ASALN: What, in your opinion, is the current status of the antique brick industry? Is the industry growing? Declining? Level?

MG: I have a hard time answering that sometimes. It feels like it’s growing, and one of the reasons is that there are some more players in the industry now, and that our industry has stayed pretty stable over the last five years. I think the industry is showing some growth, which has opened up opportunities for those new players. Anytime there’s competition, there’s more product, and we see that as a good, healthy thing. Our company has just been really stable. I can’t say there’s been huge growth, but the type of niches we play to have been stable.

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Is this changing or does it remain constant?

MG: We’re located in the Midwest, and a lot of our business is here. Chicago has always been a strong market for us, and people there have awareness about antique brick, which clears the first hurdle. In other markets, there isn’t quite as much awareness so you’re educating as to why it’s a good choice compared to new brick. There are new materials made to look old – they can pass the eye test. We’re trying to reach consumers who really want the authenticity of it – the look and the authenticity. It needs to matter to the client that it is the real deal, and that they’re willing to pay a little bit of a price premium on the product and the shipping.

We focus on the residential side, but we’d love to do more commercial. We really feel like we do our best in our focus area – the paving side of the residential market. We sell a lot of brick pavers and cobblestones. What we’ve seen within that segment, year over year, is that there are trends that affect us too. Brick is hot for a while. Then cobblestone. Then it’s not. Then on top of that there are color preferences that seem to be very generalized throughout the market too. Antique bricks and pavers in the red zone are popular, but sometimes it’s the earth tones, then it jumps over to stone. There seem to be cycles of brick versus stone and different colors that people want to be in. That ties back to a lot of styles, such as when there was a big movement to French-style homes, which tended to use more earth tones, while Tuscan-style sees reds come into play.

 

ASALN: What type of product(s) are you seeing demand for? What’s hot now?

MG: Brick has come back, and people want the cooler tones. In stone, salt and pepper is popular, as opposed to reds. For us, the cobblestone market has taken a bit of a hit for whatever reason, and there are several theories out there. Certainly the cost of transportation has gone up, and with cobblestone being so thick, you don’t get as much square footage on a semi so your cost per square foot gets pretty high. Whether it’s wood or brick being salvaged, it’s typically not being resold into the same market so transportation is usually a factor. There are reports on driver and truck shortages. Hopefully the market corrects that and gets it back to where it needs to be. And, there are less skilled tradesman out there who do a great job installing that type of material, and the people who do command a premium price.

 

ASALN: Are there any challenges related to the industry presently?

MG: Quality always has to be a focus. If there are customers who have a bad experience, that can send ripples through the market. We’re constantly working on and paying attention to quality on our side.

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MG: I do really think that thin brick is a growth area, and that it’s just starting to get tapped into. On two areas of cost – freight and installation – the thin brick gives you a better chance in both. And because it’s installed like ceramic tile – you don’t need a licensed mason, which means there’s a lot of labor available at a lower cost.

We are involved in the thin brick market and have had some success. What’s great is it’s a complement to our product line. A lot of what we do is paving applications, but with thin brick, we can now get involved on the inside of the house too. The type of client whose interested in using antique brick on the exterior is also interested in using it on the inside as well, for kitchens, wine cellars, etc.

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