Graniterock celebrates 114 years in business

February 13, 2014

Granite Rock Company’s No. 10 Steam Engine

Valentine’s Day is typically celebrated as a day of love, but one operator has another reason to celebrate.

California-based manufacturer Graniterock celebrates its 114th anniversary on Feb. 14.

Graniterock spokesperson Keith Severson says the manufacturer — which produces aggregates, concrete, asphalt and construction materials — got its start at a large granite deposit next to a railroad in Aromas, California in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

A.R. Wilson Quarry crew members
A.R. Wilson Quarry crew members

The company formed on Valentine’s Day in 1900 and has been in operation since, working high-profile jobs including the runways at the San Francisco International, San Jose International and Salinas Municipal airports and providing material for Stanford’s Linear Accelerator Laboratory and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

When Graniterock was created, the company manufactured one size of rock: 6 inches by 6 inches. Severson says the manufacturer started with a “handful of laborers with shovels and picks” and has grown to open 20 locations employing approximately 750 people. The company is now run by the third generation of the family who formed the company.

Severson notes that the “little private rock company” received the Malcolm Baldrige Award in 1992 for its total quality management and has previously earned a spot among Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For”.

In addition to its growth and honors, the past 113 years have provided the company with a variety of interesting stories.

The manufacturer once had Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Steinbeck on its payroll. Steinbeck worked for Graniterock the summer of 1919, which Severson says was probably between his high school and college years. There, Steinbeck got some ideas for his book “Of Mice and Men.”

Granite Rock Company’s No. 10 Steam Engine
Granite Rock Company’s No. 10 Steam Engine

But that isn’t Graniterock’s only claim to historical fame.

Last year, for the company’s 113th anniversary, one surviving family member wrote Engine Number Ten, a book about Granite Rock Company’s No. 10 Steam Engine, Severson says.

The 50-ton Porter locomotive was an army surplus engine the company purchased after World War II, according to Graniterock’s website.

Severson says the train, which appeared in the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha,” is on display at the Sacramento Rail Museum. It was recently refurbished and will be back on the tracks by September.

Although Graniterock has a rich history full of interesting stories, the most memorable thing about the company is “the story of Graniterock people — people who have stayed with Graniterock for a long time,” Severson says

“People are the ones that make the difference.”

All photos courtesy of Graniterock.

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