Rockydale Quarries Corporation has operated in the Roanoke Valley since 1932. The company took its name from its predecessor, Rockydale Stone Company that was founded in the early 1920s, which in turn was named for its original location at Rockydale Heights in northeast Roanoke.
The original owners defaulted on a note with Mountain Trust Bank during the great depression, placing the small bank in a precarious financial position. At that time, Russell Holman Willis, Sr. was the chairman of the bank's finance committee. To assist the bank during this difficult financial period, Willis assumed the operations of the business and the note, which was not fully repaid until 1948.
Being an attorney by trade, Holman Willis, Sr. had no previous experience in the mining industry and was confronted with a continual lack of capital and material resources as were many businesses during that era. At that time, the sophistication of the process equipment was extremely limited compared to today's standards.
The overburden was removed by shovel and wheelbarrow. The only power mobile equipment that the company owned was a steam shovel that loaded 2-ton "dinkeys" that were pulled out of the quarry pit by mules. The material was then dumped into a hopper that carried the material to a crusher and from there up two trammel screens that sized the material and placed the finished product into bins mounted on top of a concrete structure. Train cars and trucks then pulled the bins for delivery.
In 1938, the quarry was closed after it was flooded by the adjacent Tinker Creek for the third time, and the operations were moved to a site near Tinker Bell off Hollins Road. The company operated there until 1942 when it moved its operations to Route 460 where Blue Stone Block is located today. Rockydale operated at that site until the limited reserves were depleted and the company was unsuccessful in obtaining additional land for their operations.
In 1944, Rockydale was moved to its present site, taking over an old State Penal Quarry. Due to labor shortages during World War II, Holman Willis, Sr. utilized his influence as a retired State Senator to retain some of the detainees of the prison through pardons. Material and fuel shortages during this time also required ingenuity and adaptations in their operations. Old railcars were utilized as storage bins for aggregate, old truck transmissions were utilized for the speed reducers for the bucket elevators, scrap metal was utilized for structural support in the concrete that was poured, and wood was employed where possible for structures, etc. due to the lack of steel. Production was often limited by the lack of fuel to run the trucks utilized for hauling out of the pit.
After World War II, Holman Willis, Sr.'s sons Keith and Gordon returned from military service and began taking active roles in the management of the company. Holman Willis, Sr. remained as the corporation's president until his death in 1954. Each of these gentlemen were strong advocates of national service and community involvement and demonstrated their commitment through participation in various community organizations including Chamber President, Roanoke United Way Chairman, and President of the Virginia Community College Association.
Keith succeeded his father as president until his death in 1968. During this period the company enjoyed prosperity from the increased demand for aggregates that was fueled from Roanoke's growth after the war. Innovation in power haulage, drilling, crushing and loading equipment during this period increased the capacity and productions of the quarry. Due to the chemical make-up of the deposit, focus on the agricultural market was targeted, and Rockydale looked to rail as a means of expanding its markets to the Carolinas.
In 1959, Rockydale purchased a site and leased a rail siding from Norfolk and Western Railroad in Starkey, Virginia. There, a processing plant was erected to produce agricultural lime and fertilizer filler. Rockydale also ventured into a partnership with W.W. Boxley Company and opened a quarry in Martinsville, Virginia, and two new quarries in Lynchburg, Virginia, under the name of Rockydale Stone Service. During this time, Rockydale also leased property to Virginia Asphalt Company. In addition, S.R. Draper Paving purchased a site adjacent to the quarry which expanded its aggregate sales for bituminous asphalt.
Gordon Willis, Sr. became president at Keith's death in 1968 and remained president until his retirement in 1994. The company continued to prosper under his leadership, and sales continued to increase to just over one million tons per year. In 1969, Rockydale divested its interest in the Martinsville quarry and as part of the divestiture it retained Appomattox Lime Company, which fit well with the company's focus in agricultural products. Appomattox Lime Company, in turn, purchased two quarries in Staunton in the late 1970s, Staunton Lime Company and Belmont Trap Rock. It is interesting to note that both Appomattox Lime Company and Staunton Lime Company had active operations going back to the 1700s and were also penal quarries. During this time, due to depleted reserves and competitive pressures, Rockydale sold its interest in the Lynchburg quarries.
The management of Rockydale passed to the third generation when Gordon Willis, Jr. became president after his father's retirement in 1994. During his tenure, Rockydale opened up its Jacks Mountain Quarry in Glade Hill, Virginia, in 1996 and also diversified its interests into ready mix concrete with the acquisition of Franklin Ready Mix Concrete Co. in 1997.
In 2002, Rockydale Quarries introduced several "green" products to meet the new environmental regulations required by state and municipal governments. Rockydale Quarries manufactures a bio-retention soil blend that meets the rigorous design specifications that are mandated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Rockydale also produces an engineered topsoil that is manufactured by blending soils and locally composted leaves. Rockydale's topsoil is utilized for residential, commercial and municipal projects that require a high quality topsoil with specific chemical and organic needs. These products are exclusively offered at the Rockydale locations in Roanoke and Jacks Mountain.
In 2004, Rockydale began providing portable crushing services to its customers. With increasing transportation costs, more and more contractors are utilizing onsite material for their aggregate needs. In response to this demand, portable crushing has allowed Rockydale to increase market share outside normal geographical service areas. The units have provided services for both private and public sector projects.
In 2007, the shareholders of the Corporation initiated a significant change in the corporate structure and corporate direction by initiating a national search for non-family board members and management personnel with related industry experience. The goal of this action was to professionalize management, initiate growth and ensure stability of the company for future generations. In 2009, Ken Randolph joined the company as CEO and President. The other members of the executive management team include David Willis as Vice President of Operations and Joseph W. Altizer, II, CPA, as the Chief Financial Officer. The company also decided to focus on its core business and divested itself of the ready mix concrete operations in 2009.
In 2010, Rockydale opened Charlottesville Stone Company and in 2011, purchased two C.S. Mundy Quarry operations. These locations expanded and consolidated our market in the Charlottesville, Staunton, Harrisonburg, Rockingham County, and Shenandoah County regions. Rockydale has begun branding all operations under the Rockydale corporate banner. By expanding the Rockydale name in all of our markets, we have been able to successfully capture several projects due to the fact that the contractor was familiar with our "quality product and service" as a past customer.
The year 2012 signified the 80th anniversary of Rockydale Quarries Corporation. We are growing and aligning our resources to guarantee that our company will be here for 80 more years and beyond.