Back in 1954, Don Haywood talked himself into a job at Akron Sales Co., which specializes in selling and distributing bricks and related builders supplies.
A Kentucky native fresh out of serving two years in the Army during the Korean war, Haywood had two brothers working at the company at the time. His first job was driving a truck, hauling brick and unloading it by hand.
He’s still there.
Haywood has owned the business since the late 1980s, buying it from the estate of husband-and-wife owner/founders Paul Boltz, who died in 1985, and Connie Boltz, who died a year later.
“They were two hard-working people. They taught me a lot about running a business,” Haywood said. “I run it just as if they were in the office every day. ... I didn’t have to buy a new company name. I just had to buy the land and the inventory. I made it work.”
Haywood just celebrated his 60th anniversary with Akron Sales, a Belden Brick distributor located off Copley Road near the I-77 intersection. “We were here before the freeway went through,” he noted.
He’s 83 now — “I’ll be 84 in May,” he said — and still likes coming to the office, saying, “It keeps me going.”
His office is filled with memorabilia from over the decades, including plaques celebrating milestones and photographs of pet dogs over many years. Besides normal business cards, he also gives out “cards” made out of actual brick imprinted with the company name and phone number.
Haywood said his health is good and that his doctor recently said that only 2 to 3 percent of people his age are able to do what he is doing now.
“I thought that was quite a compliment,” he said. “I do about anything now that I’ve ever done in my life.”
And yes, he has thought about retiring.
“Lots of times,” Haywood said. “I tried golfing, and I couldn’t do anything with that.”
His wife, Carol, has talked to him about retiring so they can spend more time together traveling, particularly to the Florida Keys, he said. (His first wife, Cora, died in 1992.)
Haywood said he still enjoys the relationships he has with others in the business, including Belden Brick.
“I still appreciate them,” he said.
Akron Sales has carved a niche by building up inventories of out-of-style and discontinued bricks needed for remodeling and renovation projects, he said.
“To match old brick is difficult to do,” Haywood said. “Brick sizes have changed.”
Over the decades, he said, Akron Sales has had its ups and downs economically and has survived localized flooding along Copley Road.
While the 1980s, with high interest rates, were pretty rough, the 1990s were pretty good for business and allowed him to pay off the loan he needed to buy the company.
“I got all that behind me,” he said.
Akron Sales employs six full time, including Haywood’s daughter, Donna.
“We have managed to hang on,” he said. “It’s coming back slowly. I think 2013 was a little better than 2012. It’s nothing to get excited about.”
Haywood said he enjoys being a business owner.
“I never asked no one to do something I won’t or can’t do myself,” he said. “I can do it. ... Maybe I can’t do it as fast.”
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org.