California's first road, El Camino Real, was built in 1769-long before the gold rush of 1849. It wasn't until the 1930s and the spread of automobiles that roads freely spilled across the countryside. The opening of the Arroyo Seco Freeway (today's Pasadena Freeway) in 1940 heralded the beginnings of the "freeway era" in America, and with that, a niche market for paint emerged.
Paint with A Past
Henry DeRuiter emigrated from Holland to the U.S. in the late 1920s with a dream and a formula-a very special paint formula-for achieving it. Once in America, he promptly married Herman Van Dulst's daughter Dorothy. Together the two families moved from Michigan to California, where DeRuiter and his father-in-law launched The Pervo Paint Company.
Why Pervo? Meaning "impervious" in the Dutch language, and to these eager entrepreneurs, the name captured the ideal characteristic of a top-quality paint brand. The company still proudly uses the original logo, sporting two regal lions holding a shield emblazoned with the letter "P." The design appropriately honors an old Dutch coin.
Once they hit the West Coast, DeRuiter and Van Dulst promptly set to work. They started with a good idea, a great formula and some surplus bakery mixing equipment purchased for a modest sum from Hostess bakery. Confidently they opened their first plant, at Van Ness and Slauson in Los Angeles. Their company philosophy, mindset and manner was evident in its first line of paint, aptly tagged "Good Neighbor Paint - it wears like old friends!" The year was 1929.
In an industry that has undergone massive consolidation, Pervo Paint has remained family-owned. Henry DeRuiter's son, David followed him into the business-first in the plant then into management. In 1968, David opened Davlin Coatings (now owned by Pervo) to manufacture roof coatings, pioneering an elastomeric roof coating and developing a process which added a new revenue stream for Pervo.
Today, Davlin Coatings manufactures waterproof elastomeric coatings for everything from roofs to bridges to ski lifts, including formulations for San Francisco's famous Golden Gate Bridge and the space shuttle. Although David DeRuiter is retired now, he remains the majority stockholder in both Pervo and Davlin.
At one time or another, all three of David DeRuiter's sons worked in the family business. Today, Brad DeRuiter is the president of Pervo Paint, which has grown into a thriving $25 million-plus per year enterprise.
"I started working in the paint factory when I was 14," said Brad DeRuiter, "and I continued working in the summers. I've done everything from sweeping the floors to making and canning paint. I worked, as a teen, in the Davlin plant in northern California, too."
Brad DeRuiter, who has a B.A. in Business and Economics, graduating Magna Cum Laude from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, is married to Kimiya. Their nine-year-old son Taljon has a rare opportunity-should he go into the family business. He could very well officiate the company's 100th anniversary, and is very likely do so as company president.
Pervo currently has a manufacturing plant, retail store and corporate offices in Los Angles; stores in San Diego, Sacramento, and Berkeley, CA; Davlin Coatings' facility in Berkeley; and traffic-safety supply stores (such as Bay Area Barricade in Concord, and Construction Sealants in Las Vegas, NV). In addition, it has distributors scattered throughout California, Oregon, Hawaii, Arizona and Nevada, and Pervo products are handled by several large distributors, including ICI and by several chains.
Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn (left) and Brad and Kimiya DeRuiter.
Making Its Mark
Although Pervo offers interior paints, exterior paints, high-quality curb coatings and industrial enamels, the company is really in the "traffic safety marking" business, having entered this market segment some 30 years ago. Today, 90% of its sales come from this industry, and Pervo is keen on remaining focused on this niche segment of the coatings industry.
According to Pervo vice president John Haupenthal, the company currently markets products in 11 western states, working with many state Departments of Transportation, as well as numerous city and county Public Works departments.
A Focus on Quality
Traditionally, the traffic markings sector has been one focused on low quality products. However, Pervo has been committed to making high-quality formulations, and customers are recognizing the benefits.
Contractors and state DOTs and municipalities need to use a paint that won't patch when hot tires squeal across it. The paint also has to withstand all types of conditions, in all types of weather on a dizzying variety of surfaces: highways, bridges, tunnels, parking lots, garages, airport runways, taxi-ways and loading ramps, floors of warehouses and manufacturing plants, edges of loading docks, stairways, playgrounds, tennis courts and more. Formulations have to be tough, tenacious and easy to apply.
"Pervo does not strive to be the low-cost producer of traffic marking products," Haupenthal said. "We take pride in being innovators who offer quality products and service at a fair price. Through research and development, as well as field trials, Pervo has become a recognized leader in traffic marking industry."
"Pervo also enjoys a loyal following of small-, medium-, and large striping contractors," Haupenthal added.
"We intend to stay on the cutting edge of traffic coatings," DeRuiter added. "That's our primary market. The thermoplastic market is really growing by leaps and bounds. Sure it's been around since the 1960s. But, considering the fact that paint has been used for some three thousand years, this is still fairly new. We're gaining ground, too, in terms of being specified."
In addition to manufacturing paint and thermoplastic, Pervo also distributes reflective glass beads, striping machines and marking gear required by public works agencies, and is a top re-seller of other traffic accessories, such as pavement markers, cones and other traffic supplies. "One of our strategies is to be a one-stop traffic-shop for municipalities and private contractors," DeRuiter said.
To enter a niche market, to succeed and to continue to prosper requires hard work. There is more to marketing than just making a good product or just selling it. Professional affiliations and memberships give access and recognition. Keeping in mind what's important to their customers, Pervo belongs to the Traffic Control Supervisors Association, the Maintenance Supervisors Association, the American Traffic Safety Services Association and the International Municipal Sign Association. These organizations not only provide valuable contacts and networking opportunities, but further education and help Pervo keep up to date on changes in laws, methodology, materials and equipment.
|Pervo Paint Company offices in Los Angeles.|
Looking Ahead to a Milestone
DeRuiter is justifiably proud of Pervo.
"Our slogan says it all: 'Built on solid values offering superior products.' That is a good summarization of our philosophy, and that hasn't changed over the years," DeRuiter said. "We try to be on the cutting edge of technology in our market place, which is primarily traffic markings, or as some term it durable markings. We seek to build respect and a strong rapport with state, county and city agencies and with all our contractors."
The Pervo Paint Company will soon celebrate 75 years in business-if it's not too busy to notice. So how will the company observe this milestone anniversary?
"We don't know for sure yet what we will do for our anniversary," said DeRuiter. His father had suggested sending everyone on a cruise-in shifts of course.
"We are still planning," DeRuiter said, noting that Pervo will do something a little bit more low-key, such as renting out a "ball room having an evening party this spring."
But one thing is certain: Pervo is committed to being in the market for the long run, and serving its customers with top-notch formulations.
"We look forward to a bright future," DeRuiter said. "We look to maintain a strong presence in the traffic marking industry by putting out a high-quality product in what has been a low-quality market."