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Denton Record-Chronicle

Stripes Parking Lot Service applying fresh coat to industry

08:53 AM CST on Sunday, January 8, 2006
By Todd Jorgenson / Staff Writer

For most people, the painted lines on a parking lot are purely functional. For Ken Pritchett, they're both a work of art and a way of life.

DRC/Barron Ludlum
Ken Pritchett, right, owner and president of Stripes Parking Lot Services, along with Mary Beth Butler, vice president, and Scott Widmer, employee, show off their work on the University of North Texas' Fouts Field parking lot. 

 

After more than two decades in the utilities industry, Pritchett changed gears and said he's found true happiness with his Denton-based company, Stripes Parking Lot Service.

It's an entrepreneurial venture Pritchett stumbled into almost by accident. Now, it's one he wishes he'd thought of sooner.

His five-person operation stays busy striping lots ranging from two to 2,000 spaces. Although most of his jobs are new parking lots, some are re-striping projects. The company does a majority of the striping for lots at the University of North Texas, for example, including the huge lot at Fouts Field.

That's not bad for someone who didn't know anything about the business in 1992, when Pritchett took an early buyout after more than 20 years working at Texas Power & Light. Since the job market in the engineering field was tight, he elected to enroll in college.

"I knew since I was over 40, it would be tough to find a job," Pritchett said. "I knew it would be good to have [a degree], and some insurance for staying employed."

Pritchett earned a bachelor's degree in business management from LeTourneau University in Tyler in 1996. He followed that with a master's in public administration from UT-Tyler.

Soon afterward, Pritchett worked for a short time in the marketing department for the city of Denton. But he quickly found himself unemployed again, this time shortly after buying a house.

"I didn't have any money," Pritchett said. "But I had a bunch of bills."

Pritchett hatched an idea from a most unlikely source. During his time in Tyler, he worked part-time for a major parking-lot striping firm. He felt that gave him the experience necessary to start his own business in a field he said combines logic and artistry.

So Pritchett launched Stripes in the summer of 1998, using an old van with a broken windshield and bad tires, but with a strong engine. He's since upgraded to three trucks with a variety of attachments, accessories and paint machines.

"It's just hard work. It takes both sides of the brain," Pritchett said. "A parking lot needs to function and it needs to look pretty. That's what we strive for."

Pritchett keeps his company small, but manages to offset the expensive equipment costs by purchasing used paint machines wherever possible and saving money on overhead by basing the company out of his home.

Since beginning with Stripes, Pritchett has become an innovator in the industry by employing new techniques and technology. He uses ride-on attachments to his trucks, a variety of paint sprayers and unique stenciling equipment to maximize speed and efficiency. It also has led to Pritchett speaking regularly at parking lot seminars.

"He goes out there and gets the job done right," said Mary Beth Butler, Pritchett's wife and the company's vice president. "You need to have the equipment to be able to do the work efficiently and effectively."

Perhaps it's no surprise Pritchett becomes frustrated every time he pulls into a parking lot and notices sloppy striping, crooked stenciling or peeling paint. Many business owners, he said, don't realize that the condition of the parking lot or driveway often provides a subconscious first impression to customers.

Most jobs take only a couple of hours, yet Pritchett's crews stay busy. He still goes out on most calls himself, but would like to scale back to more of an administrative position later this year.

Still, almost eight years after starting, Pritchett enjoys the work. He said he remains both proud and surprised by his company's growth.

"Losing my job with the city was a blessing. It was the best thing that ever happened," Pritchett said. "It's gratifying to see where we've come. I just intended to make a living, and now it's consumed us."

 

TODD JORGENSON can be reached at 940-566-6878. His e-mail address is tjorgenson@dentonrc.com  .






Mid-Life Decision Leads Owner to See \\\STRIPES///

Dallas/Ft. Worth Construction News, May 2004

Ken Pritchett is president and owner of Denton-based \\\STRIPES/// Parking Lot Service, Inc., established in 1998. Equipped with an associate's degree in electronics, Ken worked for Texas Power and Light for 23 years. After taking a "buy-out" in 1991, he returned to college, attending LeTourneau University in Tyler, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business management. He continued his education by earning a master's degree in public administration from the University of Texas, Tyler.

"I then discovered that a white male over 40 is the most discriminated labor group that there is right now. I needed to find a niche where I wouldn't have to worry about working for somebody else," Ken began. "That's where my incentive came from. A good friend of mine from Tyler just happens to be the guru of parking lot striping. I learned the basics under his tutelage, bought my first striping machine, and the rest is history."

Rather than relying on the conventional methods long preferred by the "old school traditionalists," Ken invested in the most innovative airless painting equipment on the market to produce parking lot striping, fire lane markings, curbing stencils, ADA-compliant reserved parking space markings, and traffic flow designations. By utilizing ride-on attachments, more fast-drying paint can be applied uniformly without the risk of over-spray. Unconventional methods for "laying-out" new lots using "control lines" relieves the need for "popping" each individual stripe while ensuring straighter, more evenly spaced parking spaces.

National Pavement Magazine, a CYGNUS publication, produces two national pavement expositions yearly. Ken has been and continues to be a popular featured speaker, presenting two seminars each year on the subject of striping.

"I know I'm giving instruction to my competition, but in my opinion, there's plenty of work for everyone! The more informed pavement and striping contractors are, the better we all look. My seminars are intended to trigger contractors to start thinking outside the box and remove their blinders."

As in other construction industry trades, retaining legal and qualified manpower remains an issue for the entrepreneur.

"The simple fact is, a two-man crew that utilizes our methodologies is two to three times more productive than a traditional striping crew of four or more," he added. "With our expanded services, \\\STRIPES/// can facilitate professional parking lot paving, marking, maintenance, irrigation and landscaping - ahead of schedule."

With two trailers, two power washers, three trucks, ten paint machines, three ride-on attachments and several sweepers, \\\STRIPES/// has quickly evolved from a one-man operation to a one-stop-shop for its customers, who include property owners, property managers and general contractors.

"We make things happen! We regularly assist contractors/property owners in emergency situations and have a proven record in doing the impossible," Ken concluded.



Stripes Parking Lot Service provides parking lot striping services to the entire DFW Metroplex including the following areas:
Contact us TODAY at (940) 206-6131!




Stripes Parking Lot Service is a proud member of the National Pavement Contractors Association and adheres to their code of ethics and Customer Satisfaction Assurance Program.

Copyright 2006-2009 \\\STRIPES/// Parking Lot Service, Inc.
All rights reserved
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2101 W. Oak St., Ste. 100 Denton, TX 76201