EPPING - After 126 years, W.S. Goodrich Inc., a fourth-generation family-owned masonry yard, is up for sale.
Owners Bob and Dave Goodrich admit that putting the business started by their great-grandfather on the market was a tough decision, but they feel it's the right one. The company provides brick, stone and masonry supplies.
"It's the end of an era. We don't have the next generation coming along to continue it," said Dave Goodrich, 64.
The business at 99 Calef Highway (Route 125) has remained in the Goodrich family ever since William S. Goodrich started making bricks in 1887. W.S. Goodrich was one of several brickyards in town, but brick production ended in 1976.
The Goodrich brothers have spent the last year and a half trying to market and sell the business as a masonry yard, but they've had little luck finding anyone interested in operating such a business in an area where retail growth has exploded in recent years.
"We've always held out hope that somebody would come along," Bob said.
The Goodriches say their land has become too valuable for a masonry business, so potential buyers will likely look to turn it into retail space. The showroom was completely rebuilt seven years ago before the last recession hit, and many have suggested that its stone work and other modern design elements make it an ideal building for an upscale restaurant.
The business was officially placed on the market six months ago, but a for sale sign wasn't put out front until three weeks ago. The sign prompted a flurry of questions about the future of the 4.5-acre piece of property that sits next to a Lowe's home improvement store in the Epping Crossing shopping center.
The property and buildings are listed for $2.7 million.
The site has attracted some interest already. Cumberland Farms, which has a convenience store across the street, is buying nearly an acre of land from the Goodriches to build a new store, and the property may be subdivided again to carve out a spot for other retail development.
The Goodriches plan to keep the doors open until the property is sold.
In the meantime, the many framed black-and-white photographs of the business when it operated as a brickyard will remain on the walls — a reminder of its historical significance.
William S. Goodrich ran the business until 1938 when he died. That was also the year that a powerful hurricane left the buildings at the brickyard in ruin.
Determined to see the brickyard live on, his sons, Ruel and Ralph Goodrich, took over the operation, and Ruel continued to run the business after Ralph's death.
Ruel's nephew, Dexter Goodrich, took over in the 1950s. Dexter's sons, Bob and Dave, owned the business by the 1980s and have operated it ever since.
"It went through the Great Depression. It went through two world wars. It's been through several recessions, but the last recession was tough to come out of. We need young blood, and there's no young blood to make it work," said Bob, 61.
Over the years, the business has faced increased competition from others selling landscaping products. The Goodriches have also noticed other trends.
"Bricks aren't selling like they used to. People aren't building chimneys and fireplaces anymore, and building codes have pushed people away from masonry," Bob said.
While the future of the business is uncertain, the Goodriches say it's possible that someone could buy it and move it elsewhere.
"We haven't given up hope yet," Bob said.