From Surry County in the Hampton Roads area of southeastern Virginia through coastal North Carolina, there’s a geological formation known as the Suffolk Scarp.
In essence, it’s a sand dune, perhaps 1.5 mi. (2.4 km) wide and about 20 to 30 ft. (6 to 9 m) deep. Because of its compactible nature, sand from the Suffolk Scarp makes excellent fill material for contractors in the region.
For nearly 30 years, Henry Layden has been mining and selling Suffolk Scarp sand in the Smithfield, Va., area, first as Ivor Sand Company, and more recently as Bay Sand Company Inc.
“It’s a high-quality product,” said Layden. “Road contractors and builders like it because it requires less compacting, so it saves them time and money. Another advantage is that our sandy material is much easier to work with during the wet season. All in all, we believe we have a superior product and we pride ourselves on providing outstanding service to our customers, who are basically within about a 25-mile radius of Smithfield.”
Layden took a circuitous route to owning a sand company. He started his working career in the production engineering department at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co.
“I was 38 years old in 1978 and I just decided I didn’t want to have a desk job for the rest of my life. So I bought a backhoe and a small dump truck and started digging ditches, putting in septic tanks and doing odds and ends.”
His business took off and, in 1981, Layden got into the sand business. A few years later, he quit the construction side entirely, focusing on sand exclusively ever since.
“I like the work, I like the business and I like the customers. Service is our calling card and I think that’s the main reason we have a loyal clientele.”
Today, Bay Sand is very much a Layden family enterprise. Henry is president and takes care of operational duties; his wife, Nancy, a CPA, is vice president and secretary and oversees office activities; their son, Bobby Layden, handles sales activities. The family atmosphere extends to the 10 or so nonfamily members who work at Bay Sand as well.
“Everybody who works here is long-term,” said Henry Layden. “John Jones, our foreman and dredge operator, and his wife, Pat, an equipment operator, have been with me for close to 25 years. Our dispatcher, Leslie Cox, has been here for many years and she’s excellent. Everybody is a valuable contributor. We try to treat our employees well and we have very little turnover.”
In order to mine the sand and meet the needs of customers, Bay Sand, through the years, has turned largely to machines from H&E Equipment Services.
“I think I’ve been buying equipment from Tom Grant, who’s now the branch manager at H&E in Norfolk, since about 1990, when it was J.W. Burress,” said Layden. “They’ve been an excellent partner, providing outstanding service as well as high-quality equipment.”
Today, Bay Sand has four Doosan/Daewoo hydraulic excavators (one 300, two 330s and one 420) and two Kawasaki 80Z wheel loaders from H&E.
“Our Daewoo pieces have been very good machines — low maintenance, good production and limited downtime,” said Layden. “And the Kawasakis have been excellent wheel loaders for us. They’re strong. They go into a pile with ease and have good breakout force. Both the Daewoos and Kawasakis have also been very reliable and have lasted a long time, giving us low owning and operating costs.
“In addition to the quality of the equipment, our relationship with Tom and H&E is also very important in our buying decision,” Layden added. “We do our own maintenance and most of our repairs, but when we need H&E, we know they’re going to be there for us, and they’re going to treat us fairly and honestly.”
Bay Sand has removed much of the sand out of its current locations. The company is currently in the process of looking for new potential pit locations. They also have started dredging operations to get more sand out of the current properties.
“We have plenty of sand and other material for the time being, but down the road, we’re going to need some new pits,” explained Layden. “I’m confident that eventually we’ll find them and get approved for them, which will enable us to continue to meet the fill needs of our customers for years into the future.”
This article originally ran in H&E Equipment Services’ “In The Field” magazine.