On a recent early morning, the crew of RL Ewing Contractors was hard at work paving the parking lot at the new St. Michaels Family YMCA. Equipment had broken down early that day, but they were soon back on track and the smell of asphalt filled the air. To the naive eye, it was pure cacophony. Trucks were backing up, sounding their piercing warnings. Workers scurried around moving equipment. Machinery roared, as it worked hard in its single mission to spit out hot asphalt. All in a day’s work for this crew.
The paving industry is a merciless one. The weather is, of course, a crucial factor and Mother Nature is either friend or foe. It’s seasonal work, which requires long days during March through December. Fifteen years ago, if Deanna Ewing-Evans, 34, envisioned herself as the owner of a paving company, she probably would have scoffed at the notion. Scoff all you want, but Deanna became owner in 2010. As with any small business, though, the going wasn’t always easy.
She began working at the company in 2008 doing the accounting and books. Soon after, the company’s estimator announced his retirement. Before leaving his post, Basil Harrison took Deanna under his wing and taught her the ins and outs of formulas, estimates, reading asphalt, materials, and grading.
She started going to jobs, but the economy took its now famous downward turn and the company was forced to lay off its employees and sell equipment. It looked dire for RL Ewing Contractors. The winter of 2009-10 was known locally as “Snowmageddon,” and it has proven to be a pivotal moment in the company’s history. The historic snowfall created havoc on the roadways, parking lots and driveways of the Mid Shore and Deanna saw an opportunity.
Homeowners and business owners needed small jobs done to fix their crumbling asphalt and Deanna was quick to turn the residential jobs around. Soon, she needed to hire back some crew members and the small jobs kept coming. Then she hired the entire crew back and bought used equipment to keep up with the demand. She bought the business in 2010, but new struggles ensued.
Few contractors wanted to hire a company where the owner, a woman, was considered a novice. But all it took was for one contractor to hire them for a job and more followed. But while the commercial jobs started coming in, she was having a hard time keeping up with demand. Help came in the form of Michael Evans, a very unlikely advocate in that he worked for the competition. As her company grew, Deanna relied on David A. Bramble Inc. to help her out in a jam. That’s how she met Michael. Deanna ended up hiring a whole new crew and Michael came on board in 2012.
Today, Deanna and Michael are married and have a two-year-old son, who loves all the equipment. The couple relies on each other to keep the business running smoothly. Deanna is on site at every job and works from her mobile office in her company truck. Their day starts at 5 a.m. and ends at dark this time of year. Rain days do not mean a slouch day either. Rainy days are used to maintain equipment and keep up with the books.
Work sites vary place to place, but each crew member has his job and they know what to do, regardless if it appears otherwise to the novice eye. This self-professed, lifelong Tom Boy used to drive the 53-year-old company, Deanna said, “but now it drives me.”