Saturday, June 15, 2024

Green shoots: Revitalizing rural N.C. brick by brick

Walk around UNC Charlotte, N.C. State, Wake Forest and High Point universities and one can’t help but notice the vast number of bricks dotting the campuses. It’s one of the many ways that family-owned Pine Hall Brick has affected North Carolina.

The Winston-Salem-based company, part of Business North Carolina’s Private 125 list of large N.C. private companies, has had a particularly big impact on Madison in Rockingham County. Its brick production plant employs 180 in the town of 2,100. 

Pine Hall is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, highlighting the Steele family’s longevity and impact. CIvil War veteran J.C. Steele founded J.C. Steele & Sons, a Statesville company that makes brickmaking equipment with operations in the U.S., Germany and Australia.

Separately, J.C Steele’s son, Flake, bought a dormant brick company in Pine Hall in Stokes County in 1922, which has evolved into today’s Pine Hall Brick. At the time, bricks were made from shale mined from mud banks along the Dan River. 

Fourth-generation family member Walt Steele, who joined the company in 2011, has been president and CEO since April 2021. He succeeded his father, Fletcher, who is executive chairman.

Pine Hall says it ranks sixth in U.S. brick production.

Pine Hall’s plants in Madison and Fairmount, Georgia, remain busy by staying attuned to changing trends and technology. It is the leading U.S. supplier of clay pavers after being first to introduce permeable ones. They allow for efficient disposal of stormwater, sometimes reducing the need for large retention ponds. 

In recent years, the company has expanded production of thinner versions of pavers that are increasingly popular for homes and offices. Pine Hall promotes the idea that homeowners can use them to convert a concrete-slab patio into a more elegant setting. 

With different members of the Steele family in charge for more than a century, J.C. Steele & Sons and Pine Hall Brick remain key players in North Carolina commerce.

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