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After running dated equipment on two sites one with roots in Depression-era brick making the principals of Boxley Block in Lynchburg, Va., weighed their

Don Marsh

After running dated equipment on two sites Û one with roots in Depression-era brick making Û the principals of Boxley Block in Lynchburg, Va., weighed their options: Operate a high-maintenance, capacity-strained business that practically invited outside competition; or, make a significant investment that would secure their market, allow them to be a major player in the segmental retaining wall business, and follow the one-stop-shop model that is increasingly prevalent in masonry production and distribution.

I felt we were dying a slow death in the old plants and didn’t like the prospects for the long run, says Boxley Block President Ed Craighill. We needed to make a statement to customers and the market about our commitment and become a company that was easier to do business with.

That mind-set shows at a new headquarters operation opened in late March. Based on 22 acres at the Lynchpin Industrial Park in Lynchburg, the plant runs two Besser Dynapac machines, one with automated rack transfer to the kiln, the other a manual transfer method aimed at production versatility. Kiln configurations allow for daily production equivalent to 30,000 block.

Gray block and Rockwood segmental retaining wall units are the engines of this plant, says Craighill. Along with them are many ÎlocomotivesÌ that are a part of an inventory of nearly 180 shapes the machines run.

Locomotives also include Cambridge paving stones; Centurion Stone veneer; natural stone products; Shore Block erosion control units; and, Pine Hall Brick and Lawrenceville Brick wall and paving products. All help sell the whole package of [Construction Specifications Institute] Division 4 (Masonry) and Division 2 (Site Work/Retaining Walls), and related accessory items, adds Craighill. For scheduling, economy and accountability, more masonry customers want to deal with a single supplier.


Ed Craighill is a partner in Boxley Block with Ab Boxley III, president and CEO of Roanoke-based Boxley Materials Co. The flagship company has eight ready mixed and nine aggregate operations in Virginia and West Virginia, and is rooted in railroad and tunnel construction, dredging and quarrying businesses dating to 1892. Primarily an aggregate operator in the postwar era, Boxley Materials branched into concrete briefly in the mid-1980s by acquiring a stake in United Transit Mix, which had four fixed and two portable plants, plus a quarry. Those properties and another major quarry were sold during a 1986-1991 realignment of assets, which also saw the addition of new aggregate sites.

Boxley Materials returned to concrete in 1994, acquiring Martinsville Ready Mix, with subsequent deals including Lamb’s Concrete and Compton-Prinzbach plants in West Virginia and Virginia. When we looked at concrete, we saw block and masonry as a natural fit to the residential market based on what we do in aggregates. We liked prospective supply-type business related to what we are already doing in a market we understand, says Ab Boxley III.

The ready mixed businesses operated as Boxley Concrete Products, which branched into masonry in 1997 with the acquisition of Virginia Dunbrick/Lynchburg Block. Its outgrowth from clay products in the 1930s eventually produced an operation divided by a municipal side street with up to seven elevations of plant and loading areas, and fork lift paths exceeding 200 yards. Six years operating Lynchburg Block allowed Boxley Concrete sufficient time to evaluate masonry production and distribution, just as the segmental retaining wall unit and concrete landscape business was taking off across the industry.

In 2003, the company bought the Lightweight Block sites in Lynchburg (plant) and Roanoke (sales yard) that were among Solite Corp. properties of Harleyville, S.C.-based Giant Cement Holding. Although lacking production capacity for the long term Û Lightweight Block/Lynchburg relied on a rebuilt Besser V3R from the late 1950s Û the deal was tailor made for Boxley Concrete Products, as it included a Rockwood Retaining Walls unit license.

Shortly after the transaction, Boxley Concrete Products was rebranded Boxley Block, with the ready mixed plants brought under the Materials flagship. Craighill, who had recently sold a Lynchburg roofing and sheet metal business and teamed up with Ab Boxley III (for whom he had worked as quarry sales manager in the 1980s), immediately moved to consolidate Boxley Block’s own Roanoke yard and the Lightweight Block yard into one larger, more efficient and customer friendly site near downtown. At the same time, he sought to bring block and retaining wall unit production in Lynchburg under one roof, starting from scratch on a site with room for a twin-machine plant and ample yard area to facilitate quick truck loading.

Planning for the new plant began in 2003. Contrary to what Boxley Block might have encountered in another market, permitting and related tasks involving local and county officials went off smoothly. People in this part of Virginia pride themselves on making it easy to do business. It’s the same kind of philosophy we want for our company, says Craighill. City officials recognize the value of having a sophisticated new block plant for the local infrastructure and as a business that can ship across Virginia and to neighboring states.