MULZER RELIES ON TRANSPORTATION TO EXPAND BUSINESS
The sales area for an aggregate operation is usually limited to an area that a truck can travel in a couple of hours. Any further, and the cost of transporting the stone outweighs any benefits. As a result, any quarrying company that wants to expand must own quarries over their whole territory.
Mulzer Crushed Stone, however, has become a regional crushed stone supplier, not by relying on a network of quarries throughout their territory, but with a transportation system that provides crushed rock to customers hundreds of miles away at competitive prices. The transportation system is the river barge and Mulzer is so committed to this low cost system of transportation that it is the owner of one of the largest private fleets on the US inland waters. The result is that Mulzer provides crushed stone to states from Indiana to West Virginia.
Mulzer’s position as a major inland waterway transportation company is a far cry from where it started 70 years ago in Indiana. The three Mulzer brothers, Arnold, Roland, and Edgar started a small construction company that worked on ditches built along newly constructed roads in Indiana. As construction money dried up in the Depression and World War II, the Mulzer Brothers started to mine coal to make ends meet. When the road department deeded a local source of aggregate, the Brothers opened up a quarry near Eckerty. This worked well for the Mulzer Brothers because the summer seasonal demand for stone in construction dovetailed with the winter demand for coal. The crew could move from coal mining to quarrying, depending on the season.
During the 1950s, the company began to evolve. Mulzer established a yard in Derby, Indiana to load stone from a quarry onto barges for the industrial construction along the Ohio River. The Brothers realized that the river gave them a competitive edge unavailable to other quarries. They quickly bought the quarry that was providing the stone, enlarged their Derby operation,, and purchased the first of many flat-deck barges to transport stone up and down the Ohio.
The following years saw Mulzer continue to focus on the Ohio River corridor. The company focused its growth by acquiring stone, gravel, and sand operations located near the river. In 1962, they purchased the Bedford-Nugent Company – a sand and gravel dredger operation. They also developed the Cape Sandy operation, which is the mainstay of the company today. Cape Sandy is one of the largest mining operations in Indiana today.
Throughout the Mulzer’s history the Ohio River has remained the company’s logistical backbone. The river allows the company to extend its reach over a vast area – spanning from Mt. Vernon, Indiana to Hughes Creek, West Virginia. This network requires three large line boats, eleven switch-boats and one-hundred and twenty flat deck barges. Mulzer now operates one of the largest private fleets on U.S. inland waters. The fleet is considered not only one of the largest, but one of the most technologically advanced river fleets in the country.
The focus on the Ohio River also gave the company a chance to expand its presence up the river in West Virginia with the purchase of Shamblin Stone of Charleston. When the owner of Shamblin decided to retire in 1990, he contacted Mulzer to discuss the possibility of a purchase. An agreement was quickly made and Mulzer immediately became a major aggregate supplier in the state. The rock is received by barge from Cape Sandy and the Indiana quarries. Shamblin offers service throughout the state with Shamblin’s six yards and truck fleet.
Mulzer may be a regional aggregate player, but it still retains the personality of a family owned business. This is seen at Camp Mulzer, which was built by the family with loads of volunteer help from employees. It is home of the annual Mulzer summer picnic and employees and owners work together to make the food and provide games for one and all. The menu includes BBQ chicken, fiddlers and a company specialty, creek fried potatoes. The feast is topped off by some of the many desserts provided by employees and their families. Every year the picnic is put on the road and taken to our employees in West Virginia.