After 30 years, Reno’s Sierra Maintenance continues to seal its legacy
RENO, Nev. — Kevin Moerdick has a motto for his business, Sierra Maintenance, Inc. (SMI): “Stay Small and Stay Busy.”
The business plan has worked for Moerdick, who founded SMI in 1988 and is still going strong 30 years later.
“We could have grown a lot more over the years, but we didn’t necessarily want to do that,” Moerdick said, indicating he wanted to keep the company small with a core of dedicated employees and limited scope of work.
SMI, which specializes in asphalt maintenance and repair services, serves a wide range of clients from commercial parking lots to individual residential driveways.
The company’s scope of work also includes asphalt sealcoating, paving, pothole repair and patching.
“We can do any job up to a million square feet,” Moerdick said.
SMI has kept a narrow range of geographic focus, staying mainly in the Reno-Sparks area, stretching as east as Fallon and no farther south than Gardnerville.
It used to service the Lake Tahoe region, but found it wasn’t feasible to keep doing so long-term.
“I’ve always been an outdoors kind of guy,” Moerdick said. “For me, there’s nothing better than going outside, getting dirty working out in a place like Stead and then going to another job in Fernley.”
A family tradition
Kevin’s Moerdick’s son, Bryan, started working at SMI in the summers as a teenager and over the years has been learning all aspects of the business. The son feels he’s poised to buy SMI when his father is ready to retire.
“I’m becoming more familiar with the business,” Bryan Moerdick said. “I like being prepared in whatever I do. I feel if you’re not prepared, you’re probably not going to succeed.”
When retirement beckons, Kevin Moerdick said he probably will still lend a hand in the business, albeit not on a full-time basis. He figures his experience can still be a valuable asset when bidding for projects or drumming up new sales.
Then elder Moerdick was raised in the Chicago suburb of Crystal Lake, Ill. It was there he where got his start working in the asphalt industry as a teenager.
He visited some friends who had just moved to Reno. He said he instantly fell in love with the area and moved to Northern Nevada in 1982. He continued to find work in the asphalt industry before starting SMI in 1988.
Changing with the times
Over the years, Kevin Moerdick said he realized the company’s generic name may leave people wondering what SMI does, so the Moerdicks in recent years devised a subtle advertising concept.
Displayed on the tailgate of the company’s pickup trucks is the phrase, “Your Asphalt Specialists,” and Kevin and Bryan have personalized license plates, “SMIBOSS” and “WESEALU,” respectively.
SMI has also deployed aggressive marketing strategies to make sure it has a steady stream of work, the Moerdicks said. For instance, early in spring, SMI will contact previous clients who they may not have heard in a year or two and offer free estimates on asphalt services. Reminders are sent via direct mail and follow-up phone calls.
While SMI prides itself on its ability to do multiple jobs on a daily basis, the company’s success still depends on the quality of its workmanship of its crewmembers.
SMI staffs 10-12 workers in the peak work season from April to late November. In winter months, SMI finds emergency potholes or sealing repair jobs.
“In the summer months, we work from sunup to sundown,” Bryan Moerdick said. “The adaptability we have is one of our strengths. We can change direction on a dime for various jobs.”
SMI has been located in the same building at 2850 Wrondel Way in Reno for 30 years, although it has moved one door down for more office space. In 2015, it also bought the adjacent outdoor yard to accommodate its equipment.
SMI performs an estimated 500-600 jobs a year, and more than 75 percent of Sierra Maintenance’s clients are repeat customers.
The commission, which advises the governor and Nevada Legislature in areas such as career advancement, pay equality and gender discrimination, could fall victim to looming budget cuts.