Up to the Task
Empire Blended, of Bayville, New Jersey, has over seventy years of dedicated work as a family-run manufacturer of specialty cement products with more product choice than any other firm. We spoke with its Vice President Randy Gornitzky to find out more.
The company was founded in 1946 in Newark, New Jersey, by Murray Gornitzky. At that time, the business produced supplies for paint, tile, and floor grout. He manufactured a tremendous amount of whitewash, which was popular at the time. In 1960, he acquired the Rainbow brand line of pigments for paint and supplied small paint stores all over the Northeast.
“Over the years, that has adapted to the market, and there are no longer all those paint stores, but it is a very popular line of color for mortar and all different kinds of cement products. It is still a very well-known brand in the Northeast, with a different use,” says Randy.
In 1976, Murray’s son Jay entered the family business. He took the company further into the direction of private packaging, toll blending, and contract work to harness the strength of its manufacturing abilities, increasing the production of grouts, mortars, and patching materials. He continued to expand that area also with private label and contract packaging.
In 1991, Jay teamed with New Jersey Pulverizing, maker of Ace-Crete, and room was needed, so the two companies built a new space in Bayville, next to the New Jersey Pulverizing facility, and this is where the company is now. “The benefit to this partnership was that New Jersey Pulverizing produced all of the dry graded sand that Empire Blended used in their specialty and cement products. In exchange, Empire Blended contract packaged all the specialty items for Ace-Crete,” says Randy, noting that this has been “a mutually beneficial relationship.”
Ace-Crete always wanted to get into the specialties business but did not know how. Empire wanted to expand but did not have the financial resources necessary. The partnership enabled both companies to succeed. That partnership lasted until March of 2018 when the acquisition was officially closed.
Randy joined the company in 2009. He had worked for his father over summers out of high school and college but never considered working there full-time and instead chose to get involved in investment banking looking to do operations management and corporate development for a much larger company.
“While I was in the investment banking program, my father had an opportunity to start a distribution business, with no desire to do it on his own. He was in his late fifties, so he called me, and that is when I went into the business to start and run it,” says Randy.
Since 2009, the distribution business has expanded, and Randy has been much more involved. In 2013, Jay stepped down, and Randy ran both the manufacturing and distribution aspects of the business. Jay still works full-time but in a lesser capacity. The company continues to grow, and the distribution company is now three times the size as when Randy started.
Empire Blended prides itself on being capable of doing anything as a one-stop-shop. It can now run the sand plant, dye, and screen all its own sand, which is the primary component of everything it makes.
“We have two different production facilities that can just about do any type of packaging, and now we own the trucking company to deliver the product. We work with our customers on product design, packaging, and sourcing in order to facilitate everything,” says Randy.
Its customers want to do business without worrying, and the company’s adaptability helps. Clients have different formulas and ways of doing things, but Empire is up to the task. It has relationships with raw materials packaging suppliers that can supply anything the customer wants. The majority of what it does is for companies looking to have products made for them. Empire becomes the manufacturer, and its customers do the marketing and selling.
“There are all different kinds of companies that manufacture specialty cement products, materials, grouts, mortars, and colored products. Some of our customers use us as their exclusive blender for all their products that are shipped all over the world,” says Randy.
The range of products made by Empire is vast. Products are used for typical infrastructure repair of airports, runways, bridges, highways, buildings, and sidewalks. In the construction industry, it makes specialty pipeline materials and products designed for retail trade like Home Depot and other stores. This broad range of capabilities makes it stand out. There may be competition, but none those companies can come close to accomplishing the range of things it performs.
“We even do sculpting mixes, casting mixes, and specialty topping mixes. All kinds of decorative substances. Anything that falls into the realm of cement sanding chemicals or any combination of that in any package size. That is what we do,” says Randy.
The company is truly independent, whereas most firms that do contract packaging or blending use it as a side business. Its loyalty lies with those for whom it packages. Companies feel comfortable with this because they know that Empire is not looking to compete with them.
“From the different types of products and packaging to the logistics services behind that and flexibility in the office. Because we make our business on contract packaging, we literally have an entirely different customer service process for each of our major customers. It runs in terms of how they want the shipment documented or how the transportation is accomplished,” says Randy. On any given day, the company could be following fifteen paperwork systems to write up orders.
Finding good labor is the main challenge for this company that values work ethic over skill sets. “Experience and/or education is not a game breaker. All we ask is that you show up and work well. We are having a very hard time with that. We find that we lose people quickly, and finding others is difficult,” says Randy. It takes very little for it to let somebody someone go for safety violations or poor attendance as there are many factors forcing the company’s hand regarding OSHA and MSHA regulations.
In the past few years, there has been an enormous expansion of Empire’s decorative concrete products, including coloring for concrete and other types of ornamental work. People seem to want more beauty, even in items like sound walls for highways.
“They want it colored and textured, rather than generic concrete. Rosetta and Readi-Rock type walls are going towards colored and textured. More people are choosing color pre-cast rather than generic pre-cast. We do a lot of work within the color market,” says Randy.
Empire works on custom-colored patch material for various historical restorations, which is a big market in the northeast part of the country. On older buildings that need restoration, the aim is to match mortar and concrete that has been in the wall for over one hundred years.
“We do a lot of that and a lot of custom jobs now that architects are being more specific about what colors or mixtures they want. A lot of that work within the decorative concrete business has been an enormous push for us as we keep growing in that area,” says Randy.
Looking forward, it will continue to open more facilities. With the new acquisition this year, it will go from one to two, and it is actively working on constructing a third. In ten years, Randy sees Empire running three fully operational facilities and starting to work on a fourth, in addition to a tremendous amount of expansion on the current plant.
Since the facility was built, it has always been adding new equipment, warehouses, offices, laboratory space, and production lines. It will continue to expand current facilities and grow at a steady pace. The trucking company will also broaden.