The company’s Komatsu WA380-8 wheel loader is put to work stockpiling materials. “It’s a great machine and is the perfect size to keep our plants stocked,” noted Co-owner Joe Garofalo.
There's a well-known adage that timing is everything. That maxim certainly applies to the first three whirlwind years of business for Richmond Ready Mix, located in Staten Island, N.Y. Co-owners Joe Garofalo and Scott D'Arco explained that the opportunity and timing were right for starting a new business in 2015.
The pair met on the job when both worked for D'Arco's father at his home-heating oil and construction excavation business. The men saw that the economy was rebounding and the area was in need of concrete suppliers, creating what Garofalo described as a “perfect storm.”
While D'Arco was new to the ready-mix industry, Garofalo had some concrete business experience earlier in his career, and said that he benefited from mentoring by a trio of veterans in the ready-mix field and business world. “Joe Casle and Vince Allesi really taught me how this industry works, and Scott's dad, Peter, helped us better understand finances and how to run a business,” explained Garofalo.
Richmond Ready Mix specializes in commercial and residential concrete supply and construction services. The firm's territory covers all of Staten Island as well as areas in Brooklyn and into New Jersey. At the outset, the company averaged 200 to 250 yards of concrete daily with seven mix trucks and one concrete plant.
“At first it was just me, Scott and one other guy – we did everything from repairs, to loading materials into the plant and then loading the truck. Within a month, it was a totally different operation. It went from zero to 60 miles an hour in no time,” recalled Garofalo.
The business, located on a two-acre site, does not own a quarry or have cement storage, so it trucks in clean, non-recycled material each day from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. “We have some of the best suppliers in the industry, who are willing to help us 24-hours a day,” shared Garofalo.
Today, the firm employs nearly 50 people, and with 35 trucks and two plants, Richmond Ready Mix generates 1,900-2,100 yards of concrete a day on average. “We've definitely proven that we can take the ready-mix business by storm, and we're going to keep storming every day,” said Garofalo.
Getting the Proper Mix
Precise timing is also vital for the concrete-making process. To those outside of the industry, it may appear as easy as simply mixing sand, stone and cement powder. In reality, however, it involves a great deal of chemistry and plenty of planning to meet customer specifications. “The sand, stone and cement must all be weighed to get the accurate mix. Different additives can either speed up or slow down the drying and curing process,” noted Garofalo.
“We are working on a warehouse for a major online retailer that is more than one million square feet, and the floor requires a special finish with a particular blend of stones. This calls for a fast-paced dry, so that the customer can walk on it just two and a half hours after the high-polish finish is applied.”
Richmond Ready Mix stores 300 to 400 mix designs in its computer system.
“We've pretty much touched base on every aspect of construction. Some jobs have four or five mix designs attached to them. So, we always need to keep the material on hand to be ready to serve our customers,” said Garofalo.
Once a mix is prepared, time is of the essence in moving the product to the customer. Garofalo said that the goal is to get from the plant to the jobsite in 40 minutes or less and then it typically takes another 45 to 60 minutes to pour the concrete from the truck. “We have to get it in the truck fast, to the job quickly and off the truck promptly or we'll be out there with a chipping gun,” he explained.
D'Arco and Garofalo pride themselves on keeping in close and regular contact with their customers, a practice they credit as integral to their success. “Everyone wants instant gratification — the ability to make decisions quickly. They want to speak to someone who says 'we can do that for you' or 'we can fix that,' ” described Garofalo.
Not every customer needs enough concrete to build a warehouse or a shopping area such as the Staten Island Mall. Richmond Ready Mix serves 200 to 250 customers, from the small businessman who specializes in sidewalks and curbs to contractors working on enormous industrial projects. They also help weekend-warrior homeowners who want to do their own sidewalks — “everybody counts.”
The owners' customer-service focus extends beyond supplying concrete. “We are always glad to help customers by walking them through the process of getting the right permits for a home or commercial space. We can assist from the point when they get their plans approved until we finish their projects,” said Garofalo.
To satisfy those wide-ranging customer needs, Richmond Ready Mix relies on its Komatsu wheel loaders from Ehrbar and Sales Rep Steve Gambutti. The machines move sand, stone and all the aggregates required for concrete batches from the delivery drop point in the yard to the company's two mix plants.
Before opening the business, Garofalo called on Gambutti and Ehrbar, based on the recommendation by one his mentors. “From day one, Steve was great to work with in getting our first loader, a Komatsu WA270-7,” remembered Garofalo.
In less than three years, the company has logged 6,000 hours on the WA270, putting it to the test on a variety of jobs, including snow removal. “That machine has done everything; it's so reliable. The only things that we've needed are routine maintenance and tires, and that's on us because of the volume,” reported Garofalo.
As business increased, Richmond Ready Mix tested a variety of larger wheel loaders before leasing a Komatsu WA380-8 from Ehrbar and Gambutti. “It's a great machine and its 4.3-cubic-yard bucket is the perfect size to keep our plants stocked,” noted Garofalo.
Ehrbar also helps to ensure that Richmond Ready Mix stays productive by supplying parts and service. “Steve promised that we would never be without a machine, and he has kept his word. They help us stay in business everyday. Our loyalty is to Ehrbar 100 percent,” detailed Garofalo.
Komatsu CARE covers services on the firm's Komatsu WA380-8 wheel loader for the first three years or 2,000 hours. “Ehrbar always goes with our schedule and fits in the service so that our loaders can keep going — from cleaning to air filters to you name it. They know when maintenance is due and take care of it at a convenient time to keep us running,” said Garofalo.
In addition to its two Komatsu wheel loaders, Richmond Ready Mix also purchased a JCB 175 skid steer loader from Ehrbar that it uses for wide-ranging clean-up tasks around the yard.
Like a Fairy Tale
Entrepreneurs at heart, Garofalo and D'Arco look forward to adding a third ready-mix plant in the future. “It's amazing what happened here. I used to say I'd be happy if we could do 200 yards a day, and then we hit 2,000 yards within no time — only three years. From just a dream to reality; it's like a fairy tale,” described Garofalo.
In terms of benchmarks to aim for in the future, the owners say that their goals are based on timing and keeping the personal touch with their expanding number of customers. They want to maintain the family-like atmosphere where customers are comfortable calling or stopping by to talk or ask a question.
“When I can't get back to everybody within the same day, that's when I think the company will need to stop growing. I'm here 12 to 15 hours a day, so that's going to take a long time,” mused Garofalo.
(This story was reprinted with permission from Ehrbar Komatsu Advantage Magazine, March 2018 issue.)