Thomas Maellaro. Vice President Marketing at Pettit Marine Paint. Rockaway, USA

Thomas Maellaro. Vice President Marketing at Pettit Marine Paint

Pettit Marine Paint has been in business for over 160 years. The company can trace its roots back to the beginning of the American Civil War. It isn’t easy to join a company that has been in business for so long, but Vice President of Marketing, Thomas Maellaro, has found success working with the historic, well-known brand.

Pettit Marine Paint manufactures and markets a complete line of high performance, American-made, marine coatings. With a large and extensive R and D department, Pettit Marine Paint continues to sit atop the marine coatings industry. The company has an all-new product hitting the market in early January. The Odyssey Triton will change the game in the marine coatings industry and keep Pettit Marine Paint as the undisputed leaders in the business.

Maellaro recently sat down with Totalprestige Magazine to talk about his career, Pettit Marine Paint, and the Odyssey Triton.

Thomas, Pettit Marine Paint has an incredible history and if our research is correct, the company dates back to 1861. Can you tell us about the company’s history and how you became a part of the brand?

Absolutely, Pettit has a very rich history dating back over 160 years. The foundation of the business began with the Gardiner McInnes Company in Massachusetts with the creation of Old Salem antifouling paint. From there the company switched hands a few times and for the last 20 or so years has been a focus brand for the Specialty Products Group at RPM International Inc. RPM is a really unique and diverse business overall with leading consumer brands such as DAP and Rust-oleum and construction brands like Tremco and Dryvit.

We are very fortunate to be a part of RPM with all of the resources we have at our fingertips. Our competition is confined to a few R and D specialists where we have our own internal R and D department but have the ability to tap into the expertise of hundreds of other sister company R and D departments. We take great pride in leading our industry with high-quality products with constant innovation.

I joined Pettit 12 years ago after coming from one of New Jersey’s largest boat dealerships where I managed the accessories store and of course, sold/applied a lot of Pettit Paint. I covered an outside sales territory for a handful of years before heading inside to manage product development then market segment management before becoming Vice President of Marketing this year.

Can you tell us about Pettit Marine’s top products such as the Odyssey Triton?

Pettit has five key antifouling brands. They consist of Hydrocoat®, Odyssey®, Trinidad®, HRT® (Hybrid Reactive Technology) and our antifouling speed coatings, Vivid and Black Widow. Each brand has their own unique technology and features/benefits. Hydrocoat is the industry’s best-selling line of water-based ablative antifouling paints where Odyssey’s line is completely solvent based ablatives. Trinidad is a line of hard antifoulings typically used in the California or southern markets. HRT products combine tons of benefits from hybrid technology with very affordable pricing. Vivid and Black Widow are high performance coatings geared towards off-shore fishing and racing vessels. Each brand has a specific market segment in which they are applied or sold. All five of these products sell very well and provide their boat owners with exceptional overall value but the product we are most excited about right now is Odyssey Triton. I’m sure we will address Triton more through the interview so I’ll hold on to that.

What are the typical clients the brand works with? Is it usually companies or private boat owners?

Our products are used by industry professionals as well as private boat owners. For example, our extremely popular Hydrocoat is used by boat yards and boat owners due to its ease of use, simple soap and water clean-up and lack of smell. A product like Trinidad is almost exclusively used by professional applicators due to its extremely effective formula and the types of boats these are applied to. A Trinidad customer is usually in California or the south-east and their larger vessels usually stay in the water 18 to 24 months. Trinidad’s hard matrix serves this extended use market very well as it can be scrubbed if the boat sits for extended periods of time without use. Ablatives find difficulty with non-use periods. We really strive to serve both boat owners and professional applicators the best we can with excellent service and new innovative products year after year.

Thomas, with Pettit Marine Paint having such a long history, how has the company continued to stay in business for so long?

For me the answer is simple, innovation and diversification. Our R and D department has almost 100 projects in the pipeline at all times. These products could be in segments we already offer products or completely new segments like our freshly launched AnchorTech adhesives and sealants. Our customers over the last 10 years have looked at Pettit Paint as more than just a paint company. Having introduced epoxies a handful of years ago to now offering sealants and adhesives, our customers enjoy our new products and our spin in these new markets. We only enter new markets when we can bring innovation and increase productivity, thus the dealers making increased profits and reducing labor hours.

Is it difficult to continually provide excellent products when you have been in business for as long as Pettit Marine has been?

When innovation and diversification are key motivators in everything you do, it’s easy to create products that will have high demand and continue to keep the business moving forward. When companies become complacent, they have issues keeping doors open and lights on. Not only do our products drive our success, but it also really comes down to our people. Our outside sales team as well as R and D and production has members that have been in the business almost 30 years. These people know the business in and out, they know the expectations of our customers and each one of our team members pride themselves in being the ability to bring new ideas forward and implementing change where possible.

Prior to moving into the VP position at the company, you worked as the Market Segment Manager and New Product Development Coordinator. How did your experience as Market Segment Manager prepare you for the VP role?

Great question and there really isn’t anything that prepares you for a VP role. At 35-years-old, I almost still don’t believe it is real, but with that being said, I pride myself in being a man of action. I enjoy doing things that inspire myself and inspire others. I believe if you do more things in a day than less things, the more you physically and mentally do, the more you’ll have the ability to make change. I’ve really been blessed with a president that invests in his management team and really challenges that team to push the envelope whenever and wherever possible. Too many times people see projects or issues ahead and they avoid them instead of just pushing through. Both my prior roles really involved bringing department heads together and creating a collaborative space and embracing thoughts and change, being VP just furthers that.

The Odyssey Triton will hit shelves in January 2021. How long did it take to develop the new product and what is different about the Odyssey Triton compared to other Pettit Marine products?

Odyssey Triton has come to market after eight years of R and D. Our lab personnel handcrafted this product utilizing the most effective biocides available in the market today at very high concentrations. Not only is it extremely effective, it’s friendly to all substrates, including aluminum. The Odyssey Triton is so effective, and we are so confident in it, we have backed it with the industry’s only 24-month warranty. Protection that can literally be taken to the bank. I’ve personally been involved with the Triton project from its inception and this product is nothing less than just downright impressive. We’ve completed extremely comprehensive testing against all of the premium offerings in our industry and Odyssey Triton just dominates every single time.

For those individuals that are not familiar with the industry, how competitive is the marine coatings sector?

It is extremely competitive as each manufacturer has their own unique way of coming to market and the products they offer. Some bigger, some smaller, but I’m pleased with our market share right now. We always have exciting things in the pipeline and hoping that in the next few years that we can continue to build on our current successes.

The company’s legacy has allowed it to develop a number of products. It is difficult to continue to develop and innovate?

I appreciate and respect the question. In the years I’ve been involved in and with management, companies can certainly get in a rut and stop bringing new products to market. Could be complacency or structure, could be lack of resources or other factors. As mentioned before, we have a wonderful team of professionals surrounding us. If for some reason I get distracted or can’t figure out our next spot for new products or markets, we have a whole team behind me with thoughts and ideas and they are all encouraged to share them. It’s a very different approach than many other companies with a very top down structure.

COVID-19 has gripped the world in 2020. Has it caused issues with the marine industry? Do you foresee 2021 being a better year for the sector?

Honestly, we can’t complain about the impact of Covid-19 on our industry. We of course feel for all industries that are impacted by the pandemic, but our industry has had an increase in business due to lack of travel and vacations. Many people looked to the water this summer as they couldn’t go away with restrictions. The industry welcomed many new boaters, and we couldn’t be more excited to get more people on the water. In an effort to aid these new boaters, Pettit is going to be offering a rebate on many of our products this upcoming spring to help with their boating budget. For example, a combination purchase of Odyssey Triton and another new product Running Gear Guardian™ will give a boater $50 back per combo.

Thomas, what is a day in your life like?

Great question and the reason why I enjoy my position so much is that no two days are the same. Every single day I come to work has a new challenge or new opportunity to make change. Some days I can be on Zoom meetings from open to close with COVID precautions or I could spend the day in the truck heading from dealer to dealer getting actual real market feedback from the customer base. Every day is very different from the last.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

In addition to my passion for the water, I’ve always been into cars and trucks. Back in high school and college I competed at different levels with marketing specifically the vehicles and petroleum segment. I came in second twice in the state in marketing competitions to the same person, I keep up with her and she now works for Ford Motor Company and was heavily involved in the return of the Explorer a few years back as well as lightly involved in the new Bronco.

What makes you smile?

Besides spending time with my wife which makes me extremely happy, I’m an enthusiastic learner and love to pick up new skills or become an expert in whatever field I’m focused on. I get very excited and happy when learning new things and I’m sure to have a smile from ear to ear when doing so.

What scares you?

A couple years ago this may have been more difficult to answer but this pandemic has really opened my eyes to a lot of things. One big fear of mine is what the pandemic will do and has done to small businesses. Small businesses are so important to everyone. While I understand and respect putting safeguards in place, the toll that COVID has created for small businesses is just unfathomable and I fear another three to six months of this will force so many more businesses to close down. To date over 100,000 small businesses have closed forever due to COVID.

If you had the power to change just one thing in the world what would it be?

Saved the toughest question for last. I hope this doesn’t make me sound too myopic, but the world is in a tough spot right now. Lots of anger, lots of confusion, lots of distrust. I would like to find some way to reunite everyone. I remember after 9/11 how the country banded together, everyone united for a common cause. This time around it (very different circumstance) seems the opposite is happening, people are afraid of each other, everyone is angry. It’s time to find common ground.

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