A business in quarry production, sand & gravel pits, hot-mix asphalts and ready-mix concrete chooses Komatsu for its machines working tough in brutal applications and for its dealer's implementation of a stringent maintenance program
The members of the Braen family who currently operate Stone Industries and its subsidiaries aren’t sure of the full story behind how their great-great-grandfather started what’s grown into a fifth-generation family business. The story involves Samuel Braen taking over a quarry in Patterson, N.J., as payment for a gambling debt in the late 1800s.
Though he didn’t have much experience in the quarry business, Braen was able to take over the quarry that was located in an area known as the “Valley of Rocks.” He soon learned the business could be profitable and began seeking out other locations, eventually establishing quarries in Hawthorne, Riverdale and Suffern, N.Y. As the business grew, he brought his son Abram into the fold, and eventually Abram’s sons Samuel Sr. and John took over.
Under the third-generation ownership of Samuel Sr. and John Braen, the family business continued to flourish as the two began adding other components to the main business of quarry production. They established sand and gravel pits, hot-mix asphalt plants and ready-mix concrete locations in northern New Jersey and southern New York.
It would be under the helm of Samuel Sr.’s son Sam Jr. that the Braen family business would change names for the last time as Sam Jr., his mother, Frances, and his wife, Janet, settled on Stone Industries, Inc. Janet became Chairwoman and CEO upon Sam Jr.’s death in 1999. Stepsons Scott, who is President and COO, and Samuel III, who is Production Supervisor, play key roles as well, and are part of the fifth generation in the business.
Also part of the fifth generation are Sam Jr. and Janet’s children, which include Samantha, Director of Human Resources and EEO Officer; Josh, Assistant Manager of Braen Supply, Inc.; and Dirk, Production Coordinator.
“It seems like everyone who’s part of the business has been around it from the time they were very little,” explained Janet. “It’s always been a part of their lives, in their blood. It’s a thrill to see how everyone works together. Not many businesses survive through five generations, so Stone Industries is unique in that aspect. It’s quite a story.”
Moving toward a ‘one-stop shop’
With current quarry locations in Haledon, Ringwood and Franklin, Stone Industries continues to make supplying building materials the core of its operations. From its three quarry locations, Stone Industries produces as many as 20 different aggregate products ranging in size from jetty stone to manufactured sand.
In addition to its quarry operations, Stone Industries has two asphalt plants in Haledon that supply asphalt to northern New Jersey and southern New York. The company added asphalt milling to its list of services and more recently began recycling asphalt, concrete, block and brick to better serve its customers.
“Our operations have always been very customer-oriented, so we’ve added services over the years to assist them,” said Scott. “It’s something that’s been passed down through each generation, and we’re very proud of that. I don’t believe we’d be in business today without a strong focus on customer service as well as producing quality products.”
That quality products offering extends to the company’s subsidiary, Braen Supply, of which Josh is Assistant Manager. Braen Supply offers landscape, masonry and building supplies to wholesale customers at both its Haledon and Haskell locations and to retail customers at Haskell.
“Adding Braen Supply to the mix was another response to customer needs,” commented Josh. “We were sending customers elsewhere to get the materials that we now supply. It makes us more of a one-stop shop.”
Staff helps in winning awards,
Quality customer service extends beyond the Braen family. Each of the 125 employees who are part of the Stone Industries team is dedicated to meeting customer needs as well. Like the Braens, there are generations of families who have worked or are working for the companies under the Stone Industries banner.
“We have the best employees in the marketplace, and we believe they’re like members of our extended family,” Scott emphasized. “They know the business inside and out and they treat it like it’s their own. Many of them have been with us a very long time. They’re not a number to us. They’re our best asset. Because we believe that and work to treat them well, we have very little turnover. That makes a big difference in the quality of products and services we provide.”
It’s also helped Stone Industries garner a considerable number of awards in the past decade, including the Diamond Achievement Award from the National Asphalt Pavement Association in 2002 and 2003. Stone Industries has numerous Rutgers Asphalt Conference Paving Awards, was named one of New Jersey’s Finest Businesses and was given the “New Jersey Family Business Award” from New Jersey Monthly magazine.
The company has also been honored by several charitable organizations for its work in the community. Stone Industries encourages its employees to donate time and money, and often matches those donations.
“It’s something we truly believe is valuable, and a way for us to give back to the community,” said Janet. “We like to foster a positive atmosphere, so we and our employees enjoy our work. We’re very proud of that.”
Solid equipment that lasts
The Braens’ commitment to quality products extends to its equipment fleet. The Braen family has worked with the Binder family for many years, starting with the purchase of crushing and screening equipment. More recently, Stone Industries has worked with Kirk Chagnon, Binder Machinery’s Vice President of Field Sales in North Jersey, to acquire Komatsu excavators, haul trucks and wheel loaders.
“Our first Komatsu purchase was a PC400 excavator, and right away we had a strong sense that it was a solid machine that could work under the tough conditions we put it in,” observed Samuel Braen III, who oversees production of the company’s quarries, which now employ three PC400LC models. “Working in rock can be a brutal application for a machine, but we’ve had very few issues with the PC400s. We get a lot of versatility out of them because we use them for stripping overburden and bank run out of the ground, as well as screening and hammering rock. They’re not doing any gravy work. Our intent is to keep our excavators 6,000 hours or beyond, and we’ve easily been able to do that with the Komatsus.”
Stone Industries expects to get well beyond that number of hours from its Komatsu HD605 70-ton haul trucks. “Typically we keep our trucks to about 40,000 hours, likely rebuilding the engines about halfway through,” explained Scott. “Komatsu has a great reputation, and that’s a big reason why we chose to switch some of our trucks to Komatsu. We had been loyal to another brand for a long time, but they weren’t able to supply us when we needed some new trucks. Scott did some checking around and found that Komatsu has become very prevalent and well- received around the area. After using them for a few months, we found out why.”
Komatsu WA500 wheel loaders, which are new to Stone Industries’ equipment fleet, load the trucks and load out other materials. “They’re not in a really heavy application, but they’re running nearly full bore all the time, so we need something that will continue to run without costing us in downtime,” said Samuel III. “The Komatsus have fit the bill very well.”
Ensuring that remains the case falls on the shoulders of Stone Industries’ service personnel, who implement a stringent maintenance program, with occasional help from Binder Machinery as needed. “Whenever we’ve needed extra help, Binder has stepped up to be there quickly,” Scott affirmed. “Dedication to customer service is part of our equipment-buying decision. Binder has always been good about backing its machinery, and Kirk and the staff at Binder have been great.”
Potential for a sixth generation
The Braens expect that relationship to last a long time, even beyond their tenure with Stone Industries. The fifth generation is setting up the business for a potential sixth generation to take over someday.
“There’s always the possibility that the fifth generation’s children will be involved someday,” said Janet. “When the first Samuel Braen founded the business, I doubt he thought about it surviving 108 years and beyond, but I’ll bet he’d be very proud to know that it did.”