November 1, 2012
By Kerry Clines, Senior Editor
The small town of Socorro, N.M., just south of Albuquerque, is the home of A1 Quality Redi-Mix, Inc., owned by Canda and Pablo Aguilar, Sr. and operated by the family. It’s a thriving company, consisting of a quarry, a ready-mix plant, and an asphalt plant, but it wasn’t always like that. It was quite different in the beginning.
Canda and Pablo started out with nothing but a small dump truck back in 1953. Canda would hold a screen in the back of the dump truck to screen the sand, and Pablo would haul the screened material to people in the area.
“Over the next eight years, they purchased two more trucks to haul manganese from the Black Canyon Mine located in the Socorro area,” says Steven Aguilar, one of Canda and Pablo’s sons. In 1967, when the Black Canyon Mine closed down, the Aguilars bought their first diesel dump truck, which they used to deliver products to other companies.
In 1969, the Aguilars bought their first screening plant and started providing sand and gravel to two concrete plants in Socorro and one in Belen. After hauling product to a lumberyard in Belen one day, the truck driver, Canda’s brother, mentioned that the lumberyard had purchased a new concrete batch plant and that its old plant was no longer in use. Pablo made arrangements to purchase it.
“They picked up and delivered the plant and cement silo on a Saturday,” Steven says. “The concrete batch plant was set up immediately, but the cement silo was not, due to the fact they needed a crane, and funding was limited.”
The Aguilars also bought a cement truck from the lumberyard that needed work. Once the truck was repaired, they began selling concrete. But, since the cement silo hadn’t been erected, they had to physically move the bags of cement into the plant. Canda had to go out and buy sacks of cement throughout the day. They continued to work this way for a year until they could afford to rent a crane to erect the cement silo. Once the cement silo was in place, A1 Quality Redi-Mix was born.
As time passed, the Aguilars purchased property 10 miles north of Socorro, in Polvadera, where they extracted sand and gravel. “Dad and Mom ran the business,” Steven says. “Dad was the mechanic, batcher, and delivery man, while Mom was the secretary, accountant, and parts runner. Before long, Uncle George [Pablo’s brother], my brother, Paul, and I became employees of the business.”
Business was steady, and two years later, a full-time secretary and four additional employees were hired. “We grandsons all worked when we were little, when we were 7, 8, and 9 years old,” says Jason Aguilar, Steven’s son and plant manager at the quarry. “I was always there, even at 3 in the morning. Sometimes they’d leave without me, and I’d bawl my eyes out.”
In 2000, the Aguilars bought a computerized batching plant and 200 additional acres in Socorro where they could extract sand, gravel, and crusher fines. They now have two screening plants and two crusher spreads — one in each location. They expanded their business to include a hot-mix plant as well. The company grew and prospered and now provides full-time employment for 26 people.
The quarrying operation produces sand and gravel for use in concrete, hot-mix asphalt, and as road base, among other things. “Right now, we’re making five different products,” Jason says. “I’m the foreman, but my grandpa and my dad are the big bosses. It’s a family business.”
At the Socorro location, quarrying is fairly simple. “We just scoop it up,” Jason says. “We have 200 acres here, and the deposit goes 170 feet down. There’s only 8 to 10 feet of overburden, which is just dirt, so we simply push that off. We don’t have to do any blasting.”
According to Jason’s grandfather, however, “It’s still a lot of hard work, that’s why I have Jason doing it now.”
“We have three sons [Paul, Steven, and Chris] and one daughter [Kathleen],” says Canda Aguilar. “Two sons and our grandson, Jason, work here at the quarry. Jason runs the whole processing plant.”
A second grandson, John, runs the ready-mix batch plant and handles estimates. Steven manages the business, and Paul hauls materials from the quarry to the ready-mix plant and makes deliveries, as does Norman, another of Pablo and Canda’s grandsons. Steven’s wife, Patty, and their daughter, Meghann, manage the office. The whole family does many different jobs to help keep the business going.
Other companies, like Lafarge, have come to A1 Quality looking for aggregate to use for freeway work in the area. “They work out of our pit, because we’re close to the freeway,” Canda says. “They know there’s rock here, so they lease part of the property. The rock is called rhyolite. It’s a very tough rock — very strong and hard to crush.”
The processing plant is pretty basic, nothing too fancy, but it’s all automated. “The employee in the control tower controls everything, from the conveyors to the speed of the VSI to the speed of the material being fed. We bought a new concrete batch plant about 12 years ago, and it’s all automated as well. It’s really nice.”
Depending on what jobs there are, the quarry produces anywhere from 85,000 to 125,000 tons of sand and gravel per year. “We use most of it ourselves,” Jason says, “but we get contracts through the county and state for base coarse and chips. We also sell to individuals. We get a lot of small customers daily, but mostly on the weekends.”
Scales are located at both the processing plant and the batch plant. “Thirty years ago, people would come in, and we’d sell it by the yard,” Jason says. “Now, everything is weighed.”
A skid-steer loader is constantly in motion at the processing plant. “We have material left over from some of our jobs that sits for a while,” Jason says, “so we put it back on the conveyor with the skid steer. We also use the skid steer for clean up around the plant.”
The amount of asphalt made at A1 Quality varies from job to job — cold mix can be anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 tons per year and hot mix between 5,000 and 10,000 tons per year.
The company started out at the batch plant location, and so did the quarry. “There’s still an old crusher at the bottom of the hill,” Jason says. “It has been there for more than 30 years. That’s where we used to get our sand and gravel. When the deposit ran out at the batch plant location, we opened up the quarry at our current location. We’ve been at this quarry for 12 years now.
“It’s a very interesting story,” Jason says, of how his grandparents built the company. “It’s hard to believe how they came to be, and how they brought the company from nothing to where it is today.”
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