The Estes’ Story
Six generations of manufacturing excellence
Ours is a true American story. One man, looking to feed his family, created a small business. That small business scratched and clawed its way from survival to success.
Six generations later, Elihu B. Estes’s small dream has risen to national prominence. We didn’t stumble into the title of Leaders in Color. We earned it by providing world-class service to multiple industries.
You can count on Estes to carry this legacy into the future.
Estes is Born
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 sand made a very good “blotting sand”—sand to soak up extra ink in old hand-written documents.
The black sand brought about two new products. One was black sign painters’ smalt, the material used in 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.
Enter Webster Estes
Into the 20th Century
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 Australia. Simultaneously, the smalt business—though smaller—did develop as well, with a host of colors and effects adding to the basic black product line.
Enter Clifford Estes
Through Great Depression
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. He moved to New York to the company’s headquarters in 1924. 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 through the Depression with the rest of America. Fortunately, it was able to survive.
Estes Finds Aquarium Sand
Another Century Turns
By 1950, Clifford’s youngest son, Frank worked in the business. The other sons, Elihue and Clifford Jr., worked part time. In the early 50’s, Frank noticed 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. Colored aggregates for aquariums were a novel idea at the time. 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.
During this time, all three functions would often include coloring the gravel, unloading gravel, delivering orders, or anything else it took to uphold Estes service standards. 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.
Estes Becomes a National Leader
Into Another Century
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. 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.
The Estes Company Today
2019 & Beyond
At the present, Estes Co. boasts a multisite manufacturing network of 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.
Over 150 years later, Estes the absolute leader in coated sand manufacturing. We look forward to continuing our service for the decades to come.
More About Us
The Clifford W. Estes Company is one of the United States’ leading manufacturers of industrial aggregates. We power solutions in the flooring, swimming pool, aquarium, and other industries. As such, Estes products touch millions of American lives every single year.
Our values shine through in all that we do. It’s about more than just good business. As a company, we try to make the world a better place. After all, we serve one of humanity’s oldest industries. We like to think our partnerships play a role laying the bedrock of society.