Iron Maker Accentuates Its Finish With Powder

Posted on Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Accent Ornamental Iron & Powder Coating Co.’s origins date back to 1952 when Stanley Stylski, the son of a Polish immigrant, started Modern Iron Works, an ornamental iron shop, at the age of 16. Stanley sold the business in 1954 to proudly serve the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict.

After his tour of duty, Stanley returned to work for Modern Iron Works. In 1961, though, he left there to start his own ornamental iron business, Allied Iron Works. Stanley’s oldest son, Michael Stylski, began working for his father at Allied Iron Works in 1964 at the age of 7, and was a full-time employee by the age of 16. “My dad sold me half of his business for $1,” Michael recalls. He continued to work with his father until age 25, when he decided to explore other career paths. “So I sold him back my half of the business for $1,” Michael says. “I wanted to explore a little, so I drove a truck for a while. Then I was a warehouse foreman, and at one point I worked for the electric company.” For five years, Michael tried his hand at a few unrelated fields.

“I always had a job,” Mike Stylski says. “But I was drawn back to the iron business, and so I decided to start my own company when I was 30 years old. Today, that company is Accent Ornamental Iron & Powder Coating.” Michael was the sole employee, and operated the business from a two-car garage in Anoka, Minn. In 1991, Michael moved his family and his business, to Cambridge, Minn., and continued his operations from two large pole buildings located on the family’s 40-acre farm.

It wasn’t until 1995, though, when Stylski began to offer powder coating as a finish on his iron fabrications. “I would offer powder as an upgrade, and the customers loved it,” Michael explains. He would have to subcontract out that finishing process, but it was worth it at the time.

A couple of years later, in 1997, Stanley Stylski—still operating under Allied Iron Works—passed away. Michael combined Allied Iron Works’ customers and assets with Accent’s. With this change, Accent Ornamental Iron continued to serve many third-generation customers originating from Modern Iron Works. Michael’s son, Michael Jr., began to take a more active, fulltime role within the company. Today, Michael Jr. is the COO, and Michael Sr.’s wife Kelly, who joined the company in 2004, is now the CFO.

It was that same year—2004— that Accent Ornamental Iron made a final move to a 10,000 square foot commercial building in the heart of downtown Cambridge, Minn.

No More Jobbing Out

Right after Stylski began to offer powder coating as an upgraded finish in 1995, his call-back rate was so low that it didn’t take long for him to eliminate the use of liquid paint altogether. By 1997, powder coating had become the only finish Accent Ornamental Iron offered. “By 2004, I was spending $10,000/ month to sub it out,” he says.

Stylski knew he had to explore bringing powder coating in-house, so he let his fingers do the walking on the Internet and came across Powder-X by using a search engine. “It was just dumb luck,” Stylski says. “So I called them up and talked with Joey Golliver who held my hand through the seamless process. The whole transaction was easier than buying a new car,” he jokes.

Stylski bought the whole system at once, and was able to recapture its cost within two years, he recalls. For pretreatment, Stylski now uses a gas Hotsy Steam Cleaner and their chemicals to degrease and phophatize. The original electric boiler steam cleaner that came as part of the system was peaking the electric usage and the utility company was going to raise the rates tremendously.

As for the rest of the batch system, the Col-Met booth is 10' x 10' x 15' and easily accommodates the house-built 3' x 6' racks that hold the wrought iron. It also can accommodate the 6' x 10' racks that are used for bigger bulkier pieces. The original gun that came with the system was a Eurotec GCU400, and it can still be used today, but Accent added a Wagner EPG Prima gun with a vibrating base. The Rapid Engineering convection oven is the last step in the process. Accent uses a variety of powder suppliers, including Cardinal, PPG, Axalta, Tiger Drylac, Sherwin-Williams, and Valspar, Stylski says.

Installing its own powder coating system allowed Accent Ornamental Iron to add “& Powder Coating” to its company name. Remember how much was being spent in subcontracting the powder finish? Now, Accent Ornamental is the custom coater who gets those jobs. “We currently powder coat jobs for about 15 of our competitors,” Stylski says.

In 2008, Stylski bought Olin Wrought Iron, a manufacturer of American-made balusters and newel posts, which are made by merging ancient blacksmithing techniques with computer-controlled technologies. “It’s a fabricator- to-fabricator business,” he says. “We thought long and hard about that acquisition, but with the amount of business we did with them, it made sense to make that purchase.”

If all of his businesses has not kept Stylski busy enough, he also is involved with his community. He is both a mason at the Masonic Lodge in Cambridge as well as a member of the Chamber of Commerce. “We are always doing what we need to do to make their events successful,” he says. Stylski has donated a variety of projects and products, including a custom- made coffee table with a glass top, cast-aluminum planters, and custom ornamental coat racks and towel racks.

All of Stylski’s hard work has paid off. Business is good all around. At Accent Ornamental Iron, Stylski has nine employees working for him. “I have no interest in expanding,” he says. “We are busy year round, we are at maximum capacity, and I can cherry pick my jobs.”

Sharon Spielman is editor of Powder Coated Tough Magazine.  She can be reached at .sspielman@powdercoating.org