Simply Marv-Ellis

Simply Marv-Ellis
STEVEN ELLIS – Lotze Insulation Design Inc. Ellis transferring into a new set of foam
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SPRAY FOAM MAGAZINE – The holiday decorations were placed back in their boxes and everyone had returned to work. It’s also at that moment when the Spray Foam Magazine team (SFMT) got excited to make their final decision for their Contractor of the Year (COTY) contest. With applications all printed out, the team sat around a large boardroom table and the discussions began. Who, why, and whats flew around the table, but this year there was one application that peaked the team’s interest. This is a person who encapsulates all that is good about the spray foam industry. His passion for advocating SPF is relentless and he even places that over the direct needs of his own company.

Who is this mighty individual? Please stand up, take off your caps, and raise a glass to… Steven Ellis. The owner of Lotze Insulation Design Inc. is officially Spray Foam Magazine’s 2023 Contractor of the Year. What makes Ellis this year’s winner? Could it be the fact that he sets the bar high when it comes to educating his potential clients on correct methods and products to make their project cost effective and provide a level of quality that most customers never knew existed? Could it also be the fact that he lives and breathes for this industry and his family? The SFMT caught up with Ellis to look at his career so far, and see how life events and family role models made him the man he is today.

Ellis has been in the spray foam industry for 25 years, and it will be his eighth year as owner of Lotze Insulation Design situated in Gates, New York. However, the building blocks to his life started many years earlier. Ellis still resides in the small town of Wayland, New York where he was raised and spent a great deal of his childhood. His father worked as a service manager of a car dealership and his mother ran a home daycare. 

“My mother was my rock. She worked so hard to provide for our family and she sacrificed so much over the years to give us the best childhood,” recalls Ellis. “My father was always working on something around the house and I loved taking his tools from the garage to build or create some monstrosity of scrap wood and call it my fort. As for my brother, he’s super smart and has always reached his goals.”

Ellis thanks his father for being the one to teach him about customer service. He worked so hard to provide for the family and when he spoke with the customer it was something special. “My father had the ability to create a unique experience for every single person. This skill still amazes me,” states Ellis.

Ellis with Dave Wallace of Wallace Farms, a NY potato farmer who Lotze Insulation has done work for.

Ellis also loved to spend time with his grandfather, a World War II veteran, who would take young Ellis to places like the National War Plane Museum in New York. He was also a plumber/ pipe fitter, always working and often on-call on the weekends. “How exciting it was to throw some tools in the car or van and go help someone. That’s how I saw it, helping someone. Little did I know that some sort of money or barter was exchanging hands. Not for me, all I saw was how my grandfather just provided a service and smiled while doing it,” reminisces Ellis.

During his school years, Ellis entered a plumbing and electrical course and was soon able to showcase his own path as a tool loving, boot wearing, blue collar kid. He aced the exams and field tests but was still unsure of what and where that would put him through his last year and a half of high school. The following week, he learned that he was being given an opportunity to be an apprentice and would be able to go to work every day, instead of regular school, and get paid! Working six days a week, as a federal employee in the civilian branch of the Army Corp of Engineers at the Mt. Morris Dam and at the age of just 16, he gave tours of the Mt. Morris Dam and performed flood control operations. Upon Ellis’s graduating high school, he was told to either sign on for life or go to college. He chose college.

Ellis attended a two-year state school in a residential construction program and found zero joy in learning about things his father and grandfather had taught him at age 11 and 12. So, during the semester break, he took a job as a maintenance man, a job Ellis did not care for. He decided to enroll in another state college with a renewed effort to become something. He studied construction engineering, surveying, and project management. He thrived, but after two years and having literally zero dollars to his name, he decided not to return.

In the Fall of 1999, things started to look up when Ellis met a lovely lady. On one of their first dates, she asked “What do you do for a living?” Ellis replied, “Well, I’m currently unemployed and have no money, but I am starting a job at a local insulation business.” He promised her then that he would never give up trying. The rest as he puts it, “Really isn’t my childhood but the evolution of what I have become.” Fast forward 25 years and that lady, named Chrystal, is now Ellis’s wife, and true to his word, he tried his best and now owns the company that gave him a chance.  

That opportunity was presented to Ellis in 1999 by a man called John Lotze. He ran a small private insulation business in Rochester, NY specializing in home retrofit. Ellis had zero experience in the insulation trade but could do just about anything else home related, so he put forward his best effort. There were a few older coworkers who appreciated Ellis’s hard work and quickly took him under their wing and taught him the basics of retrofitting a home envelope using blown fiberglass, blown cellulose and low-pressure foam.

Ellis fell in love with insulation and Lotze quickly knew he wasn’t just the typical employee. “My ability to talk with the homeowners and educate them on the process while still performing the duties needed to complete the project was certainly appealing to the owner,” recollects Ellis. He soon became in charge of the company’s crews and even began hiring some of the hard-working small-town guys from his childhood.

By 2005 Ellis was essentially doing everything but selling the projects. He loved being his own boss in the field and Lotze gave him the green light on just about anything. For the next several years Ellis tried to convince him to purchase a spray foam rig as their trade was evolving that way. They used some low-pressure nitrogen setups but that wasn’t going to cut it, so they continued to refer customers to a local spray foam company.

In 2014 Lotze mentioned to Ellis that he wanted to retire and asked him to buy him out. By the end of 2015 everything was finalized and Ellis had full ownership. 

Lotze sponsored the Ryan Sieg Race team at Watkins Glen International for a NASCAR race. They have continued to sponsor the team when they race in NY. Ellis pictured here talking to Kyle Sieg before the start of the race.

The first point of action was to buy a spray foam rig and create a new division of this company that it had needed for so long. Ellis purchased his first rig and after a few days training, he learned the correct way to do everything spray foam related.

Ellis clearly understood building science and with this rig he knew his new company could change how they created efficiency for the homes they retrofitted and or insulated. For the first time in years, he turned doubt into belief and continues to strive for perfection to this very day.

Ellis’s company, Lotze Insulation Design (LID), takes an extreme amount of pride in every project. “Insulation or SPF is generally an out of sight, out of mind thing, where most people do not understand what they need and the amazing benefits that can come from it. I do not, and will not, pay a salesman for those reasons. The day of door-to-door salesman is quickly fading and that gives me an opportunity to do what I do best and that is to educate,” emphasizes Ellis. He recognizes that the market will continue to grow and he loves to get the clients excited about the positive changes his company can provide to their homes. This all goes back to what he learned from his father, and that is to make every call a priority and spend any amount of time needed to make sure clients are educated on the process, materials used, and of course what benefits they will receive by choosing him as a contractor.

Steven and his wife Chrysta

LID has two sides to the business. The retail side in which Ellis also provides SPF education to his clients and being a participating contractor for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) EmPower+ program. This program provides low to moderate income households a chance to receive free insulation, spray foam, health and safety measures, appliances, and education on how to make their home more efficient. The crew’s work is then inspected by a quality assurance team to verify all protocols and installation measures were done correctly. This is a very strict and demanding investigation into LID’s installs.

Ellis is proud to say that they have one of the highest quality assurance scores and that every project is performed with 100% accuracy. One year into ownership of his company, NY state awarded Ellis the outstanding Contractor of the Year award for his excellent work. “Somehow, I have managed to develop a system that allows us to service paying customers, builders, agricultural and commercial clients. However, the real passion is fueled by helping people. 

The testimonies that I get about the blessings we bring to these families would turn you to mush. I care, my auditors care, my management cares, my employees care, and we treat every single one of these families as if it

was our own. We love to do this type of work and I firmly believe it brings us good karma,” says Ellis.  

Ellis, his wife Chrystal, and their son currently live in Hemlock, NY. It’s a small town just 15 miles north of that small town of Wayland, where he spent his childhood. He starts his day at 5am and prioritizes his workload. After dropping his son off at school, it’s off to the shop to meet with his team and discuss what is required for the day and all the details of the day’s project. “We talk about the details from driveway access to the customers dog’s name. I’m a sucker for the details,” states Ellis. The crew arrives on the jobsite everyday between 8:30am and 9am and Ellis begins his morning checklist right alongside his crew of preparing the rig, checking substrates, prep, and ventilation set up.

Ellis will always try to be the first to spray and depending on the project type, there is always work to do and they share those duties daily. The crew finish their working day by cleaning up together and organizing everything back to the rig for the next day. Next is communication with the clients. Right from the moment they meet, he establishes a clear line of communication with them. “From educating to spraying, my days are busy, but I want them that way. In the evening and after hearing about my family’s day, I pass out only for tomorrow to come way too fast,” says Ellis.

Sharing his knowledge of SPF and going out of his way to help others, Ellis believes has made him a much better spray foam contractor. It has allowed him to be a positive role model for many younger men and women that hear his stories. “I was made for this, and I hope to show the future generations that our industry is one giant family full of love and passion,” concludes Ellis.

Congratulations Steven Ellis on becoming Spray Foam Magazine’s 2023 Contractor of the Year winner. Your constant determination to educate and fly the spray foam flag is a true inspiration for all.

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