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.