Looking back: Franklin Concrete expands

Published 12:39 pm Friday, October 23, 2015

by Clyde Parker

October 23, 1965

A remodeling project at Franklin Concrete Products Corp., going on for the past three months, is nearing completion. The primary business is located in Isle of Wight County, just off Route 58, on Lee’s Mill Road.

Included in the construction project is a complete overhaul of the Company’s sales and administrative offices. And, now, the Company has a modern, well-stocked, building materials display room.

Robert C. (Bob) Ray organized Franklin Concrete back in 1946. The business, with just 12 employees at that time, started as a block and pipe manufacturing plant.

How did it all begin? When asked, Ray said, “I had just completed my World War II service and was back in Franklin. I was looking for a suitable business in which to engage.”

“The idea of a concrete products manufacturing plant came from the late Hunter Scott, who was then at the peak of his mammoth road building and construction business, W. H. Scott, Inc., headquartered in Hunterdale. Scott advised me to build an original block and pipe plant,” he added.

Scott served as vice president of Franklin Concrete until his death last summer.

In 1949, the Company constructed ready-mix concrete facilities and began marketing that product, using only three trucks.

From that beginning, eventually, that part of the business grew to such an extent that it was necessary to have a fleet of eight ready-mix concrete trucks, some being the most modern equipment available.

The next significant step in the growth of the business occurred in 1955. A retail and wholesale building material sales department was launched. About the same time, Ray purchased Home Building Supply Company of Franklin. That company’s East Fourth Avenue warehouse was ideal for storage and surplus merchandise.

To accommodate his growing building material business, Ray built two new warehouses and a lumber shed at the Lee’s Mill Road site.

In 1956, the Company added a warehouse for bagged cement and plaster products.

In 1958, Franklin Paper Sales Corp. was formed as a subsidiary of Franklin Concrete. Initially, paper products produced by Union Bag-Camp Paper Corp. was the primary focus; but, later, products produced by other companies were added for a more diversified product line.

In 1960, Ray purchased the assets of Community Realty Company, a home building organization with property on Country Club Road. A little later, he bought adjacent real estate for additional home building opportunities.

Also in 1960, young Albert Faison joined the Company. Bob Ray was looking for someone to do cost analysis and cost accounting for the Company. Faison took on that job; and, as time passed, he evolved into other aspects of the Company, including sales. “I did multiple jobs,” Faison said.

Ray, in reviewing the growth of his Company, said, “Our growth has kept pace with the development of the Franklin area. We are looking forward to and preparing for even greater growth in the future.”

Included in future plans for the Company is a warehouse and sales office in Franklin for paper products sold by Franklin Paper Sales.

This construction is expected to begin next year on the East Fourth Avenue property of Home Building Supply Co.

Over the years, the diversified company reached out to other areas in marketing its products. Ultimately, a network of 22 distributors was established.

R. Ellsworth Jones, general sales manager for the organization, said, “Our market area now stretches from Lawrenceville to Suffolk and from Windsor in North Carolina to the James River.”

Former Franklin man heads National Dairy

Gordon Edwards, formerly of Franklin, has been elected president of National Dairy Products Corp., one of the largest companies in the world. Edwards, who has been a vice president of the corporation and president of its “Kraft Foods” division, succeeds J. H. Wetenhall.

Edwards has been a director of the Company since 1962. He has been with “Kraft Foods” since 1949 and prior to that served many years with the Company’s “Sealtest” milk and ice cream business.

With Kraft Foods, he held positions of major financial responsibility and served as executive vice president prior to assuming the presidency of that division in 1964.

A 1925 graduate of Franklin High School, Edwards began working with the Company in Washington, DC while a student at George Washington University.

Incidentally, his late father, Claude J. Edwards, was a former mayor of Franklin and served as the first judge of the Franklin Municipal Court. His mother, the late Mrs. Marion Edwards, was a former “First Citizen” of Franklin. Edwards’ two aunts, Mrs. Blanche Edwards and Mrs. W. H. Arthur, still reside here in Franklin.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is magnolia101@charter.net