Brickworks North America and Glen-Gery introduce new supply center.
Legend. Icon. Artifact. Landmark. When you’ve been around for a century, you get called a lot of things. With the introduction of its new masonry supply center, Glen-Gery has earned even more monikers: Innovator. Leader. One-of-a-Kind.
Nick Busch, Glen-Gery’s Supply Center Manager, says, “I’m excited about this because of the opportunities it presents. We can bring in architects, masons, homeowners, builders to collaborate on projects. We have an almost 19,000-square-foot warehouse here with samples of every brick we manufacture and the space to educate the trade audience on how to use them.”
The stunning facility, located in Urbandale near the Highway 141 exit off Interstate 80/35, includes a 7,000-square-foot showroom, a consultation area, a trade sales area, a fully equipped training and education center, and a high-end event space.
“We have a commercial kitchen, too, so we can make the events hosted here really special. If you have a premium product and a premium space, like Glen-Gery does, you have to offer premium events,” says Brickworks North America president Mark Ellenor.
The supply center’s May 26 grand opening was just such an occasion. Kicking off with a preopening press event and tour, the evening also included cocktails, dinner, and entertainment.
In the light-filled main showroom, dining tables were surrounded by artfully designed product displays that served as backdrop to the activities. That comfortable yet innovative setting reflects what the company envisions for the supply center as well.
“Coming here is supposed to be an enjoyable experience,” Busch says. “We don’t want people to be overwhelmed, even though we do have samples of every product we manufacture. Some are on the changeable displays, but many are in hidden drawers below the display wall. We want customers to come enjoy the space, walk around, move around the space. And when they’re ready, we have a great staff to help them make the best decisions for their home.”
Ellenor, a native of Australia, where Brickworks Limited is based, adds, “We have facilities like this in Australia, but this one is certainly a step up from anything we’ve done before.”
Glen-Gery, a Des Moines institution for more than a century, was purchased by Brickworks as its first expansion outside Australia. “We liked Glen-Gery because it was a premium brick maker,” Ellenor says. “We make an array of brick products in Australia, and we’re very good at making and marketing bricks. We scoured the world to find the best fit for our first international investment and ultimately settled on Glen-Gery because they had premium products but old facilities in need of upgrading, and we’re very good at that.”
Just one year after purchasing Glen-Gery, Brickworks purchased Sioux City Brick, which further established the company as the premier supplier in the Midwest. The brick products offered ranged from entry-level to top-of-the-line options, but Ellenor says the branding didn’t match the existing showrooms.
“You can’t sell Tiffany earrings at the dollar shop,” he jokes. “We wanted to design a facility that equaled the premium quality of the products and services we have to offer, which is unique in the United States”.
Busch agrees. “We have the facility to train all levels of the industry here. We can bring in 10×10 wall units and have hands-on training so contractors know how to install our products and builders and architects aren’t afraid to specify them. We even have a retail area where we have anything and everything a contractor could need to install our bricks, from trowels and levels to gloves and everything else.”
“We wanted to create a facility where a tradesperson would be as comfortable coming in with dirty boots as an architect would be to bring clients for product selection,” Ellenor says.
With covered storage on one side of the building, the facility offers protected loading and contractor access no matter what the weather. The light-filled front showroom boasts state-of-the art interchangeable displays to serve retail customers and design personnel.
“We actually provided the brick for this building when it was first being constructed,” says Busch. “So it’s fitting that we ended up selecting this space for our new supply center.”
With its easy access to all parts of the metro and beyond, the Glen-Gery team anticipates serving clients from across the state. And with two manufacturing plants just a short drive away, Glen-Gery is able to offer almost nonexistent lead times while some competitors are facing up to six-month delays.
Like the old, dated Glen-Gery offices on Ashworth Road, the brick industry in the U.S. has been in need of an upgrade. The investment Brickworks has made in Glen-Gery reflects its commitment to transforming that image.
“Bricks last forever,” says Ellenor. “They’re not a commodity product despite the old perception. They meet every demand homeowners could ask for. They’re durable, they’re cool in the summer and warm in the winter, they have very low maintenance requirements, and the design possibilities are endless.”
He says most homeowners aren’t even aware of the options available, and that’s one of the exciting pathways Glen-Gery has mapped out. “Home buyers spend more time selecting the tap (what you call the faucet) and spend more on that upgrade than on the brick,” says Ellenor. “But the exterior of your home is the biggest fashion purchase you’ll ever make.”
He adds that the price difference from entry-level to premium brick is only 10 to 50 cents per brick, which amounts to an average of a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars on the typical home.
“At this new supply center, we can help homeowners make those exterior selections with confidence,” he says. “We have designers and color consultants who will sit down with you and look at your plans, talk about the styles and colors you like, find a brick that you love, then advise you on the colors to choose when you go to select the roof, the trim, and everything else.”
As property values continue to climb, making that investment wisely becomes even more important. “At the end of the day, you’ll spend just a little bit more on a better-quality brick, but you’ll be much happier with the finished look. When one builder or one homeowner in a neighborhood does that, it sets the standard,” Ellenor says.
To Busch, that attitude is what makes the future for Glen-Gery as exciting as the past has been. “Glen-Gery is an iconic company, and that Ashworth building helped establish that,” he says. “But I don’t regret leaving. It’s time for us to have our moment here in this new space. We’ve got a parent company that’s willing to invest in what we do and make an even better product. This new space reflects that.”