The Story of the Willbee Family Concrete Business

Doug EnrightFebruary 10, 2015

The Willbee family has been in the concrete business for over 100 years. Most businesses, especially family run, can’t even come close to the trials and tribulations that lead you to endure this long in any industry. Let’s look at the Willbee family concrete business: The Willbee Concrete Valuts and Willbee Transit-Mix Co.

Stepehen Willbee, the current President of the Willbee Transit Mix Co., leads the fifth generation concrete business. The company started in an abandoned brewery, starting with concrete burial vaults. These are used to encase coffins during a burial to preserve them once in the ground. At the time, Charles and Frank Willbee mixed concrete by hand and used horse drawn sleighs or wagons to deliver concrete to and fro.

The company started in Adrian and moved to Jackson in 1911. The Adrian plant closed its doors in 1922 and eventually Charles’ son took over the family business and concrete blocks were added to the products they delivered across the area. In the beginning, they were handmade into individual molds. In 1930, the business changed with the introduction of machinery that allowed them to produce 4,000 blocks per day. By 1954, the Willbee’s were utilizing concrete for road and bridge products.

In the present day, the Willbee Transit-Mix Co works with ready-mix concrete, focusing on the do-it-yourself, local and commercial contractors. Willbee Concrete Vaults’ sole focus is still on concrete burial vaults for customers and families. This fifth-generation business has lasted so long because of the tenacity of the Willbee family, adapting to the changing technology in the industry.

Most family businesses don’t last the first five years, similar to other types of new businesses. When families can work together and see the bigger picture, successes like the Willbee concrete company can happen. It’d be no surprise to see the Willbee’s successful in the concrete industry for another century. Adapting to new technology, interacting with new customers and reaching out on the Web have positioned them in such a way to succeed no matter how the times have changed.

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