Oftentimes, an abundance of talent and vision alone don’t determine a business owner’s success. Many times, it’s sheer tenacity that takes natural ability to great heights. Take, for example, Archiped Classics Inc., the producer of fine cast stone urns, jardinières, pedestals, and garden ornaments for interior and exterior use, headquartered in Dallas.
Richard Stanzel, co-owner of Archiped Classics, began his concrete-based craft nearly 22 years ago with his wife, Shelley. After a promising first 10 years, Stanzel tried using a cement product in the late 1990s that provided some major challenges to their successful business.
“We had two and a half years worth of our products falling apart, and we were re-making them for our customers,” said Stanzel.
Determined to find a product that would produce the results he wanted, Stanzel discovered Rapid Set Cement through contacts at his sand supplier, Texas Industries Inc. Rapid Set Cement, manufactured by CTS Cement, Cypress, Calif., is a very fast setting hydraulic cement that provides high durability, low shrinkage and fast strength gain. A demonstration of the product showed Stanzel how well it could work for his wares, and Stanzel has been using Rapid Set Cement ever since with successful results.
“We use Rapid Set for two main reasons,” said Stanzel. “One, it’s very strong – about three to four times as durable as your garden variety of cement. Two, it has a very light color and mimics limestone in appearance. We always wanted to find something white or off-white in color for our designs and something that was truly frost-proof for the northern reaches of our territory, so Rapid Set accomplished both. The light color, as opposed to gray, increased the number of colors that could be created with the use of dyes and pigments.”
Stanzel also found Rapid Set easily shows the detail in his molds. Shrinkage and cracking issues don’t occur as they had the past, and the product sets up quickly, allowing Stanzel and his team to work as fast as they want. “CTS representatives were very knowledgeable, recommending whom to buy products from to speed up and slow down as necessary,” said Stanzel. “That made it versatile for our work.”
The Stanzels’ creations include pieces inspired from antiques as well as a line of modern classics, designed by a renowned French artist. He then crafts his molds out of polyurethane or silicone with a fiberglass backup shell to keep the shape during casting. He mixes the concrete with an automatic cement mixer, places the buckets of concrete on a vibrating table and vibrates them to allow the bubbles to come to the surface. Stanzel then pours concrete in the molds as they are being vibrated on the vibrating table to eliminate air bubbles and allow the concrete to flow into the sharp edges of the molds.
The end result for the Stanzels and their customers is a strong, durable product that resists cracking and shrinkage. What’s more, the Stanzels’ products are frost-proof. Unlike some other products, Stanzel’s pots don’t have to be emptied before the first frost to remain frost-free.
“You can just place a plant in our pots up in colder climates and forget about it,” said Stanzel. “We’ve never replaced a cracked pot from cracking due to frost.”
In addition, Rapid Set’s high strength allows Stanzel to design his products with thin walls. The interior of Stanzel’s crafts mimic their exterior – undulating with the form of the mold for ½-inch-thick or less walls on smaller pots and 1-inch-thick walls on larger pots.
“A lot of pots out there have very thick walls only because it’s easy on production and simplifies the mold-making process,” said Stanzel. “But most folks don’t want to plant a beautiful tree in a thick-walled pot because the thick walls don’t allow for much planting area. And the plants keep dying because it’s hard to keep them well watered. On the other hand, our pots have thinner yet equally strong walls to allow bigger plants to grow.”
Offering such numerous advantages, the Stanzels’ products have become a favorite among many design firms and specifiers for large estates, landscape architecture projects, the hotel and hospitality industry, and more. Today, their crafts can be found in the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City], the Four Seasons across the U.S., the Fairmont Mayakoba, Mexico, well-known Las Vegas resort casinos such as the Bellagio, Wynn, Rio and Caesars Palace, and prestigious international locations including Russia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Japan and more.
With their success firmly established, the Stanzels remain committed to their customers by serving them well.
“It seems to me there are a lot of companies that lose money by being too tight fisted with service,” said Stanzel. “They might make money now, but without good service they’ll end up losing them in the long run.”