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January 6, 2000
Six months ago, Peter De Lorenzi and his wife Michele stumbled across a great idea - and like many great ideas, it was pure coincidence.
"Our business started out as a fluke," De Lorenzi recalled. "My wife had been bugging me about covering up our propane tanks. I tried a number of different ways to do that, but none seemed suitable until I came to the idea of using a large, artificial rock."
Micheles prodding led De Lorenzi to track down Formations, a Michigan company that specializes in manufacturing rock covers.
From their home in Friday Harbor, the De Lorenzis take orders and answer queries about the faux stones, acting as an independent manufacturer representative through their Web site.
The rocks, which come in 30 sizes and seven colors, cover a wide range of objects, including utility covers, well heads, satellite dishes up to 30 inches and outdoor speakers. The colors include tan granite, bronze slate, light gray granite, moss jade and sandstone. Prices range from $95 to $260.
The rocks gather no moss since theyre made from structural foam covered by acrylic, with an ultraviolet coating to protect them from discoloration. They also offer some insulation protection for covering heat pumps. They are non-toxic and safe around plants and animals, and can be used in ponds.
Installation is a breeze, De Lorenzi said. Two-inch flanges are used for anchoring.
"Its about as simple as you can get," he said. "You plop the thing on whatever it is you want to cover, kick a little dirt over the flanges and its a done deal. Its a real easy landscaping solution."
The rocks can also be used to spruce-up a yard in need of decoration. De Lorenzi said installation is much easier than actual boulders, since they weigh 50 pounds or less each. In addition, he said the rocks can be engraved with addresses or names. Some golf courses use them as tee markers.
Artificial rocks and rock covers have been a staple at amusement parks and zoos for many years, he said, but using rock covers for residential needs is a newer phenomenon.
"Were tapping into the residential potential of selling rock covers, and were also targeting planned communities that might have ordinances against things like well heads or satellite dishes in your yard," he said. "Rocks are a major part of the landscaping business."
After working in recent years as full-time painters, the De Lorenzis created gardenrockcovers.com as a hobby. The couple also manages vacation homes in the Friday Harbor area - homes where they can put the rock covers to good use.
While the rock cover idea has not caught on in a big way in the Northwest, the Midwest and Southwest regions have kept a steady stream of orders coming in, De Lorenzi said. The Internet gives the couple worldwide exposure without launching a major marketing campaign.
"The Internet has given us the opportunity to be a representative for manufacturers who might not want to devote as much time to sales," he said, noting that theirs is the only Web site exclusively selling rock covers. "Were trying to approach this as a fun business."
Since the rocks are made from molds from actual rocks, most passersby cant tell the difference. Even people closer to home will wonder.
"They keep your neighbors guessing," De Lorenzi said