The Belden Brick Co.

It’s a rare company that survives two generations of family leadership. But The Belden Brick Co. of Canton is run by the fourth generation of Beldens, and members of the fifth are learning the ropes.

Robert Belden, the company’s president, says that, to his knowledge, the family has never been afflicted with the problems that plague many family businesses, and the family members who have been involved have all voluntarily chosen their careers. The company’s leadership succession path has never been assumed or forced.

For instance, Robert Belden started his career in the financial industry, but in 1983, at age 36, chose to leave the stress of the financial markets behind and return to help run his family’s company.

Today he leads The Belden Brick Co with his cousin, William Belden, chairman and CEO. Robert’s son, Robert, recently joined the company in a training position, along with three other cousins, John Belden, vice president of sales and marketing; Bruce Belden, drawing foreman at Plant No. 3 in Sugarcreek; and Brian Belden, marketing manager.

The company was founded in 1885 by Henry S. Belden and a group of investors as the Diebold Firebrick Co. In 1912, the name was changed to reflect the family ownership. Today, Belden Brick manufactures clay brick, paving brick and chemical resistant brick.

Belden Brick also owns Redland Brick Inc., a brick manufacturer, in Williamsport, Md., and two brick distributorships, Belden Brick Sales & Service Inc. of New York and The Belden Brick Sales Co. of Fraser, Mich. Sales at Belden Brick last year were around $50 million; combined sales for the two manufacturers and two distributorships exceeded $80 million.

Belden Brick’s largest project last year was the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, which used more than 1 million bricks. Its total annual production capacity is about 250 million bricks.

Robert Belden says customers differentiate one brick from another by looking at consistency of color, presentation, good clay, strength and a low absorption rate. He says that while strength and absorption are important factors to consider, it really comes down to appearance, since today brick is most often used as a veneer as opposed to a structural material.

“We’ve always been highly focused on quality,” he says. “Our motto is, ‘We are the standard of comparison in the brick industry.'” How to reach: The Belden Brick Co., (330) 456-0031

Connie Swenson