Concrete Company Owner Feels Stuck in the Mud During Pandemic

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Cutline: Laguna Beach resident Kyle Goerlitz owns Gary Bale Redi-Mix Concrete. Photo courtesy of Candice Dartez Photography

By Barbara McMurray, Special to the Independent

Throughout California, as in Laguna Beach, construction has slowed due to the coronavirus, but the beat of hammers goes on.

Laguna resident Kyle Goerlitz, who owns Irvine-based Gary Bale Redi-Mix Concrete and Doheny Builders Supply of Capistrano Beach, continues to operate both companies, albeit at a deficit even though construction is considered essential businesses by the state. 

Gary Bale Redi-Mix Concrete, with 48 employees, manufactures and delivers concrete to construction sites. Doheny Builders Supply in Capistrano Beach, which employs 15 workers, sells building materials, windows, doors, and hardware. Goerlitz’s businesses are off by about 40 percent, he says, due to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order. He sees all California builders and property owners, large and small, postponing projects until a return-to-work order.

“My thoughts about the pandemic are very mixed,” Goerlitz said. “First, I feel saddened for anyone who has contracted the virus. But I feel bad and concerned for the millions of people that have been put out of work. The businesses that have been forcefully closed by the mandate – I truly pray they can survive and return to the success they saw before this.”

Goerlitz knows about the vicissitudes of business. Gary Bale, the father of Michelle, Kyle’s wife of 27 years, started the company in 1972 with one truck and built a thriving business. In 1995, Kyle started an outpost in Las Vegas.

Then came Gary Bale’s death in 2006, and in 2007, Goerlitz bought the company—just in time for the 2008 economic crash. Suffering heavy financial losses but determined, Goerlitz steadily rebuilt the family business in Orange County. Many regional competitors folded, narrowing a field of almost 30 other family-owned concrete vendors to about six major players currently, most of them international giants. 

The concrete company had experienced steady growth with volume up but profits suppressed by what he calls “never-ending regulations imposed on businesses in California.” In the last three years, however, business has been screaming as loudly as the red flame graphics on the concrete mixer barrels that bear the Gary Bale name.

But the uncertainty that comes with the business lockdown has weighed on Goerlitz. The only positive, to his mind, is the absence of traffic. “Access to and from the projects (is) so much easier and cost-effective. Laguna Beach is always a struggle with construction, from the beginning process of getting approval all the way through construction to final approval. I am very pleased with Mayor Whalen and the city council for allowing construction to continue through this horrible time.”

No one who works for Goerlitz or their family members has contracted COVID-19, but he worries about their well-being. He and his family try to maintain employees’ morale and offset their shrunken paychecks by providing boxes of steaks and pork chops. Last week, employees got a $100 gift card with their paycheck.

“It’s tough making these decisions on how to help when you’re not running at a profitable volume of business,” Goerlitz said. As for the gifts of money and food, “We know it’s the right thing to do. We are a family business, so we continue to do it. The people are the business. I never forget that.”

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1 COMMENT

  1. I think i may have met Kyle, but I do know his family, and kindness seems to reign with them. A tip of my hat to a good man.

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