Firm Grip

A family-owned business with third-, fourth-, and fifth-generation members not content to do things the way they’ve always been done, Nitterhouse Masonry

Don Marsh

A family-owned business with third-, fourth-, and fifth-generation members not content to do things the way they’ve always been done, Nitterhouse Masonry Products, LLC challenges sons and daughters to identify new methods of molding, treating, packaging and promoting concrete for buildings, landscapes and site amenities. During the past decade’s drive for growth and high-end product innovation, the company has more than doubled in size; expanded its market radius for some pavement and wall unit offerings more than 100 percent; and, perhaps as well as any other one- or two-plant independent producer, addressed a post-September 11 surge in concrete landscape/hardscape unit demand tied to outdoor living space trends.

To back up a claim that the company Does it all and does it best, Nitterhouse Masonry has steadily broadened dry- and wet-cast product offerings for a range of markets in reach of its Chambersburg, Pa., home base. There, it runs an in-town plant and contractor/retail showroom, along with a main operation and yard on the edge of the city. On the building side, product development has been aimed at securing full envelope orders, minus doors and windows. At 16- _ 24-in., for example, the new Legacy Stone has been crafted as an alternative to architectural precast panels, or for use in tandem with the company’s smaller faux-stone veneer units; architectural concrete block; or, clay masonry options from five brick producers Nitterhouse Masonry represents in south-central Pennsylvania. Another new product, the tumbled Tuscany Stone, was originally targeted for walls, but has also seen application in pavements.

We have always sought to be one of the first producers to have something new and different, says company president Karen Nitterhouse Diller. Continued demand for product with unique surface treatments and characteristics convinced us of the need to upgrade our production and packaging capabilities.

A new shot machine at the in-town plant, she notes, has improved capacity for special finish architectural CMU, larger paving stones, and other higher margin, specified products. At the main operation, the company has installed a new tumbling line Û the first of its kind in the industry Û for Tuscany Stone, Allan Block segmental retaining wall and fence units, and paving stones. Anchoring the U-shaped assembly is a clamping robot. It off-loads incoming product to a bar pusher table feeding the tumbler belt, then retrieves tumbled units from a roller conveyor for cubing at a point immediately adjacent to the off-loading. The configuration deploys the robot in a 225-deg. radius, thereby reducing a typical automated cubing footprint.

Installed in late 2006, the line has boosted tumbling productivity more than sevenfold. Notes Plant Operations Manager Doug Clevenger, Under our old tumbling and packaging method, we averaged 32 cubes per day with a six-man crew. The new setup has seen a four-man crew finish 96 cubes in a day.

The tumbler and robotic cubing assembly operate in a considerably smaller area than a conventional cuber, which would have required a push off device. There is more consistency in the new system and up to a 30 percent reduction in scrap.


With annual production of conventional and specialty block in excess of 10 million 8-in. CMU equivalents, Nitterhouse Masonry Products has evolved from Nitterhouse Concrete Products, Inc. A Chambersburg fixture since 1923, the flagship approached the 1990s advent in landscape/hardscape units with two Besser V312 machines at an in-town plant, spanning two blocks in central Chambersburg. That site is now used for wet-cast production; shot blast line for block and pavers; and, the Nitterhouse Concrete Store. The latter combines a tool, material, masonry product and accessory retail shop and showroom for Nitterhouse’s own building and landscape units; Belden, Continental, Cushwa, Glen-Gery, and Pine Hall brick products.

Anchoring Nitterhouse Masonry is a two-machine plant built on a 40-acre site adjacent to Nitterhouse Concrete Products. Known as the Guilford plant, it opened in 1997 with a Besser Ultrapac machine providing much needed capacity to pace retaining wall unit demand. A Dynapac machine was added in 2001, enabling support of a full program of conventional, architectural and half-high CMU; standard concrete and split NiCrete brick; Allan Block products; and, the new Tuscany Stone.

Tumbled, shot blast and other premium product that can travel farther than gray block, coupled with unique capabilities in larger, specialty slabs, positions Nitterhouse Masonry to serve a broad range of architect, contractor, and home owner prospects. Chambersburg is 25 miles from Maryland and West Virginia, 50 miles from Virginia, says Vice President of Sales & Marketing Barry A. Diller. Development continues along the Interstate 81 corridor, running from the St. Lawrence Seaway in upstate New York to Interstate 40 outside of Knoxville, Tenn.

Fifteen years ago, our market went out about 100 miles. These days, some products routinely go out 250 miles. Our sales force has doubled, from five to 10, and we now have dedicated staff covering dealers, local [central Pennsylvania] customers, or specific building or landscape products. Key to the company’s expanded reach, he adds, is a network of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia dealers who handle building or landscape units, or have combined programs.

On some products, we are within reach of markets that collectively represent more than 20 percent of the U.S. population, says William K. Nitterhouse, who is president of the flagship business and oversaw the 1999 spin off of assets creating Nitterhouse Masonry Products. South central Pennsylvania, nearby Hagerstown, Md., and points south, he explains, have become a bedroom community for Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia. Development continues out in all directions from the District.

Much like the masonry business, Nitterhouse Concrete can cover a hefty swath of the mid-Atlantic market, thanks to an offering of mainline prestressed, like hollowcore plank and double tees; beams; architectural panels; and, custom-engineered precast buildings. The headquarters office and plant occupy 60 acres adjacent to the main masonry facility. Four years ago, Nitterhouse Concrete opened a satellite plant Û Precast Systems, LLC in nearby Williamson, Pa. Û to support its Superior Walls precast foundation and above-grade wall panel franchise, and companion agricultural product casting. Heading the operation is Jason Nitterhouse, grandson of W. K. Nitterhouse.