Riding around with the Stanley family is like being in the presence of celebrities. The members of the family-owned paving business based in Danbury, Connecticut, have become nationally known through their videos and posts on social media.
The youngest in the family, Matt, kicked off the sensation for American Pavement Specialists in 2020 while printing T-shirts in his bedroom with the slogan “Raised on Blacktop.” Together with frequent posts on social media to elevate the paving industry in the eyes of young people, the company has caught the attention of the national paving industry and beyond. Global equipment manufacturing companies have called on the Stanleys to help design products with their Raised on Blacktop brand.
At this year’s ConExpo, they were in high demand, making frequent appearances at manufacturers’ booths where new products were introduced in their honor and they were greeted by fans.
Despite the celebrity status, American Pavement Specialists remains true to its small-town roots and its commitment to family. In its home region of Danbury, Connecticut, and New York, the company has built a solid reputation for honesty, integrity and quality work. Now, a second generation has joined the company, bringing new ideas while maintaining the attributes that have made American Pavement Specialists a go-to contractor for paving, milling and related services in their territory.
For that reason and more, they are one of Equipment’s World’s 12 finalists for the 2023 Contractor of the Year Award.
For the family
“We had nothing when we started,” says Colleen Stanley.
Bill Stanley had decided to strike out on his own from his father’s paving business.
“I had a truck, a pick and a shovel,” he recalls.
Bill worked long hours paving driveways, while Colleen kept the books in the kitchen and kept their four boys in line.
“My first job I did alone,” Bill says. “It was 40 feet long and 20 feet wide. I ripped it out, tore it out.”
It was a long succession of such small jobs that helped the fledgling company grow. Bill and Colleen made a point of reinvesting what they made into the company.
“It was for the boys, for our family, our family business,” Colleen says.
After a few years, they worked with a local dealer to buy a paver and roller on a pay-as-you-go arrangement. “It was like going from a wood burning stove to electric or oil heat,” Bill says of the equipment.
The company kept growing and made a point to help out the local community along the way. They donated what they could to little leagues, police and fire departments and schools. Bill coached youth sports, and Colleen was team mom. She also served 20 years as a Danbury City Council member.
“What happened was this network of local people just started growing and growing and growing,” Bill says. “I think that was really key, and we didn't even know we were doing it because we were just trying to stay local.”
As their network of customers grew, so did the business. Whenever there was a local paving project, American Paving Specialists would get a call to bid on it.
“We’ve never had the job,” Bill explains, referring to a big project to catapult the company’s revenue. “For me, it's just been day by day by day.”
“All I did was just kept my head down longer than the guy next to me,” he adds. “This guy worked 12 hours – I worked 13. … When he went home, I stayed.”
As the company grew, it also became more efficient. Part of that efficiency can be attributed to Bill’s love of new, better equipment.
“I'm an equipment junkie,” he says. “If they have something that can make it more efficient … I’m in 100 percent.”
New equipment has enabled the company to increase production without having to increase employee numbers. He also believes in providing workers the latest technology to make their jobs easier. And he makes sure the equipment stays in top condition.
“Equipment has never hurt us, because we maintain it and take care of it,” he says. “And I always get good value from my old stuff.”
The community has taken notice of the company’s immaculate machinery.
“When they are done paving a road, parking lot, driveway or even a sidewalk, the red shiny trucks emblazoned with the American Pavement Specialists logo are remembered and revered,” says Roger Simoes at Tilcon Connecticut. “You are left with a confidence that the job was done right.”
United they pave
Bill and Colleen made a point of transmitting their work ethic and business acumen to their four sons – all of whom are currently in paving.
“I taught them how to be nice,” Colleen says and laughs. “He taught them how to work.”
Having gone out with his father on paving jobs as young as age 5, Bill followed that same approach for his sons.
“I raised mine like my dad did,” he says. “We took them with us. We do every together as a family.”
Their oldest son, Billy, runs his own driveway paving company that Bill and Colleen helped him start. The other three work at American Pavement Specialists. Jack’s specialty is milling, reclaiming and mechanical work. Josh runs pavers and handles job estimating.
“Growing up, I had every job – broom, shovel, rake,” Josh says. “I went to compaction for a couple of years, and I went to skid steer operator, screed operator, paving.”
“We all get along,” he adds. “He put us all in our own compartment, so it's like we don't really butt heads.”
Matt, the youngest, floats between the various tasks, doing whatever is needed. His passion is marketing. Through his efforts the company is not just known locally, but throughout the U.S. asphalt industry.
"An old-school guy"
“Good morning, World of Asphalt!” calls a driver from a pickup truck as Bill drives down the highway.
It’s a common occurrence around Danbury when folks see American Pavement Specialists’ vehicles. They like to call out Bill’s opening line for the company’s YouTube videos, which Matt records and posts.
American Pavement Specialists first got broader notice from Matt’s Facebook posts chronicling the company’s jobs and its equipment.
“A lot of other contractors looked at us, and they liked the way we operate,” Matt says. “They like the way we keep our equipment. It shows how prideful we are.”
He later expanded to Instagram, where the company’s posts took off. Then in 2020, Matt came up with the “Raised on Blacktop” brand and printed T-shirts and sweatshirts in his bedroom.
“We had this big following, so I wanted to do something with it,” he explains. He also wanted to bring together the paving industry. Through social media, he learned he wasn’t the only young person who had grown up in the paving business. He wanted to let them know that paving provided a good career.
“It can be cool, it can be fun,” Matt says of paving. “If I can get that son who works for his dad to say, ‘Hey, this is cool. I can keep doing this.’ That inspires me.
“I'm doing my little part trying to keep the family business together in paving.”
His other big step in social media was getting Bill on YouTube.
“My dad is great on camera,” Matt says. “I think what's special about it is he's an old-school guy, and I'm just giving him a digital format.”
At first Bill was a little skeptical of the idea of going on camera, and on some of the videos, he lets it be known he'd rather focus on the job. But he’s seen the benefits, and at times, he’s astonished at how it’s taken off.
“It's been amazing for the company,” Bill says. “I've given out autographs.
“Seriously, people have come up to me in the airport like, ‘Can I have your autograph? Can we take a picture?’”
The Contractor of the Year program, which has been sponsored by Caterpillar since its inception, recognizes contractors who display the highest standards of business acumen, equipment management expertise, attention to safety and community involvement. Each year, 12 finalists receive an expense-paid trip to Las Vegas to participate in roundtable discussions and an awards ceremony. To be notified when the 2024 nomination period opens, click here.