SK Bowling Company
Sam Bowling opened SK Bowling Company, Inc. as a small business he operated from his garage that offered small fabrication and steel work to companies in northeast North Carolina. After installing several paint spray booths, Bowling realized he could make and install them more efficiently than the area's leading supplier.
Looking to capitalize on the paint booth business opportunity, Bowling enlisted the help of Phil Sharitz, who had experience in marketing.
"He wanted to increase exposure and sales without incurring a lot of debt," said Sharitz, who partnered with Bowling in 1999, and is now co-owner of SK Bowling Company. "It started out as kind of a mom and pop type business, but we were able to take it to the next level."
Now in its 28th year, SK Bowling Company (SKBowling.com) has grown to supply paint booths and ventilation systems to Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
On The Tarmac
To help SK Bowling Company keep up with the demand of supplying four states, Bowling and Sharitz built a new facility at the Wilson Industrial Air Center in Wilson, N.C. The 10,000-square-foot facility - which was finished in 2006 - runs across four acres of the tarmac, right across from the airport.
"One of our plans when we started was to move into a decent facility that we could bring customers to," explained Sharitz. "We made a good product, but the [old] facility didn't show that."
What separates SK Bowling Company from other paint spray booth sellers is the extra benefits customers receive in addition to the products, Sharitz noted. The company assists customers with installation, securing permits, electrical and fire installation and inspections.
"Most companies don't help get permits, and permitting agencies don't make it easy," added Sharitz. "You have to provide detailed drawings after the booth is installed, then they inspect it; and that isn't easy. It all adds up to about 20 hours of engineering time."
Setting Up The Booth
Three or four SK Bowling Company employees commute to a customer's site to install the paint booths, explained Sharitz. Booths for small vehicles usually take a couple weeks to install, while a booth for a large truck may take up to a month.
SK Bowling Company also takes pride in its paint booths and mixing rooms because they are ETL listed, which means they are fabricated, constructed and installed to meet federal, state and local building codes. The ETL listing also means all the business' paint booths are made in the United States, which is rare for the industry, noted Sharitz.
Besides paint booths and mixing rooms, SK Bowling Company also sells air make-up systems, limited finishing stations, fire suppression systems and ventilation systems. The business' products are custom designed to fit customers' locations. Body shops and auto dealers make up 60 percent of the company's customers.
SK Bowling Company employees regularly attend conventions related to the industry. Sharitz recently attended the National Safety Council Expo (Congress.NSC.org) in Philadelphia, Pa., and will attend the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show (SEMAShow.com) in Las Vegas, Nev. this month.
Sharitz noted SK Bowling Company has recently started a marketing campaign utilizing Facebook, Twitter and ads in body shop magazines.
"We started trying to get exposure on a national basis," he explained. "Hopefully we can start selling nationally and increase our sales."
Owners: Sam Bowling, Phil Sharitz
Location: Wilson, N.C.
Years In Business: 28
Number Of Employees: 8