Colorado Materials celebrates 25 years Email
Written by Vicky Urland   
Tuesday, April 23, 2024 12:00 AM

Colorado Green Now

Gazing out over the massive mounds of soil, mulch, gravel, and other landscaping and building supplies on the multiacre Colorado Materials property in Longmont, it’s hard to believe the business started in a basement. And not a basement in a building on a construction site or industrial property. An unfinished basement in Chris and Meighan Kerr’s home.

“My desk sat on the concrete floor next to a portable heater,” says Colorado Materials Finance Director Delaney Lawless, Meighan Kerr’s sister. It seems impossible to start a materials company with no space to store the actual materials, but Chris Kerr, who has a background in landscape supplies and trailer sales, believed he could provide better customer service than other materials providers. Using his extensive contacts, he launched Colorado Materials in January 1999 as a broker, transporting materials from suppliers—pits and quarries—to contractors. 

For the first few years, Chris and his then wife, Meighan, ran Colorado Materials from their basement, with Lawless assisting on the business end and Chris’s brothers working in sales. Meighan, a certified public accountant, not only balanced the books, but also brought in income from her job with a CPA firm in Boulder. “It truly was a family business because we were the only ones who wanted to work in the owners’ basement,” Lawless jokes.

An organic business plan

As Colorado Materials celebrates its 25th year in business, Lawless says it has expanded organically, capitalizing on opportunities when they arose. In 2002, three years after they launched the business, the Kerrs were offered good deals on large amounts of rock and other building supplies. That spurred them to make the leap from a basement brokerage to leasing land so they could stockpile products.

In about 2008, the Kerrs purchased land near the Longmont space they leased. In the ensuing years, they bought adjoining land, and for the last decade have owned about 13 acres along Longmont’s Boston Avenue.

“There’s been just such a steady climb over the last 25 years,” Lawless says. “We didn’t pursue growth—it just came to us. I think our growth has been comfortable without having a whole lot of extra risk.”

That growth includes expanding the product mix. In the early years, Colorado Materials focused on bulk goods like rocks and soils. Now, it carries more items that cater to smaller landscape customers, like patio tiles and pavers. Colorado Materials also offers wood mulch, compost, base and sand, retaining-wall materials and cinderblocks, ice melt and winter products, building materials like timbers and concrete and masonry products, and landscape supplies and tools.

“Our customer focus is contractors and installers of all sizes. The retail side, the homeowner business, has grown in the last few years and now is maybe 20 percent of our business,” Lawless says. As landscaping philosophies in Boulder County have changed, Colorado Materials has also adapted. Today, it’s a certified vendor of Rooflite, a green media used on living roofs. About a decade ago, Colorado Materials partnered with a dairy farm in Loveland to make Colorado Analytical Laboratories-certified Class II compost from the farm’s animal waste and clippings. The result is CMI Organics, a division of Colorado Materials.

All in the family

Of course, the grass hasn’t always been green for Colorado Materials. The 2008 housing crisis resulted in business pullbacks. In 2013, heavy rains flooded the yard and washed away many of the materials. And about a decade ago, Chris and Meighan Kerr divorced.

The Kerrs still run the business together— Meighan in the back of the house and Chris in operations. “I think it’s one of those things where you decide we’re going to do this and make it work. They keep things professional and not contentious,” Lawless says.

While the Kerrs don’t yet have a succession plan, they have children in their 20s and also think of their employees as family. They give loans and flexible time off to their workers, along with more standard benefits like 401Ks and paid health insurance. A handful of the 40 employees have been with the company for more than 10 years, and Lawless says most of the staff treats the business like they own it.

Colorado Materials also gives back to its community in multiple ways, including supplying materials for the Longmont Veterans Community housing project and the Niwot High School baseball field. On June 14, the company will celebrate its quarter-century anniversary with a community-wide hog roast.

“Twenty-five years for a family-owned, local company—we feel like that’s a big accomplishment,” says Sales Director Emil Anastas 

Read more in this issue of Colorado Green Now:

Meet a new member

Boost your financial literacy

2024 ALCC Platinum Sponsors