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Mathis Survives Down Economy by Staying Close to Home

There's No Place Like Home for Mathis Quarries.

Sun May 12, 2013 - Southeast Edition
Lori Lovely

In 1959 two brothers bought a used Cat D6 dozer in Salisbury, N.C., and launched a grading business that’s still going strong today.

When they began, Bill and R.T. Mathis cleared land for farmers, adding jobs of clearing roads for the state. R.T. passed away some years ago, but Bill is still working. Mathis, who farms cattle and hay, said he can’t sit around. He is a no-nonsense businessman who simply gets up and goes to work every day.

In addition to Mathis & Son Grading, which provides delivery of stone and dirt and performs all phases of residential and commercial grading and excavating operations, he oversees an affiliate company, Mathis Quarries.

The quarry originally opened during the 1960’s. It produced gravel for the old two-lane U.S. 421 from an existing pit on property the family owned. Two years ago, after adding a scale house and installing permanent scales, Mathis Quarries reopened for business. The quarry provides blue granite for use as sub base under streets and as rip rap, crushed stone products and fill dirt. Mathis Quarries sells the product to the public, but also uses the product for its own projects.

The quarry is now the main focus. Approximately 20 employees currently work for the quarry or the grading business. Others drive a dump truck or haul gravel.

In the past, Mathis crews worked all over the country, doing earthmoving. Now, work is chiefly confined to Wilkes and the surrounding counties.

“Sometimes we go as far as Virginia, but I don’t like to go too far, especially if it means spending the night in hotels,” Mathis said.

That’s indicative of the smaller jobs and tighter margins they work with now.

“We used to use our 631 and D8 on six-month jobs, but now it’s mostly mini hoes and skid steers for small jobs,” Mathis said.

Despite these cutbacks, the fleet has grown to include three D5s, two D6s, one D7, one D8k, two C21 pans, eight track hoes and a Bobcat mini hoe. With the exception of a few Hitachi and Komatsu trackhoes, most of his equipment is Caterpillar.

Although business has downsized, it has managed to survive.

"We do grading for a lot of Lowes [Home Improvement Stores]. We just did one in Asheville and one in Greensburg," said Mathis.

With Mathis’ youngest son now running the company, and his oldest son and grandson also working there, the company will continue to survive in the future. According to Mathis he said he walks a fine line between bidding low enough to get work, but not so low as to lose money. He relies on familiar customers he has served for years.

"Ninety percent of our work comes from repeat customers. They call and we take care of them," Mathis said.

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