Young Powder Coating Guns

At 22, Tom Esposito’s powder coating shop is making its mark in New York City.


As a teenager and avid dirt bike and BMX rider, Tom Esposito was already familiar with the beauty that a fresh layer of powder coating brings to parts.

He would often send bike parts out of state to be powder coated, but when he received his driver’s license at 17, he purchased a used Eastwood system and began coating his own parts in his parents’ one-car garage.

Soon friends started bringing him their parts, too, and word got around that ‘Espo’ had a knack for making wheels and parts stand out.

“I remember I first started powder coating these little bike parts and I would borrow my mom’s toaster oven to cure the coating,” he says. “Then I had to get a bigger oven, and then more room for applying powder. It just took off.”

Six years later, Esposito is all of 22 years old and owner of Espo’s Powder Coating, working out of his own shop in Staten Island, grossing a respectable six-figure income and employing one other coater. His business in coating wheels and automotive parts is becoming well-known for his extreme attention to detail and his flair for creative color matching.

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Tom Esposito got his start in powder coating at 17 when he began coating his own parts in his parents’ one-car garage.

 

Gaining Notoriety

He recently received a package in the mail from a man in Hawaii who saw his coating work online. His Instagram account—in which he posts hilarious videos and photos of his work—has almost 12,000 followers, many of them millennials who are into cars and bikes, two of Espo’s biggest specialties.

“I love what I’m doing,” Esposito says. “I always knew I wanted to have my own business, but I didn’t think it would be powder coating. But I really like the challenge I have of working with customers and giving them something that I would expect if I came into a shop.”

He has been in his new shop just over three years, and it includes a powder coating system from Wagner Systems, a filtration system from Nordson and a powder coating booth and oven from Reliant Finishing Systems.

Esposito also installed a new Hunter Road Force tire balancer and Auto34 tire changer so he could remove tires from wheels, coat them, and then put them back on for a customer, whereas before, they had to have those processes done by someone else before bringing them to Espo’s.

He also offers metal polishing and wheel repair for cracks and bends, which is convenient when customers bring in wheels that have hit a few too many curbs and need not only some cosmetic attention, but structural fixes, too.

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Esposito has a tire balancer and tire changer that removes tires from wheels and then puts them back on for a customer.

 

Quality Over Price

Espo’s charges about $100 a wheel, and maybe up to $150 for a custom color. But with some of his customers driving Mercedes, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, the question isn’t price—it’s quality.

“These owners have a lot of money invested in their cars, so they want the wheel rims just right,” he says. “That’s a lot of pressure. But I’m hard on myself to deliver the best finish they can get anywhere. It’s what I would want on my car.”

Case in point: A few weeks earlier, when Espo’s powder coated a set of wheels for a customer, after mounting and balancing the tires, he saw a small imperfection in one. He completely stripped and recoated that wheel.

“I have a bit of obsessive compulsive disorder, and I thought about that wheel all night,” he says. “The next day I called the customer and told him we need one more day to complete the job correctly.

It’s a strong work ethic that Tom picked up from his family in New York. His parents are hard-working middle class people, he says, and he learned that to get an honest pay you have to work an honest day.

He also looks up to his cousin, Gina Addeo, who owns Adco Electrical Corp and GMA Electric, one of the largest electrical contracting companies in New York City. Addeo is also the first female electrician licensed by New York City.

“She is one of the hardest-working people I know,” he says.

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Customer Service

His strong work ethic doesn’t mean that Esposito has given up the young 20-ish lifestyle to become a powder coating tycoon. He rolls into work around 9 a.m. each morning instead of 7 a.m.—“Hey, I work late at night,” he says—and enjoys having friends come by to just hang out.

But he also recognizes he is a businessman now, with an employee, rent to pay and customers to satisfy. Which is why he is also looking to expand—slowly, he says—to more industrial type projects.

A few weeks after investing in a new booth and oven from Reliant Finishing Systems, Espo’s received a call from Pie Face, an Australian restaurant chain that was opening about a dozen stores in New York City. They wanted Espo’s to powder coat numerous fixtures and signs a candy-apple red.

Esposito says the work came from the website Powder365.com, which sells powder and supplies, but also has a forum where coaters can post information and share ideas.

“I learned a lot about powder coating from that website, and I even went to their demonstration in Georgia back in 2011,” Tom says. “It was really fortunate that once I spent the money on new equipment, I got that order. It was very timely for me.”

The new finishing equipment he installed from Reliant included an oven with interior dimensions of 8 × 8 × 12.5 feet and a powder spray enclosure that was 8 × 10 × 10 feet. Reliant is also working with Esposito to provide a retrofit solution to expand his booth with additional airflow capacity, says Josh Strickland, executive director of marketing and brand management for Reliant Finishing Systems.

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Wheels, Bikes, ATV

While Espo’s has done a few other industrial-type projects, his bread and butter is still in rims, automobile, bikes, ATVs and motorcycles. He has quickly become known throughout the east coast as one of the best rim coaters around.

“I brought Tom some pretty beat up wheels and asked him to refinish them to the best of his ability,” says Stas Yachnik from Brooklyn. “When I got the wheels back, I was astonished. They looked like they just came out of the factory. The craftsmanship was simply beautiful.”

Megan Sparks from Chicago shipped about 200 wheel bolts to Espo’s to be re-powder coated after her local shop did a poor job of not prepping the parts, which eventually led to chipping. He’s now her go-to guy.

“Through the car scene, we have gotten to know one another throughout the past year and I can honestly say that there aren’t many people as hard-working and straight-forward out there as Tom,” she says. “If you are looking for a guy that can not only do unique work that caters to any taste but also creates a flawless final product, Espo is your guy.”

Esposito is aware that some larger wheel powder coating shops make lots of money in rims and automotive trim, but he isn’t ready just yet to take that plunge. A shop nearby has about 40 workers, four tire-changing machines and several powder coating booths running around the clock churning out wheels and rims.

“Maybe, someday,” he says. “I’ve got a friend in Las Vegas who brings in a large amount of money doing that, but I’m not ready just yet. I am a new business owner and I want to make sure I’m doing this right. I don’t want to get in over my head and lose the quality I bring to my customers.”

 

Social Media

As a member of Generation Z, Esposito has also taken advantage of social media to spread the word about his company. In addition to his thousands of followers on Instagram, he has an extremely active Facebook page, which he updates regularly, an Instagram feed, and a Flickr account with more than 1,500 photos of his work.

“Customers who are less than a mile from my shop in Staten Island don’t even know I’m that close because they find out about me through word of mouth and through social media,” he says. “And then there are guys sending me packages from all over the country. It’s a unique way of doing business, but that is how it is.”

Esposito says he never dreamed he would be running his own powder coating shop, but he has fallen in love with every aspect of the business, especially when he sees his wheels driving down the street on the car of a customer.

“I don’t want to be doing anything else except powder coating,” he says. “This is my life.” 

 

For more information, visit espospowdercoating.com, or call 718-877-7218. Additional contacts: reliantfinishingsystems.com; wagnersystemsinc.com; and nordson.com.

 

 

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