Acme Block and Brick has been producing the building blocks of homes, businesses, schools and more throughout East Tennessee since 1942, and has been in Cumberland County since 1982.
The business is still family owned and operated by the Rivers family, with Brantley Rivers heading the operation as president.
“I grew up in the business,” he said, adding he worked in the industry out of state before returning with his wife and joining his brother and father in the family business.
His great-grandfather, A.J. Rivers Sr., purchased the business, which was started by the Soloman family in the late 1890s. Brantley is the fourth-generation Rivers family member to head its operations.
For a time, the company kept production facilities in Roane County while the operation in Crossville grew. Around 2003, a decision was made cease the manufacturing operations in Harriman and, in 2004, built a retail outlet in Kingston to service Roane County, making Crossville it’s sole manufacturing facility.
“Being in Cumberland County lets us be close to our aggregate suppliers, which is a plus when you look at the cost of fuel,” Rivers said. “But Cumberland County is also just a great place to work. The people are fabulous.”
In Crossville, the average longevity of employees is around 10 years, though some employees have even longer tenures with Acme Block and Brick, a few with 25 to 30 years.
“It’s a good place to do business, and it’s a county other counties probably need to look at as a model for bringing industry in,” Rivers said.
The production facility on Dayton Spur Rd. covers about eight acres, with a showroom for its products and a full-line of other building products and accessories; a manufacturing facility in production six days a week; and a storage yard filled with inventory of the almost 100 products produced on site.
Acme Block and Brick also has retail sites in Kingston and Alcoa to serve the East Tennessee market.
Company-wide there are about 30 employees but most work in Crossville, with about 15 employed locally.
In the production facility, four main ingredients are used to make the concrete blocks and decorative concrete pavers and bricks: sand, cement, limestone and water.
“Those all come from local quarries,” Rivers said. “It’s just like baking a cake.”
The ingredients are proportioned out according to the mix needed for each product and mixed. Once that’s done, it’s put into molds and hardened. The facility can make 10,000 to 12,000 blocks a day. That includes all types of masonry materials and hardscape materials.
Some products needs to be lighter weight, and there is an additive used to accomplish that goal.
The masonry and hardscape materials are used in homes, landscapes, retaining walls, outdoor living areas and more.
In addition to the products Acme makes, it also sells a variety of masonry products and accessories. Acme sells a variety of brick for building exteriors from a number of producers, each offering a unique design element.
Stains for concrete are popular products, and Acme shows off the beautiful finishes that can be achieved in each of its showrooms.
“Our products are limited only by your imagination,” Rivers said. “You can do pretty much anything you want. If you can dream it up, you can achieve any look you want to achieve.”
Two years ago, Acme Block and Brick expanded with a retail superstore in Alcoa. Knoxville has always been a strong market for the company, and adding the convenience of a retail location there for builders, contractors and do-it-yourselfers had been part of the company’s growth plan for many years before.
“The cards fell right to do that, and it’s worked well,” Rivers said. “It was a good move for the company.”
Looking ahead, Rivers is enthusiastic about what the future holds. Just this past week, an upgrade of the manufacturing facility will allow use of new colorization technology.
“Technology is constantly changing, and we’ve tried to stay up with it,” Rivers said. “Keeping up with the new technology helps us have a competitive advantage in our manufacturing. In any industry, you have to use all the tools you can to help you keep moving forward.”
Increased interest in LEED building technologies and standards is something Rivers said may increase in the area in coming years. Acme does produce some materials that meet those green building standards, and is ready to amp up that portion of the business as consumer demand warrants it.
Whatever the future holds, Rivers said Acme will be ready. In fact, there’s already signs that business is ready to pick back up after several years of slowed residential building in the recent economic downturn.
“We’ve seen an uptick in residential building in all East Tennessee counties, and the commercial side had been pretty steady,” Rivers said.
Despite the economic troubles of recent years, the company did not reduce its workforce, though production did slow to meet demand.
“I’m proud to say that, through the economic downturn, we had no lay offs,” Rivers said. “I know some competitors had to do that, and some even shut down. That’s one of the good things about this being a family owned business. It’s hard to shutdown, especially when you consider a lot of the people working with you as family.
“They’re all good people, hard workers and they give it their all when the come in here.”
Community involvement is a strongly held priority for the family-run business.
“I’m a stickler for that,” Rivers said. “You need to give back to the community that gives to you.”
The company supports many local causes and helps ensure employees can take part in community service organizations in the communities.
To learn more about Acme Block and Brick, visit the website, www.acmeblockandbrick.com, call 484-8435 or visit the business at 248 Dayton Spur Rd.