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Custom Concrete Looks Back on 50 Years in Business

Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photography Provided

ConcreteCustom Concrete has been a staple in the Westfield community for more than half a century. The company was started in 1969 by Joe Carr, who originally had a different vision. He, along with his brother and a couple of his friends, decided they wanted to start framing houses, but soon found there weren’t enough houses to frame because builders needed foundations installed. A problem solver and entrepreneur at heart, Carr bought a set of forms and started pouring foundations so that he had houses to frame. Before long, he and his team found their groove in pouring foundations.

“He called it the ‘Ready-to-Wear’ basement,” says Jason Ells, senior vice president of Custom Concrete.

The concept evolved from Carr’s experience buying shirts, when he was a young man, and feeling frustrated by the fact the shirts often didn’t have buttons or sleeves cut to length. He liked the idea of a shirt being ready to wear, having all of its buttons, starched and ironed. He felt the same way about foundations – that they should be ready for building, excavated with footings and walls, waterproofed with slabs – so he brought Ready-to-Wear foundations to the Indiana market. Now, many years later, several companies have adopted this idea across the nation.

“He invented that process, and in a lot of ways, he perfected it,” Ells says.

Custom Concrete grew in the 1980s and 1990s, primarily as a residential contractor, as they installed thousands of foundations of all sizes. The Great Recession, however, hit residential construction hard. According to Ells, 75% of the work vanished.

ConcreteThe team faced challenges and uncertainty, but Custom Concrete didn’t give up. Instead, they followed the example set by Joe Carr and diversified by offering multiple services. For example, their Custom Truck and Auto division, originally intended to service their own fleet, was made public so they could provide maintenance and repair for both small and large vehicles. They also dove into commercial construction, and now have a robust commercial division that pours foundations for large warehouses and industrial buildings, some of which are more than one million square feet. In addition, they have a foundation repair division. On top of all that, they tweaked their residential division to include room additions and special projects.

“We can do the smallest of residential foundations to some of the largest commercial foundations,” says Ells, noting that they are always looking for ways to improve their ability to take care of customers, and bring them the best value.

To offer the best, they have to hire the best, and they are intentional about doing so. Custom Concrete is dedicated to investing in their people – educating, training, mentoring and coaching them to be the best version of themselves. They often hire graduates who are fresh out of high school – many from Westfield High School, the alma mater of several team members who have built a career with Custom Concrete.

One important part of high school is to help make students career-ready, and there is no one path for getting there. While the next step after high school is attending college for some people, for others it’s joining the military, or starting a vocation or apprenticeship program.

“We’re not anti-secondary education,” Ells says. “We are just not convinced that a degree is the only path to success. We’re pro-people rolling up their sleeves, pulling on their boots, and learning a really great trade. We offer that.”

While Westfield is vastly different today than it was when Carr started Custom Concrete five decades ago, it’s still a place where people care for and look out for one another. Custom Concrete is dedicated to being part of that culture by doing their part to give back to the community. For example, Custom Concrete partnered with Open Doors of Westfield in donating, along with other partners, a significant portion of the foundation for the Open Doors facility. The company continues to invest in ongoing holiday donation programs.

ConcreteCarr passed away this past January at the age of 86, having left behind a remarkable legacy. He started pouring foundations to support his family. Little did he know how many families would be taken care of today and over the years because of what he started back in the late 1960s. Today, the company employs 475 people across several locations. Carr’s work ethic lives on in today’s team.

“The grit that he exemplified on a day-to-day basis is still seen today,” Ells says. “That’s how we’re able to slop in the mud and endure the hot and the cold to take care of our customers each day. Our guys wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The team often jokes that they don’t work a nine-to-five job, but rather a five-to-nine. Not that they’re complaining.

“It comes with the job because we’re working with a perishable product,” Ells says. “When we get it ready to pour, we pour it and see it through. We can’t say, ‘We’ll finish this tomorrow.’”

The company’s purpose is to improve and positively impact people’s lives. That’s why Custom Concrete offers their employees a robust benefits and wellness program.

“Being able to see people buy their first home, pay for their kids’ college, get their child braces, or pay off their home is the most rewarding aspect of working in this business,” says Ells, who also loves driving all over the city and state seeing buildings Custom Concrete has helped create.

“I take pride in that, as does the team,” he says. “We’ve literally helped build the city.”

Custom Concrete is located at 17241 Foundation Parkway in Westfield. If you’ve got concrete foundation questions or needs, call Custom Concrete today at 317-896-2885, follow on social media, or visit customconcrete.com.

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