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Decades of Experience Guide Pageland Sand

Wed February 23, 2000 - Southeast Edition
Diane Jowers

Carlisle T. Smith of Bennettsville, SC, was born in the first decade of the twentieth century. He remembers working for a company that used mules to pull pans of concrete to build bridges on the Blueridge Parkway and knowing that he was better off than many of his friends when he made $30 a week. As the twenty-first century gets under way, he is 90 years old, and his brisk walk and matter-of-fact conversation convince everyone that he is managing two companies of his own very well. He uses the latest and greatest equipment available and, with a hearty laugh and contagious smile, refuses to discuss how much money he makes.

Smith and A. F. Warden of Cheraw started Warden and Smith Inc., a ready-mixed concrete company in Bennettsville, SC, in 1956. “We started a concrete business with a 1942 GMC Army surplus truck with a homemade concrete container attached to it,” Smith said. Now he depends on people like Sales Representative E. C. Murray of Interstate Equipment Company to keep him up-to-date on the advanced technology that will keep his concrete business and Pageland Sand Company Inc., performing competitively. “We have a Kawasaki 90Z3 that has 25,000 hours on it. We’ve worked it hard, and the only thing that we’ve had to replace on it is the transmission, and that after more than 20,000 hours,” said Pageland Sand Plant Supervisor Richard Sellers. This performance record and Murray’s excellent service resulted in the recent purchase of a Kawasaki 90Z4 from Interstate Equipment.

When Warden died in 1965, Smith bought out his interest in the concrete company and became sole owner. He started his sand business in 1981 and is still the active, energetic president of both companies. “We’ve been at this location near Pageland for 13 years, and E. C. Murray has been calling on us all of that time. We enjoy his visits and have learned that we can count on his word and depend on his company before and after we buy equipment,” said Smith.

Pageland is in Chesterfield County in South Carolina, just below the South Carolina/North Carolina border. Many of Pageland Sand Company’s customers are from the Monroe and Charlotte, NC, areas. The company has approximately 150 regular customers; they come from South Carolina, North Carolina, and as far away as Virginia. Most of them are truckers, distributors who buy the sand to resell to construction project contractors. “The Charlotte market is booming, and we are confident that it will continue to boom. That is one of the reasons that this is such a good location for us,” said Leon Douglas, vice president and general manager of both Pageland Sand and Warden and Smith.

An even more important reason for the company’s location is the fact that there is virtually no sand north of the Pageland area. “Sand is found along the fault line, which runs from Fayetteville, NC, down through here to Pageland, Cheraw, Camden, Columbia, and Aiken, South Carolina to Macon, Georgia, Montgomery, Alabama, and Jackson, Mississippi,” said Smith.

The methods for mining the sand on the 65 acres of Pageland Sand Company have changed drastically over the years. “When we started the sand business, we used a shredder with a hopper, which just broke up the clay in the sand without removing any of it. Now we use power screens to remove some of the clay,” said Smith. The Extec 6000 screen is doing the job for him now, and it is producing the sand that masons want (with some clay for its adhesive qualities and suitable for mixing with washed mortar sand). Smith’s companies also use motor graders, excavators, and rubber tire loaders. “We have seven equipment operators here at Pageland Sand, and they do a great job. To us that means, not only the efficiency that produces profits, but also the safety that has won us several awards,” said Sellers.

Sellers has been plant supervisor for 29 years and is just one of many “old-timers” with Smith’s companies. There are also a lot of family connections in the businesses. Sellers’ son, Jonathan Sellers, is the Pageland Sand Company maintenance supervisor.

There is ample evidence that the employees are happy that Pageland Sand has remained a small business with the informal atmosphere that resembles that found at gatherings of family members and long-time friends. On cold days, the young equipment operators enjoy listening to Smith’s stories of the old days as they have their lunch in the office trailer. Office Manager Shirley Burr laughs at their questions and proudly produces Smith’s photo album so that he can show them how thing used to be done. “My tire man is 83 years old, and he remembers how tough times were. He just doesn’t remember them quite as far back as I do,” said Smith.

For the Smith family, those times started when Carlisle was nine years old and his father’s death ended the family’s prosperity. Things got worse for the Smiths and for the nation. The Depression, which Carlisle Smith experienced when he was in his 20s, and sheer determination forged a tough businessman. He worked at a service station in Charlotte, installed gas pumps for Sinclair, and worked at a Mullins, SC, tobacco warehouse. “My sister, who is now 95, wanted to help me to get a better job, and she signed me on for a paving job in Marlboro County. Then, in the 1930s, I got into building the bridges on the Blueridge Parkway,” he said. During three years of work on the Parkway, Smith was involved in the building of 10 bridges and still enjoys driving through the area to look at them. He also worked for an Alabama construction company for 13 years building post offices.

The hard times also produced a man with a tender heart for anyone in any kind of trouble. “I have been determined to keep my companies small with employees who care about each other, provide specialized services, and show concern for every individual that they come in contact with,” he said. The Shaw family is an excellent example of the family connections and mutual concern that exists in Smith’s small businesses. One of them, a concrete truck driver for Warden and Smith for 30 years, got sick and was kept on the payroll at regular pay for a year. “We still try to help, and his wife calls us when she has car problems,” said Smith. Two other Shaw brothers started working for Warden and Smith Inc. 29 years ago. One went with a competitor for a short time, and came back; now there are two sons of the younger Shaw generation with the company.

Smith’s employees are trained to help truckers in the sand pits with any problems that they may have. “When they have a breakdown, we do what has to be done to get them back on the road. They are paid by the load, and time is important to them, so it must be important to us too. We help them to meet their challenges, and they keep coming back, which helps us to meet ours,” he said.

Challenges to Smith’s concrete and sand operations are similar to those of all construction related businesses. “We always have to deal with the equipment, the people, and the weather,” said Douglas.

“We depend upon companies like Interstate Equipment and sales reps like E. C. Murray to help us to meet the equipment challenges. We depend upon Richard Sellers to manage our people here at Pageland Sand, and he does an outstanding job,” said Smith. As for the weather, the concrete business grinds to a halt in rainy, cold weather, but the sand business booms. Construction companies stock pile sand when they can’t work at their construction project sites. “That’s just one of the many benefits of having two small businesses with different customers,” said Smith, who also sees many benefits in dealing with small businesses like Interstate Equipment Company.

Murray sees many similarities between Interstate Equipment and Smith’s companies. “Like Pageland Sand and Warden and Smith, we have been around a long time and will have been in business 54 years this year. We have stayed small, continued to serve a well-defined area, and developed long-standing employee, customer, and supplier relationships,” he said. Interstate also concentrates on treating people well and “keeping in touch.” Through continuous contact, often for decades, many of Murray’s business contacts become close friends. “I enjoy getting to know people well, and I show an interest in what’s going on in their businesses, their families, and their towns,” he said. His approach succeeds in winning him a lot of respect and repeat business throughout the 15 South Carolina and North Carolina counties that he serves. Interstate Equipment Company’s product lines include Kawasaki, Terex, Champion, Gorman-Rupp, Talbert, Besser, Rosco, Telsmith, Esco, Ferguson, and many others.

This story also appears on Aggregate Equipment Guide.

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