Eric Tetzlaff

Eric Tetzlaff


LOCATION: Oconomowoc, WI

Concrete finishing goes back four generations in my family, when my grandfather's father-in-law from Europe taught him masonry. I've been at it for 30 years. I started out at my uncle's business as a teenager, before working jobs through the local 599 for 15 years. I also ran my own decorative masonry business that I sold in 2016. I worked on everything from walls, patios and driveways to chimneys and monster commercial projects that use finishing equipment that you ride on.

My son is now in welding school, so he'll soon be this family's fifth generation in the trades.

I've always been drawn to decorative concrete finishing because it lets you get creative. I find great satisfaction when I get to step back, look at the results and think, 'I did that.' Every time we catch a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game at their venue, a similar sense of pride comes over me because I poured a lot of the concrete at the stadium. (And some of the time I don't even point this out to whoever I'm with.)

It was a nice surprise back in 2012 when I won a Wisconsin Ready Mixed Concrete Association Design Award, for a job I did on home of a concrete company owner I knew. He had some high-end white Portland cement left over from a project and asked me to use it on his patio, with beautiful results. The homeowner asked if he could submit it for a residential design award, and the rest is history.

Almost all the work I've done has been in Red Wings. My wife recently pointed out that there's about $1,000 worth of boots in our mudroom that I rotate through and dry out to prolong their life. I bought my first pair for a summer job right out of high school. They had steel toes and I remember thinking I was going to hate wearing them. But they ended up being the most comfortable boots I ever put on my feet.

My Red Wings come with me wherever I work — whether it's concrete finishing or my other labor of love, volunteering on mission trips through church. I went on my first mission to a school for hearing-impaired children in Puerto Rico, where we did the plumbing for the building. We also built a roof and cement play area for that same school on different missions.

The trip to Papua New Guinea might have been the most challenging. We were there to build a 120-foot concrete wall and 50-by-50-foot patio in the middle of nowhere, using piles of concrete, sand and gravel as far as the eye could see. A job this size would usually require multiple cement trucks. Our only option was to mix everything by hand in one little mixer.

We trained in the nurse, electrician and computer guy at the property on basic masonry, and they picked things up right away. The project took a long time but turned out beautifully. We also went to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, doing mostly roofing and drywall work. It was amazing how everyone there looked out for each other and did what was needed without complaint. It brought out the best in people.

I wouldn't trade any of these volunteer experiences for the world. Because there's more to making a good living than earning a paycheck alone.

My wife often teases me that I don't like to talk about my achievements, but to me it just feels like I've just been doing what I love to do, day after day. In this way, it has hardly felt like work.


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