I've been hosting a weekly radio talk show for some time now. I work with publicists and PR agents who set up interviews for me with book authors from across the country. Over time, I've learned how to pick out "good" books. There are certain factors that come together and that make it obvious that the book will do well. It involves much more than the actual book. It's the entire marketing and selling of the book, which is a complex set of factors that come together to make it a success.

I find something similar when it comes to plastering products. Just like books, there are certain factors that come together that make it pretty clear that a certain product will succeed. Now, it's one thing for a company to discover, produce or import a product for use in plastering. It's quite another to have a definite "plan of action." I've seen wonderful products that companies represent but they don't have a clue on how to market or distribute what they have. Talent in marketing and sales seem to be lacking big time, which either stunts the growth of the company or kills it altogether over time.

An example of a "good" product

This article is about one of the good products I've recently discovered. A great friend of mine, Rich Anderson, who runs Westmont Interior Supply, in Peoria, Ill., showed me some walls they did in the office area, along with a "lion's head" of the same material. I was amazed by the effect but more impressed by how fast the product was applied and the variety of applications that can be done with the materials. The following is an overview of the ArcusStone Co., whose main offices are located in Oakland, Calif. I flew into the World of Concrete Show, in Las Vegas, in January and was able to meet with the technical director of the company, Bill Tott. The following is part of the interview I had with him. I also included some outstanding pictures of some projects where these products have been used.

Plaster Man: I was very enthused when I was introduced to your company's line of products. It's obvious you've met with great success with such a line up. Of course, it takes a great "team" of players to bring this about. Maybe you could briefly describe this winning group.

Rich Anderson: The key players in the company are: Carol Kavalaris, one of the founding partners, had a successful career as an interior designer and real estate developer in the San Francisco Bay area prior to involvement with ArcusStone.

William Ziegler is also one of the founding partners, a successful practicing real estate and contract attorney in the San Francisco Bay area. His writing and review of legal documents has provided the company with a solid legal footing.

Two of the partners, Mike and Dan Webber, have extensive experience and knowledge of traditional and EIFS stucco application techniques, gained through operating their own plastering company in Utah for many years. Mike now handles sales and distribution while Dan is the product manager.

Valerie Worley has a construction management background, and is operations manager handling details with suppliers, distributors, applicators, and employee issues.

I fill the role of technical director, putting to use my experience and background as a general contractor in California and ICBO/ICC certified building, plumbing, electrical and mechanical inspector.

PM: I personally couldn't believe what could be done with these materials. I'm assuming this is why you got involved with this company?

Rich: Carol was very animated and excited when she phoned me, in late 1994, about the emergence of this remarkable limestone material and what could be accomplished with it (it has been used extensively in Europe in the repair of stone structures). I was intrigued, and soon joined the newly formed ArcusStone.

PM: What was involved in developing these products?

A: One of the first orders of business was to find, test and secure North American sources for the types of materials required to duplicate this limestone coating here in the U.S. For instance, the compressive strength of the material, as tested under ASTM standard C67, was 4650psi, which is approximately 54 percent higher than standard concrete. Along with the ArcusStonecoat, we developed ArcusPlaster, a limestone/Portland cement plaster-stucco that can provide the wonderful European look of mottled, aged stucco. When used together, a truly cohesive and beautiful representation of a classic European style country home can be achieved.

PM: Do you import these products? And who are the applicators?

Rich: I'm happy to say that all of the materials used in the manufacture of our products are from the United States. Our products are patented blends of limestone aggregates, bonding agents, polymers and Portland cement. The colored pigments used assure a higher resistance to UV light degradation and fading. Considered decorative coatings, they are installed exclusively by trained company applicators, most of whom are plaster, stucco, EIFS, drywall and decorative concrete contractors. They can be either hand trowelled, spray applied or screed over EPS foam shapes, and then finished.

PM: Describe some of the ways these products are used.

Rich: What's compelling about these products is the versatility in how they are used, colored and finished. For instance, the ArcusStonecoat material can be used over a variety of substrates to create dramatic stone fireplace mantles, window and door surrounds, stone columns (used over EPS foam substrates), arches, quoins, wainscoting-even beautiful countertops that are extremely durable. It is usually hand-tooled to achieve the look of quarried, cut limestone, travertine, or sandstone, complete with course lines and block patterns, but it can also be finished to a completely smooth surface like granite or marble. The ArcusPlaster is also hand finished, usually to achieve the classic look of aged plaster-stucco, with a lot of "movement" in the color and texture.

PM: There's a lot of excitement surrounding the ArcusStonecoat. What's so special about it?

Rich: The excitement for me is in watching a bucket of wet, rather chunky-looking plaster, turn into a stone-looking structure or shape. There is a lot of "magic" that happens through the finishing process where, like a stone mason or sculptor, there emerges an object that was at first just a concept on paper or in your head, and it is now a reality. ArcusStone is not a faux finish-it's real stone that has been crushed and blended that does a great job of replicating the look of cut stone.

PM: How have you grown the company? And what is the vision for its use in the future?

Rich: Prior to 2001, we were really a regional company in Northern California producing, packaging, marketing and distributing, conducting training sessions, and even running a small application company. We then expanded to a region that encompassed the Upper Rockies with the addition of a branch in Salt Lake City. It was at about this time that we started to reach a critical mass in terms of interest and demand, as reflected in the overwhelming responses and inquiries we received from our ads in W&C. The demand for the products continued to spiral upward, and was the driving force behind our being able to roll out nationally through a new and growing distribution network. We're in our fourth year now and have recently added distribution in Canada, Taiwan, Panama and the Caribbean. The products are being used in the Southern and Eastern U.S. on commercial projects, as well as our strongest markets, namely residential and hospitality (hotels, restaurants).

Most of the specs are for exterior applications, though it also lends itself well to interior applications, including background and accent walls in hotels, restaurants, and higher end residential projects.

Bill, I appreciate your sharing an inside view of these great products, as well as some details about your company. If any readers are interested in becoming a distributor or applicator of these products, be sure and check out their Web site, www.ArcusStone.com. Or you can contact Mike Webber directly at ArcusStone Products LLC, phone (510) 535-9300 or e-mail info@arcusstone.com. Until next time, Plaster On!