Pacific Clay Products Inc.
- Written by: Pacific Clay Products Inc.
- Produced by: Pacific Clay Products Inc.
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Pacific Clay Products Inc. (Pacific Clay) is California’s oldest producer of clay brick in addition to being a nationwide leader in the industry. The company, based in Lake Elsinore, Calif., offers a variety of 13 products. The production plant is capable of producing 40 million bricks a year that are shipped across the country. Pacific Clay is renowned for its array of brick colors and innovative custom shapes, including bullnose, mini-brick and ruffled texture.
Pacific Clay’s roots date back to the 1880s. Originally a producer of sewer pipe doing business as Pacific Sewer Pipe Company, the company began shifting its focus to the growing clay industry in Southern California. By 1921 the business was incorporated as its current designation and continued to produce sewer pipes until 1997.
As the business grew, Pacific Clay took great interest in the clay industry. The region where the company is located provides an array of clay materials, such as lake, stream and ocean deposits, as well as metamorphic clays. The presence of such material provides opportunity to create one-of-a-kind blends and produce brick that no other company can match.
By 1963 Pacific Clay was well established and bought Los Angeles Brick Company to focus more heavily on brick production. The company has provided brick for many of California’s buildings, including the buildings that populate the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California (USC) campuses. Today Pacific Clay employs 175 people and owns 1,400 acres of land for materials.
David Hollingsworth, currently retired president of Pacific Clay, had been with the company for over 50 years. After graduating from USC, Hollingsworth started working for the company on the raw materials side where he was involved in the laboratory mixing and designing new formulas for brick. As Hollingsworth continued his career in the industry, he transitioned into the sales and business side of Pacific Clay. Hollingsworth notes his understanding the raw materials side of the business has been invaluable.
“It’s our heart and soul,” says Hollingsworth. “Without the raw materials we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”
Building Bricks of the Nation
With such a storied history, Pacific Clay has produced bricks for many important projects across the country. Pacific Clay bricks are driven on daily when motorists and tourists visit Lombard Street in San Francisco. The world’s most crooked street has a quarter-mile section of brick road that Hollingsworth reports was laid 16 years ago.
“We’re pretty proud of that job,” he says. “It looks like it has just been installed.”
In addition to many collegiate buildings in California, Pacific Clay has produced brick used for dormitories on Princeton University’s campus and also a Donald Trump building in New York City. Pacific Clay is also honored that designers selected the company to provide brick for the new Fiterman Hall in New York City.
The original Fiterman Hall was built in 1959 near the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. The building was severely damaged when World Trade 7 fell on Sept. 11, 2001. The new building features 14 stories and was designed by the architectural firm of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and built by Hunter Roberts Construction Group. Hollingsworth expresses that it is an honor to have provided the brick for this project.
Overcoming Economic Setbacks
Pacific Clay has seen a significant decrease in business in recent years. The company is behind by 35 percent compared to business 10 years ago, according to Hollingsworth. “The slowdown has really hurt the company,” he says. “There’s a low volume of business out here.”
Many brick companies have been unable to survive the recent economic downturn and according to Hollingsworth, a nearby family-owned company closed its doors in 2011. Pacific Clay has survived on its ability to produce bricks like no other for jobs from garden projects and pool patios to large-scale buildings. Even other brick produces seek bricks from Pacific Clay when architects, designers or contractors are interested in a specific style or color.
“It’s a unique clay deposit; it’s like no other in the world,” says Hollingsworth.
With unemployment rates between 12 and 15 percent in the Southern California region, Pacific Clay relies on its nationwide industry to stay busy. It seems certain areas are already starting to see an upswing in business and according to Hollingsworth, Pacific Clay is noticing that with orders for those areas.
To keep the business evolving, Pacific Clay recently released a new line of garden products. Though Hollingsworth recently retired, he wishes the best for the company, including that the new release of products will help boost annual revenue. He also notes potential opportunity to expand the company’s brick paving sales. “It’s going to be a difficult road,” he says. “What I see is our essential market growth here being on a slow roll for the next couple years. I think it’s coming back, but the depth of this economic dip is the longest we’ve ever been involved in and it’s going to take a long time to get out of it.” Marking over 120 years of business, Pacific Clay Products Inc. sees hope in the future.
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