In 1847, Elihu Beach Estes started a company that sourced and resold a special black sand found in the upper Lake Champlaine region of New York. He found that the black sand made a very good “blotting sand”, sand that would soak up extra ink in old hand written documents.
The black sand brought about two new products. One was black sign painters’ smalt, which is the material used in the old fashioned signs with gold letters. The other product was a wood shaker to dispense the blotting sand. That product was then broadened to include specialty wood boxes, which were used to package pharmaceuticals in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Elihu’s son Webster entered the business in the 1870’s. He saw the potential in both the smalt and wood box business. He developed both dramatically. By the 1890’s, EB Estes & Sons was the preeminent pillbox supplier in the world, with offices in New York City as well as Europe and even Australia. During this time, the smalt business, though smaller, did develop as well, with a host of colors and effects adding to the basic black product line.
Clifford W. Estes entered the business around 1912. At that time, EB Estes & sons had factories up and down the East Coast of the US, as well as in Europe. In 1924 he moved to New York to the company’s headquarters. Turmoil soon struck as Webster unexpectedly died, the Great Depression began and an unforeseen shift in the packaging industry made wooden containers obsolete.
What followed were the selling off of the wood factories, and retreating to the much smaller, and less profitable colored sign smalt business. It was at this time the business name was changed to the Clifford W. Estes Co. The company struggled, as did most of America, through the depression.
By 1950, Clifford’s youngest son, Frank worked in the business, while the other sons Elihue and Clifford Jr. worked part time. In the early 50’s, Frank could see the trend in sign painters’ smalt going down. Having a young family to raise and feed, he searched for a new use for the colored granules. A friend of Frank’s suggested he try the aquarium business. It was a novel idea at the time to consider colored aggregate in aquariums. However, it was the right product at the right time and place. During the 1950’s, the management team of Frank, Clifford Jr., and Dave Minasian was formed. Frank ran production. Cliff ran the finances, and Dave ran the sales & marketing.
At that time, all three functions would often include coloring the gravel, unloading gravel, delivering orders, or doing almost anything else it might take. Each of them would often bring their work home at night in the form of paint and pigments that were run that day. By 1970 the company was the undisputed leader in aquarium gravel, a position it has held to this day.
In the 1970’s, Estes’ began expanding its products and its geographic presence. Product lines that were developed in the 70’s included Architectural Aggregate, Art Sand, Coated Natural Gravel, and Hydrophobic Sand–Sand that doesn’t get wet. Estes’ also opened its first remote manufacturing facility, in Staley, North Carolina.
Frank and Cliff soon brought on the next and fifth generation, Steve and Doug Estes. These cousins soon became firm business partners as they widened the reach of the Estes Company. A lucky twist in the flooring industry caused an increased demand for flooring quartz, and seeing a profitable opportunity, Estes’ second satellite facility was built in Ottawa Illinois. Seeing a further demand in epoxy flooring, Estes’ added their vinyl line and rose Pete Osborne, a gifted business and manufacturing mind, to the position of COO and president
At the present, Estes Co. boasts a multisite presence manufacturing to the highest quality in our industries. We are proud to supply our customers with the highest quality products with a family oriented work force. We cherish every customer and every team member that make Estes a great Company.
It has taken us over 150 years to become the absolute leader in the coloring and coating of sand and gravel!
If they are quiet, the stones will cry out.
The Estes’ company is owned and managed by people who hold very tightly to some guiding principles in their lives. They are:
- There is a God who has created and ordered the Universe, this world, and our lives.
- God does in fact love us. He provides for us.
- As a rule, humans tend toward their own selves, rebelling against the true God. This is commonly called sin. It is separation from God, rejection of God, or the formation of our own view or version of our own god.
- God is holy. He is perfect. Although the human race has and continues to reject him, he has made a way to reach out and save us from the doom of that rebellion. The way is Jesus.
- Although he was born poor, never wrote a book, never ruled a country, never traveled more than 300 miles from the place of his birth, was given over by his own country men to be killed, there is no one who has ever influenced the world as much as Jesus has. He is our Lord and Savior.
- We order our lives around Jesus. We follow his teachings, and strive to obey his commands. We believe that the Christian Bible, Old and New Testaments are the inspired word of God.
What does that mean to you?
We run the Estes’ Company to honor God. We respect the individuals who work for us. We respect the world of nature that God has created. We are bound by our Lord to be honest and fair with our suppliers, with our employees, and with both our direct and indirect customers. We stand behind our products, our agreements, and our employees.