Beyond Surface Impressions
Yonkers Paving Concepts, Inc.: From driveways to highways, quality comes first
Forged by over 30 years in business, Yonkers Paving Concepts, Inc. (YPC) maintains a reputation that rolls out in every direction—through neighborhoods, across cities, up and down interstates. And every day, from the YPC yard in Westchester County, through the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island and Queens, waves of pedestrians, drivers and residents, knowingly or not, affirm the precision, aesthetics and durability of YPC’s work.
“We serve municipalities, businesses, homes…driveways to highways, we cover it,” YPC President Nikki Belizze will say. She and Ronald Belizze, YPC Vice President, married in 1984, in the days when his broad on-the-job learning happened to include driveways. Five years later, with one truck and a vision, Ron officially incorporated what would become a thriving and a regional presence in paving. “He learned the business, educated himself, studied design and the work grew,” Nikki says, proudly. Customers multiplied, employees joined and training rose to match YPC’s rising capabilities and equipment. “Our new paver last year makes installation much easier,” Nikki says, by way of example. “We keep everything up to date and maintained.”
A Team Effort
In 2008, Nikki and Ron’s second daughter started kindergarten and Nikki officially joined the family business—ready for the problem-solving and sleeves-rolled-up spirit of a hands-on workplace. “I’ve always operated in male-dominant environments, starting with an auto-parts company, then as assistant to the comptroller at a bus company,” Nikki explains. “If you know your business, that’s what matters.”
Nikki’s knowledge of the paving business now sweeps in everything but working the road machines. From the YPC yard in Westchester County, as Ron steers the company’s future through multifaceted projects, Nikki oversees office work, assembles job components, receives, estimates, creates proposals, sets planning—and visits sites. Through the day, to anyone who calls in, she’s the voice of YPC. “We grade, resurface and install driveways, walkways, crosswalks, masonry structures, parking lots—from pavement reclamation, to milling, drainage and asphalt installation,” Nikki says of the team’s scope.
Nikki emphasizes the training and insurance that is so important to customer confidence. “All workers are OSHA 30-hour trained,” she says of YPC’s seven full-time employees. And those workers are seasoned. “Most have been with us eight to 10 years—one or two for longer,” she says. She also emphasizes that on every level, every job, every day, preparation is king. Each YPC crew member masters the all-important safety habits in the company’s “toolbox” sessions. In daily morning briefings, everyone maps out that day’s work and equipment. The team arrives on-site ready to produce. “We work in a uniform fashion,” Nikki says. “We all know what to do to get the job done efficiently.”
And always, at every turn, the key is communication: with YPC employees and workers, with municipality and business contractors, and most especially, with their residential clients.
Get the Picture
Every job is different, Nikki says, and for many customers, all of it is new. So YPC takes the time, ahead of time, to plot out the work in a given job. “If we have to mill the pavement, we make sure our customer understands that we’re grading it down and what that means,” Nikki explains.
Terms like “milling,” “putting a binder down,” “paving” and “final backtop” are industry specific, Nikki says. “Not everyone can picture a cobblestone apron on the driveway. So you take the time to show them.” It may be a sketch, a picture or two from a previous project, or increasingly, computer-aided visuals. The point is to grasp exactly what the customer has in mind—and to show that they get it.
“We listen. That’s the key,” Nikki says in short. “A lot of businesses like to get out there to do the work and what they feel is the best job. But you have to know what people really want.” The result for YPC is a high level of customer trust that naturally spills into referrals.
“We get a lot of calls where people will say, ‘So and so recommended you,’ “ Nikki says. But even so, she adds, trust comes a client at a time. “We just had a tough customer whose neighbor had used us to pave their driveway,” she says to illustrate. “But this man was still very skeptical.” Ron went out to look at the job. He gave the potential customer a detailed visual of what the driveway would look like with the house, and YPC paved the driveway. “There were no issues, no situations,” Nikki reports, “just an easy process of getting the work done. He told us we’re the easiest contractor they’ve ever dealt with on their house. He’s going to write a reference letter for us.”
‘When Our Name is On It’
Residential customers come to YPC for new driveways with borders, for pathways or patios in stone—or for the “just hit refresh” look of repaving what they already have. Driveways may hold up for 20 years or more, Nikki explains, but the day comes when the cumulative effects of heat, snow and salting can hurt a home’s look. Meanwhile “a house with dark black asphalt has nice curb appeal,” Nikki says, “and the cobblestone is a decorative touch.”
To be sure, good work is more than decoration. And good work is more than the residential hit-and-run deals from workers who ring a doorbell, Nikki says, to tell you they have blacktopping left over from a nearby job. “They don’t have the full insurance we carry or the recommendations. And if they say they’ll put 2 inches down, how do you know?” she says, concern in her voice. “You never just throw blacktop on a driveway. Or you do, and the shortcuts soon show.”
Get the pitch wrong and you get ponding of water. A driveway on a hill or incline needs proper drainage; install wrongly and the work begins to deteriorate. “In a proposal, you make sure even the small considerations go in,” Nikki says. “Every one of our proposals lists in detail what is needed, what we will do—the exact job. We insert pictures to show what needs to be fixed and what will be done. People tell us they’re impressed.”
She pauses. “When our name is on it,” she says, “we make sure it’s the highest standards. People will know we do quality work.”
The YPC Impression
Look for YPC in a neighborhood, near a business…on a highway. In bright yellow safety vests and their signature navy-blue shirts, the paving company is at work adding value. The impression they leave on the road is a durable surface, a fresh look that seems to have always belonged: parking lots, school crossings, roadways, attractive driveways—seamlessly protecting as they perform. The impression they leave with their customers is similar.
“My favorite part is to see the outcome of the jobs and make sure everybody’s happy,” Nikki says. These days, on social media, she and her daughter post pictures of the kinds of project solutions that make YPC’s work memorable. And that happy communication works both ways. “Customers call to say, ‘You guys did a fantastic job,’ “ Nikki says. “That’s always awesome to hear.”