In 2015, The Frazier Quarry Incorporated will be celebrating their 100th year of serving aggregates customers in the Shenandoah Valley and more specifically, Harrisonburg, VA. During that time, the Frazier family has developed a reputation for providing a line of the highest quality aggregates and decorative stone in the region. More importantly, with the fourth generation participating in the business, owners Bob and Bibb Frazier and customers alike, have the reassurance of knowing that this standard of excellence will continue for years to come.
During a recent visit to the company’s home office at their Waterman Plant in Harrisonburg, and tour of their North Plant facility a few miles north of town, NAQN had the opportunity to learn more about this family enterprise and the business standards that have come to make them successful.
According to Robert B. “Bob” Frazier (there are three Robert Fraziers associated with Frazier Quarry, but none of them “juniors!”) the business began in 1915 when his grandfather on his mother’s side brought his road contracting business to Harrisonburg from Winchester, VA. He came to the area in pursuit of road building jobs that were taking place there. Early projects included the Valley Turnpike, later designated US Rt. 11; the building of US 33, an east-west highway over Shenandoah Mountain that runs from Richmond, VA to Elkhart, IN; and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Frazier recalled how in the early days of road construction, contractors needed to produce their own aggregates for projects. With that in mind, Frazier’s grandfather opened a quarry on the east side of Harrisonburg to provide his needed materials and to offer general quarry service the local area. With the advent of the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway, granddad decided that he preferred the quarry business to construction contracting, so he devoted his full energies to the quarry operation. That would have been sometime around 1930. In the late 30s, the quarry supplied material for CCC projects and other pre-war construction.
Bob said that in or around 1946, his father, Robert Y., a graduate engineer from Ohio State, worked for a New York state paving company that did bidding on projects in Virginia including those in the Harrisonburg area. “They did asphalt work on US 11, on Skyline Drive and parts of US 33,” he said. “These were big projects. It was during that time that Dad came down and set up an asphalt plant for his company, in grandpa’s quarry, as was commonly done in those days. That was when my dad met my mom, and the rest is history!”
After getting married, Robert Y. served in WWII, accepting a commission in the US Navy. After the war, in 1946, Robert Y. returned and joined forces with his father-in-law by opening a second quarry on the west side of Harrisonburg, as a way of expanding the existing business. After a couple of years however, he had had limited success because of the quality of the limestone and its abrasiveness. Meanwhile, the original quarry was doing a successful business. That was when Robert Y. decided to start his own quarry at the Waterman Drive location. He had come to realize that with a child (Robert B.) on the way, it was a good time to start afresh.
“The Waterman Plant began serving Harrisonburg in 1949,” said Bob. “From that time until 1970, those two plants served the Harrisonburg area. It was at that time that we were able to lease the North Plant property to begin that operation. It was a green field operation and it was up and running in 1972. It is now our flagship plant.”
“In 1991-92 we acquired our third plant, the Thorndale Quarry operation up near Timberville, VA. More recently in 2012, we purchased our Elkton plant from Vulcan Materials. With the addition of the Elkton facility, we now have a source for Ag Lime because of the high magnesium, dolomitic limestone formations there,” he said.
“We currently have the Waterman Plant in an abandoned status because of the lack of demand from the economic downturn of recent years,” he said. “The North Plant has the capacity to meet our current demands, so this facility at Waterman Avenue is dormant. We have some future plans for other uses of this site but those are currently still in the planning stages.”
Bob said his brother Bibb, a co-owner of business, is the innovator of the operation while he, Bob, is the organizer. Bob’s son Rob (another Robert, Robert M.) said that his dad and his uncle work together to balance one another out in the ongoing daily process, which has been a key to the company’s success. Rob said that Bibb was instrumental in the automation of their North Plant, which led to improved efficiencies and profitability. Bibb’s implementation of a fiber optic system in 2005 allows one operator to oversee four plant segments at one time, where previously more operators were needed to do the same work. He also was instrumental in the automation of their sand plant in 1991.
He said that each family member that plays a role in the daily operations tends to work in areas of their individual strengths. For example, Rob serves as the director of health and human resources, while his younger brothers David and Mike work in sales and customer service, respectively. Bibb’s son Cy is currently in college studying geology and works part time with the company as scheduling permits.
Rob explained that the North Plant is a full-line quarry with a production mix that includes concrete and asphalt stone, Rip Rap, road base stone, and Ag lime. They also manufacture sand and they create a blended specialty road material called RDC. There, at the North Plant, we observed a new section of the pit where overburden was being removed. Frazier said they have contracted the clearing of the overburden to an outside, local company in an effort to use their own workers for ongoing quarry operations.
Currently material is hauled from the pit to the primary crusher via haul truck and crushed with a DBT (Hazemag) impactor. Material is crushed to a 4-inch minus then goes to one of two surge piles for further processing. On the finishing side of the plant, material passes over Deister triple deck screens and through a Stedman Stage Mill, with a second surge pile feeding the sand plant. In addition to the other materials mentioned previously, they also produce 21A/21B and 26’s. Their line also includes 57s, 3-inch and ¼-inch crusher run as well as 68s, 78s, 8s and 9s.
“The real story here is the next generation,” said Bob, earlier. “We want to focus on the next generation of family members and our staff of employees who make the operation run successfully. With 42 employees working with us at our four locations, they are the ones who deserve the credit for our success.”