I interviewed Chris King, Architectural Sales, with Summit Brick regarding his 37 years in the industry! He started in diapers!! Chris started with Phoenix Brick Yard in 1973 and stayed until 1979. The company was owned by the Campbell family and had been in business since 1918. He returned to them in 1986 and has stayed through thick, thin and a buyout by another family owned firm – Summit Brick.
What is the biggest change you’ve seen in masonry in the last 10 years?
“Definitely the move to thin brick.” The change came about in part to compete with veneer and thin stone. It has become wide spread now. Chris just completed work on The Muse in downtown Phoenix with 300,000 thin bricks! A current project in Tempe calls for 170,000 thin brick.
I was surprised to learn that most manufacturers make full size brick then cut them down to thin brick sizes. Chris explained that making full size brick allows for tumbling and other processing to get the appearance desired.
Not to say that full size brick has disappeared. Chris worked on Block 23 in downtown Phoenix which used full size brick along with numerous other projects. Two of his projects (at ASU and U of A) won Excellence Awards last year with full size brick.
What do you see as the future of masonry?
There has been a recent resurgence in brick projects. Previously market share had been lost to stone. Thin brick has gained popularity so more projects are being designed with brick. This trend will grow because of the unlimited design options of brick.
What would you tell a person starting out in the masonry industry?
Chris obviously has enjoyed his career in the masonry industry. He said the companies he’s worked for, the people he’s met and the projects he’s been part of have all been worthwhile and fulfilling. So he encourages people to join the industry.
His first recommendation is to find a mentor. Chris worked with Hank Slicer at Phoenix Brick Yard. Hank taught him not only product information but how to build a good reputation. “Relationships make all the difference.” Every decision doesn’t come down to price. A good relationship with an architect can help get your product on the specification to start with. (Hank was the first recipient of the Bart Del Duca Award in 1995.)
In addition, Chris encourages people to learn all they can about the industry, their product and even their competitors’ products. That kind of expertise builds relationships with architects, general contractors and masonry contractors which last much longer than a bid, a project or even a company. It’s OK to say, “I don’t know” if people trust you to find them an answer.
Join professional organizations which also give you the opportunities to get to know people. Stay involved in the industry all the time. The better your industry, the better your career. You’ll also enjoy the career a lot more when you make friends with interesting people.
One of Chris’ favorite jobs is the North Canyon High School at 16th Street and Union Hills. He worked closely with the architect to design the project and incorporate brick. He still loves the building every time he drives by it. It looks as though it was just built last year.
Which building are you most proud of and why?
Another job that pleases him is The Chateau on Central. Chris worked with the developer on this project. The luxury condo project was built with 8x4x16 hollow units. It used the equivalence of 2.5 million modular bricks! That was certainly an order he was happy to place. It was Phoenix Brick Yard’s largest single order. It was much harder to get the job completed! Financing problems shut down the job twice. A unit is on the market now with an asking price of $4.9 million.