The Switch-Hitting Stripers

By diversifying its service offerings, Straight Edge Striping has grown enough to take on high-profile projects such as MetLife Stadium.

Since opting to expand its services, Straight Edge Striping—a painter of parking lots and now of roadways—has exploded in size and revenue

At a Glance

Location
Bound Brook, NJ

Founded
2000

Employees
43

Specialty
Pavement-striping work in all industry sectors

Annual Sales
$8 million

Andrew Altobelli is an astute manager who’s willing to make the tough decisions to steer his striping company, Straight Edge Striping, through the shifts in the marketplace. So, when the decline in new construction began because of the recession, leaving Straight Edge Striping with fewer parking lot projects, Altobelli began looking for opportunities in other market sectors. Noting the increase in federal and state money directed toward infrastructure and road improvements, he channeled a large portion of his workforce into street and highway striping, and his firm has since been riding a wave of growth.

Altobelli worked for a line-striping company through college and wanted to stay in the industry, so he fast-tracked his way through college. “I was very passionate about what I was doing at the time and did not want to be away from the business,” he says. He founded his own firm in 2000, and it has since expanded into a business of 43 employees—with plans to hire more. Comparatively, according to Altobelli, the average striping company has just 3–4 employees. Saleswise since 2000, the company’s annual earnings have jumped from $375,000 to $8 million, and it was even featured in 2007 in Entrepreneur’s “Hot 500: The Fastest-Growing Businesses in America” list.

Top 5 Starting-Business Tips from Andrew Altobelli

1. Structure your company early for growth because you don’t know how fast you’re going to grow.

2. Have a plan. When you’re small, you may overlook some of the details needed to structure your company, which makes it hard to implement new practices later on.

3. Pay wages that reflect the value of your employees. They contribute to your success, so reward them accordingly.

4. Understand the marketplace and your competition.

5. Establish a company culture so your employees are working toward the goals of the company, not just their own.

Straight Edge Striping now does about 1,800 jobs per year, and 65 percent involve roadwork while 35 percent continue to come from new construction and parking facilities. In recent years, Straight Edge Striping has been the only company in its area to enter into the capital-intensive roadway-striping market as a first-generation business. “We’re very much in a growth stage,” Altobelli says. “I’m a young guy with a lot of ambition. I’m fortunate and am in a good place. I’ve found a niche that I’m able to service very well, and we’re growing.”

Straight Edge Striping is known for its timely service and quality craftsmanship, and it excels with high-profile, large-scale projects such as casinos and stadiums. “Quality control is a big aspect of what we do here,” Altobelli says. “We’re a larger striping company than most of the companies that we compete against, which means we have much greater resources.”

Working capital and logistics are the biggest challenges to leading a striping business. “We’ve spent well over $3 million in the last five years, and that is a huge undertaking for any company considered a small business,” Altobelli says, noting that the average cost of a new roadway-striping truck is $550,000.

Straight Edge Striping also must adhere to very rigid timelines and will operate around the clock to finish projects—and it works in every construction sector it can, including housing, roadways and highways, airports, retail, schools, and hospitals. In 2011 the company completed striping for MetLife Stadium in Rutherford, New Jersey. The $500,000 project included striping for 30,000 parking spots, nearby state and township roads, and infrastructure improvements. Altobelli adds that because the project involved knocking down the old stadium and building a new one, the striping timeline was rigid and involved a tremendous amount of work in a short period.

His company also recently worked on a roadway and parking improvements for the Red Bull Stadium soccer arena in Harrison, New Jersey, so clearly work on new construction projects hasn’t fallen off completely. And as Altobelli and his employees continue to diversify Straight Edge Striping’s capabilities, the firm will remain perfectly positioned to take on work in New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York City, or other portions of the close-knit New England region. ABQ