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Concrete Countertops Turns into a Dream Gig for One Artisan

Roughly 75 percent of Lloyd's business is residential, and much of it involves countertops. He's also done commercial work, mostly flooring, for restaurants, offices and sushi bars.

Compared to working on deadline with Christina Aguilera, Phil Collins and the Spice Girls, decorative concrete is a breeze.

"In a lot of ways the two professions are similar," says Evan Lloyd, comparing his days as a sound engineer for a Los Angeles recording studio to his present gig - president and owner of Fresno, Calif.-based Solid Solutions Studios. "Both fields allow for creative expression, but there's much more stress in a recording studio."

Roughly 75 percent of Lloyd's business is residential, and much of it involves countertops. He's also done commercial work, mostly flooring, for restaurants, offices and sushi bars.

"My clients like subtlety," he says, explaining the popularity in California's Central Valley for earth tones. "But we also do combinations of color and acid stains and dyes. Just as long as it's nothing too wild. Gray is our most popular color here."

Lloyd has had to downsize his company recently, but decorative concrete in this economy is still easier for him to take than the old days.

"When we had a record to put out for Disney, it might be 27 straight hours in the studio," he recalls. "I'd kiss my wife goodbye on a Tuesday and tell her I hoped to see her on Friday." Lloyd didn't perceive much of a future in his chosen profession, either. "I'd see that the top guys in my industry weren't making a whole lot more money than me, but they were working a lot more hours."

If the stress and long hours weren't incentive enough to start thinking about a career change, the recording studio where he worked went out of business. Fate seemed to be telling Lloyd something.

Decorative Concrete Sink with mosaic in the basin.It was about this time that his father-in-law introduced him to decorative concrete. Seeing the potential immediately, he and his wife moved back to her hometown of Fresno, where he set up shop in his two-car garage.

Lloyd founded Solid Solutions in 2003. By the height of the real estate boom, Lloyd owned a 5,000-square-foot facility and employed six. Today, Lloyd has no regular employees, and he conducts business in a 1,600-square-foot hanger built in his backyard for a private plane he doesn't own

So what? He's doing what he loves. What's stressful about that?

"We've definitely been impacted by it," he says of the economic downturn. "But I'm fine financially. We just had to downsize everything." That means that while he used to supervise the work of others, these days he rolls up his sleeves and gets his hands dirty again, just like when he started out.

"Now I've got a two- or three-week backload rather than the two or three months of contracts I had when I started out. But that's okay. The quality of work is higher when you're not so damn busy."

What he loves best is the work/life balance. Lloyd's favorite assignments involve the precast countertops he can do in his converted backyard airplane hanger. They allow him to work close to his family, which now includes a nearly year-old son.

For Lloyd, that's a lot more fun than hanging out with the Spice Girls.

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