Jet-Seal: Reflecting on the Past 59 Years

When my dad, Gene Lovell founded the company in 1958 (later named Jet-Seal), sealcoating products and application methods were limited. Dad purchased his sealer at a coatings manufacturing plant in northeast Ohio. The company manufactured a product that was formulated with gilsonite and distributed their product under various labels, including Topcoat® to building supply centers. Dad had a contact that allowed him to purchase the product at wholesale prices. He would buy as much in 5 gallon buckets that his truck could hold. As soon as he realized that he could purchase the sealcoating in bulk, eliminating the cost for the coatings company of filling and providing the cans he had a local welder design a tank that held approximately 250 gallons.

I fondly remember making several trips with dad to buy the sealcoating product. He would often have customers that we would service on the trip home and often times he would cold call on a business and empty the tank before we returned home prompting a return trip to the sealcoating plant.

In those days (the late 60’s) there wasn’t a great deal of competition or much of a choice of products. The gold standard company of the time was Blacktop Maintenance. As the clock turned to the early 70’s I started to notice different products on some of the driveways in the neighborhoods where we did work. This product looked much different than what I was used to seeing. It lacked the high gloss finish that I was used to, but I couldn’t help but observe that the product seemed to outlast the gilsonite fortified product we were using. Yes, I said we! By the time I was sixteen I was coming home from school and knocking on doors to drum up business. That year, dad bought me a new pickup truck. Let me clarify that along with the new truck came a payment book. I was responsible for making the payments if I was going to be considered the owner of the truck. I’ll say this much for the old man, he knew how to motivate!

By the mid 70’s I had finished school and working with dad full time. I was increasing sales and focusing on expansion. By then I had seen new sealcoating products popping up around town and was impressed with the results I was seeing. These new products were coal tar based; the same type of product (Brewer Cote) we use at Jet-Seal today, for both commercial parking lots and driveways.

When I proposed a change of products to dad I didn’t realize it would require a complete re-tooling of our equipment. The small gear reduction pumps we used would need to be replaced with air diaphragm pumps, the tanks would need to have a method of agitation, since the new products were emulsions. In order to incorporate an agitation system, the tank had to be round. Ours were square, so there was that obstacle. Dad wasn’t much for change but he was approaching fifty and was softening a bit. He agreed to help me finance a new rig complete with a hydraulic agitated tank, an air diaphragm pump and most importantly he agreed to the use of the recently introduced coal tar product, for use in the new unit only.

The new product wasn’t immediately embraced. The new product wasn’t high gloss like what we had used for several years and our customers were skeptical. I continued to enforce the philosophy that the coal tar product would outperform the old product and over time would save them a significant amount of money. They were used to having a coat applied every year. The coal tar emulsion product would only require a coat every other year and in some cases every three years. A few years later dad began to experience some health issues and was stepping back a bit more each year. We decided to phase the old equipment and product out and continue with the newer, more durable product.

It wasn’t long before our customers were embracing the change and realizing the benefits. Some of these residential customers were business owners and provided our initial entry into commercial parking lots. We currently do about 60% commercial work with the remaining 40% reserved for the segment where we got our start; driveways.

Over the years I have experimented with several brands of coal tar based asphalt sealcoatings as well as some of the asphalt (petroleum) based sealcoatings. I used Brewer Cote for years and was convinced to try other brands including products manufactured by SealMaster®, Star Seal®and Neyra®. I believe I owe it to my customers to provide them with the highest grade, most consistent product on the market. That search led me back to The Brewer Company, (Brewer Cote) a few years ago. We currently use Poly Cote, The Brewer Company’s premium product, a polymer fortified coal tar emulsion formulated to last longer and dry faster, harder and blacker.

Dad passed away several years ago. It’s funny how the circle of life works. I now have a son who after graduating from the Ohio State Fisher School of Business is chomping at the bit to implement his ideas and I’m now the one who is skeptical of change.