Tudor Van Hampton
Coomer's shoes cut pesky footprints.
Rodney Coomer didn't whack any wise guys with a pair of cement overshoes at this year's World of Concrete in Las Vegas. But he and his newly-formed footgear company did get sunk with more orders than it could handle during the four-day construction show.
"We sold out the first day," says the Campbellsville, Ky.-based inventor of "Finishing Slicks," an injection-molded, polymer-rubber overshoe that keeps workers from leaving behind pesky footprints as they finish fresh concrete.
ENR spoke with him on Jan. 23, the second day of the annual show, as a small delegation from Manila eyed the shoes with interest.
Coomer recently started up Concrete Innovations LLC and secured a small booth in the Las Vegas Convention Center's South Hall, where vendors of low seniority and petty cash often get stuffed among the odds and ends of trade-show leftovers.
Even so, hoards of people hoofed it over to Coomer's booth to have a look.
The veteran concrete contractor says he developed the overshoes, which vaguely resemble a "Crocs" beach slipper, to combat the labor-intensive practice of repairing and polishing footprints in concrete. The problem has plagued specialty contractors for years.
Tudor Van Hampton
Coomer would know, because his main business concern is a company called Ace Concrete Finishing. "I've been working on this for eight years," he says.
Concrete finishers typically find creative ways to protect a slab from their own foot traffic, such as wrapping work boots in duct tape, plastic and cardboard, or grinding down the treads of their shoes to keep them smooth.
"They'll even cut flip-flops and Crazy-Glue them on," Coomer says.
Other ideas lay at the opposite end of the spectrum, where popular work boot brands, such as Red Wing, offer non-marking, flat-soled shoes for the same purpose, but at a much higher cost.
"You just can't have every guy come in and buy a new pair of those shoes," Coomer counters.
Concrete Innovations debuted a prototype for a mass-produced finishing shoe at last year's World of Concrete. After an overwhelming response, it spent the rest of the year quickly testing designs, refining and moving into production, with the goal to have its molds pop out 50,000 Finishing Slicks per year.
The shoe fits most sizes, and the material, which Coomer calls a trade secret, has one patent pending. One of its key features is its ability to wear smooth.
Other materials develop nooks and crannies as they rub down leaving rougher footprints behind. In the supplier's design pipeline are other concrete finishing products, such as knee boards, using the same material, he says.
Each pair of slicks, properly maintained, will last a year and a half or longer, claims the supplier, and comes with a 90-day warranty. It advises users to wash with water and use only for finishing concrete. Harsh cleansers, wire brushes and rough surfaces will wear them down faster and mar their undersides.
A company brochure notes that Finishing Slicks may not work well on freshly poured air-entrained concrete, making the shoes less valuable in climates exposed to heavy freeze-thaw cycles.
They are available for introductory rate of $49.99 per pair plus shipping; the cost is slated to go up to $54.99 in April.
Even at a higher price, Coomer believes that the time-saving footgear is an offer that many contractors simply can't refuse.