“We love our Komatsu machines”
Work doesn’t stop for the Zara family at 5:00 p.m. Even after the equipment is shut down and the shop lights are turned off, this family’s commitment to its craft continues.
“It doesn’t matter what time or what day it is, we’re talking shop,” said Araz Industries Chief of Field Operations Graz Zara. “If we go out to dinner, we are planning tomorrow’s schedule or we are talking about what happened during the day. It’s a 24/7 passion with us.”
For the Zara family, this constant immersion in construction is woven into its familial DNA. Graz is the third generation of Zaras in the construction business. His grandfather, Graziano, started Zara Contracting in the 1940s and had a hand in some of New York’s well-known endeavors, including the World’s Fair site and the Long Island Expressway. Graz’s father, Samuel, followed suit with S. Zara and Sons and focused on heavy highway and large sewer jobs.
Family remained an important ingredient when it was Graz’s turn. He and his wife, Mirra, started Araz Industries, Inc. – which is Zara in reverse – in 1992. Mirra is President, and their son, Sam, has been with the company for seven years and is currently a Project Manager.
“It’s who we are,” joked Sam. “We work together during the day, then go home and talk about it at night. This company is everything to us.”
Doing it their way
Even with a long family history in the construction industry around New York City, Graz and Mirra were determined for Araz Industries to succeed on its own merits. The couple went all-in on the new venture.
“We borrowed money, took a second mortgage on our house and used credit cards,” recalled Mirra. “We didn’t start off with much, but it was what we wanted to do.”
“We had an interest in this business and believed in ourselves,” said Graz. “We are in it together. We’re husband and wife – partners in life and partners financially.”
Araz Industries, a certified Women’s Business Enterprise and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, focuses on utility installation and handles grading and excavating as well. The company depends on its efficiency and a well-managed staff to complete roughly one dozen jobs a year with a staff of only 15 people.
“Our goal from day one has been to be successful, not big – there’s a difference,” stated Graz. “I’ve seen companies grow for the sake of growing, and they end up with a lot of headaches and eventually struggle. I like our size now. We can do our work, go home and sleep well at night.”
The strategy has paid off for the Zaras. After completing approximately $350,000 of business for its first years, it now routinely averages $6 million annually.
Graz says that the secret to Araz Industries’ success is no secret at all. “Hard work. Period. We do good work. We don’t have huge egos, and we care. We just want to do the job correctly.”
Small staff, big projects
Araz Industries has built its reputation by consistently delivering quality results for its customers. That dedication resulted in what Mirra calls the company’s big break.
“We were brought in for a job on Route 112 in 2010 by a general contractor who needed help,” said Mirra. “There were some strict state guidelines to meet. We performed 25-foot-deep cuts and installed 12,000 feet of drainage pipe.
“It was an absolutely huge endeavor, but it put us on the map,” she added. “It boosted our reputation. People heard what Araz Industries accomplished, and that earned us a lot of credibility within the industry.”
After the assignment wrapped up, Araz Industries became a sought-after subcontractor for companies with big projects and short time lines. Last summer, the organization completed a high-profile contract on Long Island. It installed all of the on-site/off-site sewer and drainage at a new Interstate 495 rest stop, which totaled 7,000 feet of force main, and 1,500 feet of drainage that was up to 15 feet deep in spots. It also performed all of the erosion control at the site.
The effort was also completed in just three months and under the watchful eye of Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“We put in 10 hours a day, six days a week to get it done,” recalled Graz. “It was a big deal, and it was fast-tracked. The governor was at the site once a month. We had a tight deadline and a lot to do, but we made it happen.”
The company is currently in the middle of another specialty project, the expansion of the Long Island Rail Road between Deer Park and Farmingdale. Once again, Araz Industries is tackling some unique issues in a short time.
“We’re trenching underneath and alongside the railroad tracks to install a concrete trough, conduits and pull boxes that will house specialty signal and high-power cables,” Graz explained. “This was another opportunity for us. This is the second of a three-phase, $2 billion contract. It’s great to be a part of it.”
Araz has performed work for major agencies such as the New York State Department of Transportation, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, PSEG, New York Power Authority, School Construction Authority and Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.
Komatsu gets the work done
When Araz Industries needs to get tasks done quickly and efficiently, it trusts Komatsu equipment from Edward Ehrbar and Sales Rep Daniel Stanton Jr.
“We love our Komatsu machines,” shared Graz. “They are smooth, strong, efficient and they last. We have a PC160LC-7 excavator that we bought eight years ago, and it still performs for us everyday. That’s what keeps us coming back to Komatsu.”
The company’s latest addition to its fleet was a Komatsu PC88MR-8 excavator, obtained specifically for the Long Island Rail Road expansion.
“It’s the perfect-sized machine for the job,” noted Graz. “The zero-tail, offset boom makes it easy for us to operate in this environment. It fits nicely in the right-of-way and has excellent vision out of the cab, so our operator doesn’t have to worry about banging into anything. Plus, it can handle a lot for a compact machine – we thought we would need to use our PC160, but the PC88 is taking care of it.”
“We consider Ehrbar a partner in our business, 100 percent,” said Mirra. “We are committed to them because they are committed to us. A perfect example is how we got the PC88. We wanted a small excavator, so we did our homework. Ehrbar was able to accommodate our needs quickly. Within a week, we had a deal in place, and they helped have a custom 12-inch bucket shipped to us overnight as well. They go above and beyond, and we appreciate that.”
When Graz and Mirra think about the future of Araz Industries, it looks very similar to the present. With Sam in the business and their youngest son, Alex, involved in the industry with plans to become a Professional Engineer, it seems like a fourth generation of Zaras will continue to carry on the family tradition.
“We’re a construction family,” said Graz. “Both construction and family are very important to us, and I think that is something we have instilled in Sam and Alex. We’re happy that they want careers in this area. It’s a legacy we’re proud of.”