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The construction business that Julian Gerken founded in 1959 now includes multiple subsidiaries and more than 500 hardworking men and women.

The story of The Gerken Companies begins with Julian Gerken, a homegrown native of Napoleon, Ohio. Early in his career, Julian tried his hand at farming, serving in the military, and working in his father Carl’s excavating business, C.F. Gerken and Sons.

Julian left the family business to launch his own construction company in 1959. Although Gerken Materials, Inc. was rooted in the asphalt industry, Julian quickly recognized that aggregate production and supply would eventually be vital to keeping his new enterprise competitive.

In the late 1960s and early 70s, Gerken Materials acquired its first aggregate production operation. That company, purchased from Leo Eberwine, was located on the Maumee River near Gerken’s material yard. The dredging operation provided sand to Gerken’s Napoleon asphalt plant and various local ready-mixed concrete yards.

Julian envisioned quickly doubling the size of the dredging operation and lessening its commute up and down the river. That strategy helped sustain the company’s growth throughout the century.

While the dredging operation gave Gerken a taste for the aggregate business, it was through prior connections to his father’s business that Julian learned of a limestone quarry in Bluffton, Ohio. In 1989, Julian purchased The Bluffton Stone Company, an operation in existence since 1940. Its favorable proximity to I-75, stone quality, and ample reserves made it an ideal fit for Gerken’s initial step into aggregate production.

The Next Generation

Around that time, Julian began recruiting a younger generation to join his company and brought sons Mike and Brent into the business. Mike took charge of The Bluffton Stone Company and remains its president today.

The Bluffton Stone Company would be a “stepping stone” as Julian and Brent began making additional strategic purchases to support their expanding asphalt production and paving businesses. In 1994, they acquired the mineral rights and assets of The France Stone Co. The resulting company, The Custar Stone Co., has continued to grow and support Gerken operations in Northwest Ohio.

Gerken Materials acquired Seaway Sand & Stone in Toledo in the late 1990s and MacRitchie Materials of West Millgrove, Ohio in 2007.

Together, all those operations produce approximately 1.2 million tons of aggregate annually to support Northwestern Ohio’s construction industry. And, with the addition of several sand and gravel operations in recent years, Gerken Materials has expanded into Southeastern Michigan.

The Gerken Companies entered the concrete industry in 2019 by acquiring M&R Ready Mix. The company quickly expanded its ready-mixed concrete business by acquiring Kuhlman Corporation and Williams Concrete, making Gerken one of the largest ready-mixed concrete producers for residential, commercial, or industrial projects in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

The company’s growth through acquisitions became possible because of the long-term relationships Julian and his family forged throughout their many years in the construction business.

A Family of Businesses

Now known as The Gerken Companies, the business Julian Gerken began currently consists of numerous subsidiaries, 14 asphalt production locations, and employs more than 500 men and women—including six asphalt paving crews, two construction crews, and three milling crews. The Gerken name remains synonymous with quality and integrity.

Today, Brent Gerken serves as president of The Gerken Companies. He is active on many boards and committees and supports legislative efforts to encourage continued investment in our country’s infrastructure.

In addition to Brent and Mike, other Gerken family members working in the business include their siblings Shelley Gerken Miller (Controller-Paving Division) and David Gerken (Systems Manager); daughter-in-law Wendy Gerken (Accounting Clerk); Mike’s daughter Mandy Gerken-Snyder (Vice President, Legal, Risk & Compliance); and sons-in-law Mike Miller (Michigan Asphalt Salesperson), Kevin Ash (Vice President of Gerken Paving), and Steve Weaver (Transportation Manager).

Asked what he attributes the company’s success to, Julian credits the life experiences that took him beyond his Henry County roots, solid friendships with other industry leaders, and good old-fashioned luck. Brent adds that Gerken’s foundation of success includes the company’s greatest asset—incredibly hardworking employees.

Gerken boasts of being the “home” to generations of local families. Indeed, the company has been part of the Gerken family for many generations, and generations of many families have been part of the company.

We look forward to continuing that trend well into the future.

C.F. Gerken and Sons Historical Photo
Historical Photo
Julian Gerken Photo
Bill Krueger and Julian Gerken look on as Andrea Carpenter of Northwest-Signal christens a new portable blacktop plant in 1962.
Historical Photo
Historical Photo