During my visit to A. Anthony & Sons Inc., one thing that stood out to me is the company’s dedication to tradition.
That tradition is evident in the framed photos of earlier generations hanging on the wall of an office.
But there’s also a much, much older tradition to consider – one that dates back centuries.
After all, as company Vice President John Rahner describes, A. Anthony’s concrete mixing follows some of the same essential principles that were established in Roman times.
That includes using Lake Erie sand and crushed limestone from quarries in Michigan and Canada in the concrete mix, in order to guarantee a better product. River/field stone is cheaper, Rahner says, but it’s not as good in our climate for longevity.
The focus on quality is something that the current owners – the fourth generation of the Anthony family – learned from the earlier generations. Rahner’s wife, Peggy Anthony Rahner, is the company president, and other branches of the family are represented as well.
Their Anthony ancestors started the business as a small operation in 1939, and grew the business by adding the batch plant in 1972. That purchase, though originally done out of necessity to get the concrete transported to sites in Erie, proved to be a successful enterprise that continues to boost the company.
Today’s owners still face challenges, including the unpredictable weather that all-too-often dictates the concrete placement schedule. But overall, the Rahners say they are content with their company, and with a business that allows them to create a tangible product for their customers.
“You want a business where at the end of the day, you can say, ‘That was a good day,’” John Rahner says. “And there’s a lot of good days.”
About A. Anthony & Sons: The company, which employs 37 in a full season, operates a ready-mix division, which brings in roughly the same amount of business as concrete placement. The company consumes most of the mix it produces. The majority of the company’s business is in commercial and construction work, though they also do residential work and new building. Some of their work can be seen around the community, including at the Prep and Villa Events Center, the Hagen History Center, and the fountain in Perry Square.
Why Erie County: The business has found a secure footing in the Erie economy. Residents are still investing money in their properties, the Rahners said, In addition, they anticipate an uptick in business as a result of some of the large-scale construction projects cropping up in the county. While the larger concrete firms will likely bid on those big projects, some of the residual work will trickle down to A. Anthony & Sons. Beyond that, the Rahners say, are the characteristics that are unique to Erie. “I’ve lived other places, and you just can’t duplicate the quality of life here anywhere else,” John Rahner says. “And everyone knows your name,” Peggy Rahner adds.
Challenges of Erie County: Some of the challenges that A. Anthony faces have more to do with the nature of the work than anything else. The work requires physical labor, and that can wear on employees – some of whom have been doing that hard work with the company for decades. Efforts to find young, willing workers have been mixed. In addition, the company has found it challenging to work with a bevy of regulations – some on the municipal level, dealing with issues like permits and storm water management, all the way up to agency regulations on the state andfederal levels.