Who we are
In the early 1940s, the Willocks Coal Co. was founded by Leland Willocks. This business consisted of a couple of trucks hauling coal to local customers.
In 1945 several of the Willocks brothers (Ted, Willard, Bill, and Fred) went into a venture along with Les Binkley to purchase a block machine and begin manufacturing block in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee. This company moved to 1018 East Broadway in Maryville, Tennessee in the late 1940s. By this time, Leland had also joined the company. Over the years, the original investors were bought out, and by 1959 the company was owned only by Leland Willocks and Ted “The Judge” Willocks. Throughout the 1950s, the two entrepreneurs dabbled in other businesses including Oliver tractors sales and service, appliance sales including some of the area’s first television sets, and Blount Outboard and Marine featuring Johnson outboards. Ted Willocks was also a lawyer and served as County Judge (now called County Executive) in Jefferson County for several years.
By 1964 the Willocks’ focus was on the block business and the existing nine acre location on Foch Street in Maryville was purchased.
In the same era, other improvements were being made. In fact, only two years earlier in 1962 the company purchased its first boom truck operated by Sam Jackson. Prior to this purchase, all block had to be unloaded by hand. The story goes that Sam was so unaccustomed to the new invention that he actually continued unloading by hand for several weeks until his confidence with the boom grew. Sam went on to become the outside sales representative and eventually logged over 50 years of service with the company.
Phil Willocks, the son of Leland, began working with the company at an early age.
In 1956, at the age of 14, Phil could be found doing whatever was necessary to keep the business moving including unloading block racks by hand. His starting pay was 50 cents an hour. Phil left the company for a few years to serve in the Army. He was a member of the 2nd Armored Division Tank Battalion based out of Fort Hood Texas until returning to Willocks Brothers in 1970.
In 1978 there was more expansion, and the 3 block line was converted to a 5 block line.
The year 1979 saw the purchase of the Lovell Road, Knoxville sales yard from Colie Johnson and a new office was later built on the property. In the late 1990s, an additional two and a half acres adjacent to the nine acre tract in Maryville was purchased from the Farr family and a new business office was built to replace the original office that had been built in the early 70s. In 1996, there was an addition of the 3 block line currently in use.
The company operated for many years with Leland as the Vice President and Ted as the President.
In 1990, Leland passed away and Phil became the Vice President. When Ted passed on in 1996, Phil became President and Ted’s son, Benny Willocks, became Vice President. Upon Phil’s semi-retirement in April 2014, his successor and son-in-law, Andy Bryant, became the President and Phil took on the role of Vice President.
There have been many contributors to the success of Willocks Brothers over the decades.
There are too many to list them all, but some notables include Jack Young, the Office Manager, whose career spanned over 50 years with the company as well as Sam Jackson who was mentioned earlier and also Charlie Rule who worked over 35 years in the Business Office. In the production plant, Fred “Shorty” Murr supervised the facility for over two decades, then his replacement Glenn Weaver also supervised the production plant for over another two decades.
Over the years, many process and product improvements have been made.
From the basic blocks manufactured on the primitive machinery in Strawberry Plains and delivered by hand, the company has grown into implementation of computerized weighing systems, mist curing of block, lightweight aggregates recipes, and now delivers block with a very capable fleet of trucks and delivery buggies.