Walking the straight line

Tom Darrow, owner of the new We Do Lines franchise in Bonita Springs, lines up his machine before striping the parking lot at Sherwin Williams on Metro Parkway in Fort Myers. / Laura J. Gates, Banner Correspondent

Tom Darrow, owner of the new We Do Lines franchise in Bonita Springs, lines up his machine before striping the parking lot at Sherwin Williams on Metro Parkway in Fort Myers. / Laura J. Gates, Banner Correspondent

Tom Darrow walks the line. Literally. The Bonita Springs businessman can be found walking in carefully measured, straight lines around parking lots in southwest Florida, pushing an odd-looking cart and leaving brilliant white lines behind.

Darrow is co-owner of We Do Lines, a Connecticut-based company which specializes in line-striping parking lots. The two-year-old venture recently franchised its operations, and Darrow has purchased the rights to Lee and Collier counties.

Painting lines on pavement is a stark contrast from the hard labor involved with running a Connecticut landscaping and irrigation business, which consumed Darrow just a few short years ago.

The Florida sunshine and the promise of an underserved industry are a welcome change for Darrow and his two partners, Chris Couri and Dan Rella.

“Our lives are completely changed in a matter of two years, and we didn’t see it coming,” Darrow said. “Now we’re line stripers trying to take on the world.”

Although rarely thought of, parking lot striping is a $1 million industry. The three friends stumbled upon their career change during the off season for landscaping up north while discussing how hard it was to find a parking lot striper for a project.

We Do Lines is the first parking lot striping company to franchise, which happened in a whirlwind of activity and cash earlier this year. “We had to be the first ones,” Darrow said with true entrepreneurial spirit.

We Do Lines now has 11 franchises with seven more soon to come and operates in locales from Maine to Miami.

Having parking lots properly marked improves safety for drivers and pedestrians and helps traffic flow smoothly, Darrow said. He recommends restriping the lot every two years. The company also offers curb painting, pavement markers, wheel stops and traffic sign installation.

As chief operating officer, Darrow is responsible for training franchisees to use the equipment. He finds it much easier to walk behind a line painting machine than it was to dig trenches and plant trees. An added bonus is that he can eat whatever he wants and still lose weight, since he walks about six miles a day, all in neat rows.

“When we’re striping restaurants, we can eat really well,” he adds.

His first job in the local market was Sherwin Williams on Metro Parkway in Fort Myers. Assistant Manager Anthony Massocco said using We Do Lines is a good partnership, since the line-striping franchise uses only Sherwin Williams paint.

Darrow maintains a residence in Venice, Fla., and relishes the idea of spending his entire winter in the Sunshine State. He and his crew plan to do plenty of golfing when they’re not walking the pavement.

“We’re really happy to be in Florida,” Darrow said.

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