Luis Alas says a decade has gone by “real quick.”
When Alas was laid off from his previous job 10 years ago, his friend Oscar Ayala suggested he look to H.J. Holtz & Son for employment. Alas had some painting experience and trusted his friend’s recommendation, so he approached the firm and was hired as an apprentice painter. Now, he’s a foreman, overseeing his own team.
“A lot of people think [painting] is just grabbing a brush, roller and some tape, but it’s more than meets the eye,” he says. “A lot of jobs require some or a lot of preparation, and many jobs require that you are meticulous.”
Alas says he enjoys working on home interiors, especially cabinetry, because the change is so noticeable. In 2019, Alas led a Holtz painting crew working on Carr’s Hill, the home of the president of the University of Virginia. Carr’s Hill, which was built in 1909, received extensive renovations and repairs as part of an 18-month project that fixed roof problems as well as updated the interiors for public and private events. The Holtz team’s responsibilities included stripping paint not only from walls, but on wide crown molding and detailed, decorative plaster work throughout the house.
“We used eco-friendly paint remover and scrapers; the layers were hard to remove,” Alas says. “We started with three or four people, then the crew just kept getting bigger.”
Alas says he appreciates how he learned his craft from experienced Holtz workers, and says he’s now part of that tradition.
“Everybody was good with teaching [me]; now I’m doing it, too – helping younger people who are starting,” he says. “Everybody has their way of doing things, but at the end, you all want to have the same final product.”
Alas says he was happy to become a foreman because it gave him the opportunity to expand his responsibilities and build leadership skills.
“As foreman, there’s more communication with homeowners and the management team,” he says. “I talk with contractors and [job] superintendents daily.”
Alas says he appreciates the confidence that company president Rick Holtz has in his employees. Several years ago, Alas’ crew spent three weeks on a job in Atlanta, on their own. The large project was a renovation of a residential library, with floor-to-ceiling paneling that had to be stripped of paint, sanded, and stained. Holtz had offered to allow the team to fly home on the weekends, but the crew decided to remain in Atlanta and sightsee together.
“He trusted sending his crew to another city, knowing that he can count on us to take care of the job,” Alas says. “It was a nice experience.”
H.J. Holtz & Son has tripled in size since Alas joined the company, a development which has made a difference in one way, but not another, he says.
“I haven’t been able to work with everybody, but [the company] was always family-oriented, and it still is,” Alas says. “[Holtz & Son] was a friendly place from the get-go, and that’s the same. It’s been a great experience.”