What started out as a one-truck venture making concrete flatwork has turned into a leading decorative concrete contractor firms employing more than 100 people.
For more than 50 years, Colorado Hardscapes of Denver (formerly Van Heukelem Concrete) has made it its business to come up with concrete solutions for a wide variety of customers, both commercial and residential. What started out as Wendell Van Heukelem's one-truck venture dedicated to concrete flatwork has morphed into one of the country's leading decorative concrete contractor firms employing more than 100 people. With Wendell's grandson Vince now at the helm and his son Calvin chairman of the board, the thriving company handles everything from replacing worn out ordinary concrete to installing one-of-a-kind creations on floors, walls and even on the sides of mountains.
According to Jay Fangman, director of sales and marketing, the company's specialty areas include Bomanite imprinted concrete; custom exterior concrete involving special colors, textures and finishes; themed concrete rockwork; premium interior floors and themed walls created with formliners.
"We've been a Bomanite licensee for 20 years," Fangman says, describing the relationship as very strong. "They're very much new-product oriented, very cutting edge, and we're the kind of company that taps into new products all the time."
Most recently, Bomanite honored Colorado Hardscapes with three 2003 awards, including a Worldwide Award for Best Commercial Project for its work on the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District headquarters in Berthoud. Other awards garnered this past year include a Subcontractor Project of the Year award from the Associated General Contractors of Colorado, an award for Unique Use of Concrete from the American Concrete Institute and an Outstanding Concrete Project award from Colorado Construction magazine, all recognizing the company's handiwork at the Village of Five Parks, a mixed-use community in Arvada.
Fangman says the biggest challenge that Colorado Hardscapes repeatedly encounters involves scheduling. "Generally, these large projects have a very defined time line in so far as completion is concerned. We have to finish large amounts of high-quality concrete work in a short period of time." And being able to deliver as promised is one of the company's strongest attributes.
Seeing is believing
In much the same way builders proudly display their craftsmanship and creativity in a model home, Colorado Hardscapes differentiates itself with its innovative Concrete Design Center. The nearly 15,000-square-foot facility is much more than mere office space or a showroom where clients and designers can check out hundreds of samples of the latest in decorative stamping, staining, stenciling, walls and rock work. Each sample is labeled and has accompanying literature and specifications so clients can get a full understanding of the product.
The center is also home to a research and development center. "Visitors can observe our technicians behind a glass wall making samples and working with new products and new components," says Fangman. "The R&D facility is not just used to make samples, but our technicians also test new materials and try new combinations of colors, textures and finishes."
The company, which caters mainly to commercial and municipal customers, also encourages designers, architects and other visitors to explore the possibilities of not just the finished products but the components used to make them. "We're firm believers in educating the design community of the endless possibilities available to them," Fangman says.
Groups of designers are often invited for a hands-on evening where they literally take over the R&D bay. "It's kind of like an art class. If you have 10 kids and you throw a box of crayons on the floor and don't give them any instructions on what to make, you'll end up with 10 different things," he says. "We believe in giving our customers various components and then letting them devise the combinations to reach the desired result. We try to give our clients the opportunity to have as much ownership in the final product as we possibly can."
The importance of education
Colorado Hardscapes strongly backs education in many forms, from informal tours to structured talks. "We believe it's very important to share information about where concrete's been and where it's going," Fangman says. In fact, he says, the company will probably host about 80 architectural presentations this year on new concrete trends. It even holds AIA-approved seminars from which attendees can earn continuing education credits.
"With the speed at which concrete technology is changing, we think education is critical for our architectural base," Fangman says. "We place a high premium on developing presentations to help our clients keep up with the many changes, new products and new ideas in the marketplace. They need to know what's available now and what opportunities are in store for tomorrow."