Four men joined the ranks of those honored in the Decorative Concrete Hall of Fame at an induction ceremony and dinner held Oct. 28 at the 2019 Concrete Decor Show in Arlington, Texas: Marshall Barabasch Sr., head of Shaw & Sons Special Project Division; Lance Boyer, CEO of Trademark Concrete Systems; and Jeff Irwin and Paul Sowa, co-owners of Proline Decorative Concrete Systems. All three companies are based in Southern California.
Professional Trade Publications, parent company of Concrete Decor magazine, established the prestigious hall in 2010 to honor the individuals and companies who have contributed significantly to the advancement of decorative concrete as a business and an art form.
Since the Hall of Fame’s inception, including this year’s newest members, 35 individuals and two companies have been bestowed this honor for unselfishly giving their time, energies, loyalty and resources to help the decorative concrete industry not only grow but flourish.
Honorees are chosen by Hall of Fame members. Brief bios of the 2019 inductees follow:
Marshall Barabasch Sr.
With more than 40 years of themed, stamped and architectural concrete experience under his trowel, Barabasch specializes in themed concrete. He is well-known and highly respected in the Southern California theme park circuit.
Throughout his career, Barabasch says he’s probably poured more concrete for the Disney resorts in California than anybody else in the 30+ years (and counting) that he’s been involved with the Mouse. He has also done a good deal of work for the Disney resorts in Florida, China and Japan.
Currently heading up the Special Project Division for Shaw & Sons Construction Co. of Costa Mesa, California, Barabasch was a teenager when he first began pushing wheelbarrows of concrete on the weekends for his father-in-law, a cement mason from back East. Before long, he joined the local union as an apprentice.
On one of his first jobs, Patterned Concrete Industries was brought in as a sub to do some stamping work and Barabasch was intrigued. By 1977, he was on board with them and steadily advanced through positions with other big-name decorative concrete companies, putting him on the leading edge of the budding stamping and staining sector of the business.
Always experimenting with off-the-wall materials, he quickly earned a nickname among his crews — Dr. Frankenstein — for his concrete escapades with everything from spaghetti to bubble wrap. One time he even almost killed himself when he mixed chemicals together that could have turned out deadly. But, just like the monster, he survived the jolt.
By 1988, Barabasch and two partners opened a Patterned Concrete franchise in Ontario, California. Ten years later, he moved on to serve as director of architectural concrete for Peterson Brothers Construction, a large Southern California contractor.
By 2009, he says he partnered with his very talented son, Marshall Barabasch Jr., to form MB Concrete Systems, where the duo tackled everything from extremely high-detail themed work to simpler staining and flatwork gigs.
In 2013, MB Concrete Systems merged with Shaw & Sons to create a new department that would be headed by Barabasch Sr., with his right-hand man, Barabasch Jr., the No. 2 man in charge. Barabasch Sr. says the business venture is a great fit because Shaw is the best company he knows of when it comes to high-end architectural concrete while his new Special Project Division is the best at what it does, “making rock all crumbly and cracky.”
Although the list is too extensive to list here, Barabasch’s more recent handiwork can be seen at the Universal Studios Hollywood Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Jurassic World, as well as throughout Disney’s Cars Land and the Indiana Jones ride.
CEO of Trademark Concrete Systems Inc. based in California, Boyer has more than 33 years of experience in the decorative concrete industry. Prior to founding Trademark in 1997, he was vice president for 11 years of Sullivan Concrete Textures, a well-known and respected pioneering decorative concrete company.
Trademark, which has offices in Los Angeles and Camarillo, began with a small core of six highly experienced employees before it grew into the 120-person strong company it is today.
From its humble beginnings of residential projects and small commercial work, Trademark is now one of the largest decorative concrete contractors in the United States. Today it performs work for a diverse roster of clients including municipalities, retail establishments, major universities, entertainment venues, resorts, museums, churches and medical facilities.
An active member of the American Concrete Institute and American Society of Concrete Contractors, Boyer is involved in committees and publications for both organizations. This year, he was named an ACI Fellow for his contributions to the concrete industry and concrete technology. In addition, he was the ACI ambassador for the 2019 Decorative Concrete Symposium in Xi’an, China.
Boyer also chaired the ACI C-601D committee that developed “Placing and Finishing Decorative Concrete Flatwork,” a book which serves as the knowledge source for the ACI Decorative Concrete Finisher certification program. The hard work that went into this endeavor netted him ACI’s 2016 Education Award.
Boyer is the driving force behind Trademark’s ongoing community outreach programs that involve numerous decorative concrete presentations and workshops, all of which are AIA accredited. The company also annually makes thousands of samples pro bono so designing professionals can explore concrete’s color and texture.
The many accolades Trademark has amassed over the years include numerous ASCC Decorative Concrete Council’s decorative concrete awards for outstanding projects and multiple ASCC Safety Achievement Awards.
Nationwide, Trademark was named America’s Best Concrete Contractor in 2012, and one of America’s Top Concrete Contractors in 2013 by Concrete Construction magazine.
Trademark’s current work includes the decorative concrete work at the Los Angeles Stadium (Rams and Chargers) & Entertainment District, Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, NoHo West and Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel.
Notable past work includes Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Petersen Automotive Museum, Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, Hollywood Bowl, Wilshire Grand Center, Hotel Californian, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and Television Academy Saban Media Center.
Jeff Irwin and Paul Sowa
Irwin and Sowa have been good friends for as long as they can remember, going back to their childhood years.
In high school, Irwin was always tinkering with something and relished creating new things. He landed a job with a water ski company where he made skis and equipment. He then moved on to a position with a firm where he learned about making molds from urethane foam. From there, he opened a shop that made after-market parts for Corvettes.
Meanwhile, Sowa was working for a concrete company, setting forms and dabbling in stamp work. It was in the ’80s, a time when concrete stamping tools were scarce and contractors were eager for better equipment.
Sowa told Irwin about the demand for better stamps and one thing led to another. Before long, the two friends began developing stamps as a side job.
In 1990, they headed to Las Vegas where they introduced their first seamless texture mat at World of Concrete. The mat was a big hit and by 1991 Irwin and Sowa went into business together full time and founded Proline Decorative Concrete Systems in Oceanside, California.
Proline’s products were popular among Las Vegas casinos, and the budding company developed its Roman Slate mat for Caesar’s Palace and crafted a custom border stamp for the Bellagio. Today, Sowa and Irwin produce more than 150 stamps out of high-quality urethane made especially for them — a lightweight material that’s not too hard and not too soft — that renders imprints that look like the real thing.
Besides textured skins, the company has developed other products and techniques that have bettered the decorative concrete industry including a tamper with a patented flexible coupling and EZ-Tique, a unique antiquing method.
Most recently Proline introduced magnetic pattern stamps that could revolutionize the decorative industry. Contractors who have used them say they are faster, easier to use than traditional stamps and a real game-changer for stamping. Currently, there are 10 patterns of magnetic stamps with more coming soon.
The two men behind Proline believe innovation is the key to their success as they continue to bring new items to the industry.