Abrasives, Clemco Equipment, and NASCAR Drive Kleen Blast
Clemco spoke with Tim Spurgeon, Sean Jewett and Rik Gagnon of Kleen Blast, a Clemco distributor for more than 30 years with five locations on the West Coast. Kleen Blast also mines, manufactures, delivers and sells abrasives, as well as offering abrasive recycling services. It distributes Clemco products to the Western United States and the Asia-Pacific region.
Tim (CEO)—My father started the business in 1972. I remember bagging sand as a 12-year-old boy. Those 100 lb bags weighed more than me, and I continued to work summers as a teenager. If you had told me as a kid that one day I would be CEO of Kleen Blast, I would have told you no way—I’m going to race NASCAR. But here I am today, doing both. I’ve been running Kleen Blast since 1990, and racing NASCAR since 2010—by now I’m probably the oldest driver on the tracks. I drive in the ARCA Menards Series West. Its a regional, semi-pro series. Racing is a hobby I enjoy, but Kleen Blast pays the bills.
Sean (Industrial/Commercial Sales)—Kleen Blast started as an abrasives manufacturer and supplier, especially known for its copper slag. Our biggest customers were West Coast shipyards. In the late ’80s Kleen Blast expanded into supplying abrasives to other industries and contractors, which grew into selling abrasive blasting equipment. We distribute other brands, but Clemco is our go-to. We sell over 1 million dollars a year of Clemco equipment. We sell everything from cabinets, blast rooms, air-wash abrasive cleaners, blast machines, and nozzles. We have the largest inventory of parts for repairing and maintaining Clemco equipment. Service after sales is one of our strengths.
Rik Gagnon (Director of Sales and Marketing)—Because we offer such a variety of services and equipment, we help customers from the weekend hobbyist to the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet. We’ve supplied abrasives and equipment to U.S. Navy bases in the San Francisco area; San Diego; Bremerton, Washington; Pearl Harbor; Japan; and elsewhere. Our product knowledge is second to none when it comes to sandblasting.
Sean—Have you ever seen a Navy maintenance barge? They are basically huge floating machine shops. Some have six or eight floors below the sea line. Over the years Kleen Blast has sold numerous Clemco cabinets to the Navy that it houses on those barges.
Tim—Another client that we’ve also worked with for 40 years is the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District. The Golden Gate Bridge needs constant maintenance and recoating. Over the decades, Kleen Blast supplied the bridge crews with Clemco Contractor Blast machines, and in the ’80s we supplied abrasives through Clementina, which was Clemco’s original name when it was a contractor equipment-rental business based out of San Francisco.
Sean—In fact, I worked for Clementina/Clemco for 15 years until 2005, which is when I came to work for Kleen Blast. Clemco originally was the branch of Clementina that manufactured and sold blasting equipment, until the company went all in as a manufacturer, sold the equipment-rental side of the business, and changed its name to Clemco for all operations.
Rik—Before coming to Kleen Blast, I worked for 26 years at White Cap, which is the nation’s top distributor of hardware, tools, and materials for the professional contractor. One thing I understand about contractor supply is that smart customers demand brand names, and Clemco is the brand name that contractors demand. So, Kleen Blast being a large Clemco distributor makes my job a lot easier when it comes to selling sandblasting equipment and accessories.
Sean—We even have a customer in Papua New Guinea who told us that their Clemco cabinet is the “duck’s nuts.” You can’t get much better than that! Four years ago Papua New Guinea Air contacted us. They had been using a slow, expensive chemical stripping system for cleaning airplane wheel hubs. We sold them a Clemco ShopMate™ Suction Blast Cabinet to blast with plastic media. The cabinet significantly reduced turnaround time and provided more consistent and uniform results.
Tim—Clemco is excellent to work with, especially their Engineering Department. They go out of their way to design specialty equipment that takes care of customers’ problems, sometimes problems that customers didn’t even know were there.
Rik—Sometimes we sell half-a-million-dollar, custom-engineered Clemco blast rooms. When you’re talking jobs like that, you have to trust your partner.
Tim—Speaking of partners, we have a few sponsors for our NASCAR No. 86 Kleen Blast Chevrolet. Like I said earlier, racing has been a hobby since I was a young guy. But it was always a question of when I had the time I didn’t have the money, and when I had the money I didn’t have the time. Well, a decade ago I made the time. Luckily, I have Kleen Blast as my major sponsor. When you get to 60-years-old, it’s tough to find sponsors. But I know I’m lucky that although it took a lifetime, I can fulfill my young guy dreams. I’d like to think this business has been good to me because Kleen Blast has been good to thousands of customers, its business partners, and its employees for over half a century. It’s been, and still is, a fun ride.