Brick Company History

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Brick Company History: 1980-1997

In 1980, Paul B. Belden III leaves Belden Brick to buy Grand Rapids Builders Supply Company. He remains on the Belden Brick Board of Directors. Burke Wentz reported that Empire Coal is interested in the 330 acres adjacent to the Port Washington Plant. Empire has a long-term coal lease with Belden Brick.
By the end of 1981, the Port Washington Plant had ceased production and Empire remains an active prospect to purchase the plant and its property. Belden Brick agrees to guarantee the redemption of Belden-Stark Brick Corporation shares owned by Stark Ceramics. Belden-Stark of New York agreed to pay semi-annual installments plus accrued interest over a four-year period to complete the buyout.

On October 16th, 1981, the last brick was manufactured at the Port Washington Plant.

In June 1982, a letter of intent was signed by Stebbins Manufacturing to purchase the Urichsville Plant along with the inventory and supplies at cost.

In early 1983, the sale of the Port Washington Plant and its land (nearly 400 acres) is completed with Empire Coal with an agreement allowing the Company to liquidate 5 million brick equivalent of inventory. At the Annual Shareholders Meeting in April, it was reported that 1982 was the worst year for housing starts since the 1930’s. The Company shipped less than half the volume it had shipped in 1977 at the peak of the construction cycle. In July 1983, William H. Belden, Jr., son of William H. Belden, Sr. was named President and Robert F. Belden, son of Richard F. Belden, was named Vice-President of Marketing. Paul B. Belden, Jr., remained Chairman of the Board and William H. Belden, Sr., was named Chairman of the Executive Committee. David Hartung was elected a member of the Board of Directors of The Belden Brick Company and remains a director of the company today.

Burke Wentz announces his retirement effective 12/31/84. When he retired Mr. Wentz completed 59 years of service to The Belden Brick Company, second only to Paul B. Belden, Sr. William H. Belden, Sr., says “When I think of The Belden Brick Company I think of Burke Wentz.” Mr. Wentz, a Board member, nominates Larry Myers to be the VP-Production responsible for all manufacturing operations.

1985. Marks the 100th Anniversary of The Belden Brick Company.

In April, Howard Finzer retires after 44 years of service. Howard is the last remaining direct link to the Finzer Brothers Clay Products Company whose purchase brought Belden Brick to Sugarcreek in 1946. In December 1985, The Belden-Stark Brick Corporation of New York makes it final payment to Stark Ceramics making it a “wholly-owned subsidiary” of The Belden Brick Company.

On the day of the Annual Shareholders Meeting in 1988 (April 27th) Paul B. Belden, Jr., passed away. William H. Belden Sr., is elected to replace his brother as Chairman of the Board. At the June meeting of the Board of Directors, Joseph G. Belden was elected to take his father’s board seat.
In mid-1989, the Company was studying the possibility of building a new plant and Belden Brick Sales in Detroit was looking for a new office site.
In 1991, Belcap is formed as a “wholly owned subsidiary” of the Company to invest in IDI of Brimfield, Ohio. IDI is in the waste management business. In July, Joseph G. Belden is named president of IDI. In the fall of the year, the Mayor of Sugarcreek prematurely announces that a new production facility will be built by Belden Brick in the village. This proves to be extremely premature as only very preliminary work is underway. Belden Brick Sales in Detroit completes the purchase of the Suburban Brick Company in Fraser, Michigan, a Detroit suburb. They begin to move their operation to Fraser and sell the Livernois Avenue property in Detroit in May of 1992.

On September 1, 1992, Paul W. Hartung, Jr., retires from the Company following 42 years of service. Burke Wentz dies on October 16, 1992 in Columbus, Ohio. The Company is actively seeking a buyer for its interest in IDI.

In late 1992, Jim Klein joined the Belden Brick Company as Vice President of Administrative Services and was chosen to lead the company’s efforts to develop and implement our Quality Management System.

William H. Belden, Sr., dies on March 6, 1993. At the Annual Meeting in April, William H. Belden, Jr., is elected Chairman of the Board and his brother, Thomas G. Belden, is nominated to replace their father on the Board of Directors.

1995. Fourth Generation of Management.

The 1995 Annual Shareholders Meeting saw the election of Robert F. Belden as President, D.E. Engelbach, VP-Finance and CFO, and William H. Belden, Jr., as Chairman and CEO. A new plant in Sugarcreek was still being considered and plans were made to develop the Sugarcreek Industrial Park on Belden land on the eastern border of the village just north of Route 39. At the end of 1995, Bruce Strouse, Corporate Secretary, announced his intention to retire in early January of 1996. David L. Hartung was named to succeed Bruce as Corporate Secretary and is still in that role today.

1996 is an important year in the history of The Belden Brick Company. Dan Belden, Sr., the third son of Paul B. Belden Sr. and legal counsel for the Company passed away. Paul W. Hartung, III, a partner in Putman Properties, is engaged to promote the Swiss Village Business Park (formerly Sugarcreek Industrial Park). The Belden Brick Company reaches agreement with Redland PLC to purchase Redland’s American brick business, Redland Brick, Inc. The transaction was completed on September 30, 1996 and included the Cushwa Plant in Williamport, Maryland, the Harmar Plant near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the KF Plant outside Hartford, Connecticut. Redland Brick, Inc. is a “wholly owned subsidiary” of Belden Brick and its management team is led by Jim Vinke. Late in 1996, Richard F. Belden, Director of Purchasing, retires after 55 years of service to the Company.

1997. Fifth Generation Joins Belden Brick.

In 1997 at the Annual Meeting, Jim Vinke is introduced to the Shareholders and Michael B. Belden is elected to take his late father’s place on the Board of Directors. Later that year, Jim Leahy joins the company as a staff accountant and Brian Belden, son of William H. Belden, Jr., joins the firm as Marketing Coordinator.

Brian is the first fifth-generation Belden to be employed at the Company on a full-time basis. Proposals for a potential new plant continue to be received. Most of the major kiln manufacturers, Ceric, Swindell, Lingl and Keller have made proposals.

1998 sees the contract for a new plant in Sugarcreek (Plant 2), first announced by the Mayor seven years earlier, awarded to Lingl, a German manufacturer. Hammond Construction of Canton will be the General Contractor. Plant 2 will be situated between Plants 4 & 8 in Sugarcreek on currently owned Belden Brick property. Jeff Adams is named IT Director for both Redland Brick Inc. and The Belden Brick Company and becomes the first employee to report to both companies simultaneously.