, Wellman said history has provided a well-worn path forward.

“Buckle up,” said Wellman, Maintenance, Inc.’s National Sales Manager. “If you’re slow now, you won’t be for long.”

Something to add
Maintenance, Inc. has a longstanding reputation as one of the industry’s top manufacturers of pavement maintenance products and accessories, including asphalt coatings, recreational surfacing, concrete and crack sealing and repair. The company’s product lines include sealants GATOR PATCH and LASTEK, while its additive lines FSA, FASS DRI, TARGEL PLUS, and FSA AE have become industry standards over the decades.

“We’re pretty much the founding fathers of the additive business. We’re the ones who created that trend,” said Wellman of the Wooster, Ohio-based company.
“We kind of get lost in the shuffle because we’re not huge (in company size). A lot of the trends that were set were set by us.”

Maintenance, Inc. was founded in 1938 and established its footing during World War II by repairing the U.S. military’s runways. That allowed the company to first experiment with using additives in order to strengthen its products. The company expanded its success into the private sector in the 1950s thanks to a vast distributorship network built on buying bulk sealer from Maintenance, Inc., and reselling it to contractors around the nation. At the same time, it also became one of the nation’s foremost experts in tennis court maintenance thanks to its Rec Tec surfacing.

By the late 70s, competitors around the nation began eating away at the company’s sealer sales. Before long, though, many of those newcomers began contacting Maintenance, Inc. to inquire about using the company’s proven additives in their own products.

“We always like helping everyone out,” said Wellman. “There have been a lot of times when we’ll have different suppliers send us their sealer and ask us to make it better. We’ll take it into the lab and adjust it with our additives and try to figure out the best mix design for them.”

While Maintenance, Inc. may be an octogenarian, it sure hasn’t had a problem keeping up. As an answer to increased demand thanks to the then-burgeoning internet, the company set up its online Parts Superstore in 2017, providing the company worldwide reach to go along with its already robust local walk-in traffic. In 2015, the old-dog supplier decided to pick up a huge, new trick when it acquired ABLE Industries, as well-respected equipment manufacturer geared toward entry-level to intermediate pavement maintenance contractors.

The purchase has allowed Maintenance, Inc. to now service customers at every stage of the pavement maintenance process with well-built equipment that matched its other products in quality.

“That was really big,” said Wellman. “That was something we saw that could help us broaden our horizons in the future. We could truly be there for any of our customers’ needs.”

The company also recently expanded its Wooster-based showroom in order to remain focused on the company’s original target market: the local contractor. It’s fully stocked with everything a project may need, from a RynoWorx crack melter to a Little Wonder blower. Contractors can also find the entire ABLE line of equipment, from a 300-gallon, hand-crank unit, all the way to a 700-gal spray rig. Maintenance, Inc. also stocks replacement parts for all major brands.
“We’re a complete, turnkey operation,” said Wellman.

Here comes the boom
Wellman expects that operation to return to full steam once fears around COVID-19 subside, but that doesn’t mean things have stopped until then. While many industries have been forced to shutter temporarily in order to enforce social distancing guidelines, pavement maintenance has been deemed “essential” enough to continue operating in many areas. As a result, Wellman said he has seen many local municipalities in Ohio expedite roadway repairs during the outbreak. It has also given contractors a chance to catch up on existing commercial and residential contracts.

“There isn’t a lot of traffic, so this is obviously a great time,” said Wellman, who also encouraged contractors to embrace technology the way other industries have with virtual appointments via video conferencing.

But perhaps the most important thing, said Wellman, is to be ready when the pandemic is over.

“Obviously we’re a little bit slow right now due to all this uncertainty, but we’re still here to try to help educate our customers and suppliers that the industry isn’t shut down,” said Wellman. “It may be temporary, but we have to make sure we have everything ready and rolling so that when this all blows over, our industry has everything we need to succeed.”

That means communicating with your supplier.

“We’re trying to map out a plan for our customers and say, ‘Hey give me an idea. You don’t have to order but give me an idea of what your contractors are looking for,’” said Wellman. “Everyone’s going to want everything tomorrow when this breaks, and that’s impossible to do.”

The most important takeaway, said Wellman, is that this spell will eventually subside, just like every one before it.

“I believe our industry will thrive as soon as this thing breaks,” he said. “I believe everyone is going to go back to work and it’s going to be a madhouse. I really see the industry taking off here real soon.”