From its beginnings in 1910, Brooks Products, a precast concrete manufacturing company in Ontario, Calif., has enjoyed a long and rich history. Brooks Products is known for pioneering the use of precast concrete enclosures for gas and water utilities in the early 1900s. In the 1950s the company added products for electric and telephone utilities.
The company’s founder, Leo G. Haase, had a business in Chicago where he manufactured concrete pipe, burial vaults and other products during the late 1800s.
After retiring to Pasadena, Calif., Haase founded his company Art Concrete Works in 1910. Legend has it that Haase’s wife stepped out of their carriage onto a wooden meter box that failed, motivating the 53-year-old Haase to use his concrete knowledge to invent and produce the first precast concrete meter boxes in 1911. A prolific inventor, Leo Haase created and patented many products within the concrete industry.
In 1913, Frank Brooks Sr. joined his father-in-law Haase in the precast business. Together they developed various sizes and types of meter boxes in addition to their other precast concrete products. Brooks saw the possibilities of selling outside the Los Angeles basin and believed that if the plant were geared up to produce large quantities of meter boxes, they could make the product affordable for all customers. Would builders want to use their precast boxes? Would homeowners switch over from the wooden boxes to which they were accustomed? Brooks knew a concrete box would far outlast the current wooden boxes and become the preferred choice.
Brooks began to aggressively sell his precast meter boxes, making long trips into northern California, Oregon and Washington. Some of his sales expeditions lasted several weeks at a time without today’s advantages of paved highways and fast cars. With Brooks’ undaunted enthusiasm and successful sales trips, the company outgrew its original site and established additional locations.
Art Concrete Works enjoyed steady growth under the leadership of Frank Brooks Sr., Harry Brooks and, later, Frank Brooks Jr., who joined the company in 1948 and became president in 1960. Also significant in the company’s development was Hughes Grady, Frank Brooks Jr.’s brother-in-law, who joined the company in 1946. The company was renamed Brooks Products Inc. in 1953 at which time the company had established businesses in California, Oregon, Texas, Louisiana and Florida. Precast utility products were the underlying base for all plants, and Brooks Products offered a full line of utility structures and specialized precast items for its local markets.
Fred Heitman had been employed with Brooks Products since 1971 and obtained the position of vice president of Western Operations. During the ’70s and ’80s, Fred Heitman contributed to the company’s rapid growth in large-cast utility structures. The company remained in the Brooks family until it was sold in 1985 to the Heitman interests.
At its apex, Brooks Products operated in eight Sunbelt states with annual revenues in the mid-$60-million range and operated 16 precast concrete plants, two structural foam plastic plants and a polymer concrete plant. Brooks Products did business in most U.S. states including Alaska and Hawaii, operated in many foreign countries and had five licensed operations in the United States and British Columbia.
Brooks Products was a founding member of the National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA) and also a founding member of the California Precast Concrete Association (CPCA). Frank Brooks Jr. served as NPCA president in 1983 and was the 1980 Robert E. Yoakum Award winner. Fred Heitman was the Douglas G. Hoskin Award winner in 1985-86, NPCA president in 1989 and the 1991 Yoakum Award winner.
Today, Brooks Products operates precast concrete plants in California and Oregon with owner Mike Heitman, Fred Heitman’s son, at the helm. Mike Heitman has been with the company for almost 15 years. Brooks Products currently manufactures precast concrete meter boxes, pull boxes, valve boxes, sectional vaults and a broad range of drainage products. Brooks Products (www.brooksproducts.net) cordially invites you to visit its plants at any time. “We may be 100 years old but we are still going strong!”
Ben Brooks says
I’m Ben Brooks, Frank Brooks Jr.’s son. I worked at Brooks Products as a teenager and young adult in the late 60s and 70s. Dad had intentions of my taking over the business, but neither I or my cousins (my Dad had 4 sisters) had an interest in the business. As Dad’s oldest son, I have endeavored to search through our ancestry and recently visited Forest Park, IL, where Leo G Haase was born. I like this succinct but accurate biography of Art Concrete and Brooks Products!
Anne McNeill says
I am a niece of Hughes Grady (his brother’s daughter). I was recently walking on a sidewalk in Pasadena with a friend, and pointed out the Brooks Products meter boxes. My friend asked if BP was still in “our” family, and I confessed I wasn’t sure, but thought my uncle and FB, Jr. had sold it. So I liked this interesting recap of the history of Brooks Products, too, especially as there is none of it I could find on the Brooks Products website!