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Advertiser SPOTLIGHT: Watkins Concrete Block

Enduring Quality

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The secret to a business’s longevity is not complicated and really no secret at all: produce a top-quality product, offer exemplar customer service and evolve with changing times.  Watkins Concrete Block has put these concepts into practice and as a result has been providing Omaha’s commercial and residential builders with building supplies for over 60 years.

Lisa Lackovic, Marketing Manager for Watkins Concrete Block, says that the company originally began in 1946 as a block basement business.  “We eventually moved into the commercial market supplying architectural block for large projects.  Now much of our marketing efforts are geared toward the backyard due to the increase in homeowners expanding their outdoor living space,” Lackovic explains.  Today, Watkins is part of a network of block manufacturers across the state owned by NEBCO, Inc.  It produces over 1300 concrete block items, employs 50 employees and maintains a fleet of 30 trucks to transport merchandise.

Watkins works with architects, engineers and general contractors and masons in commercial markets.  In the last 20 years, the company has expanded their product lines in the residential sector with stone, brick and landscape products.  But it is in the hardscape market that Watkins has experienced the most growth in the last few years.  “We consider ourselves the hardscape headquarters.  We have a hardscape specialist who has added value to our company because he was a contractor for 12 years before he joined our team.  He has walked in their shoes and really understands their business,” says Lackovic.   

When Watkins first began production after World War II, they only manufactured 8 inch standard, grey concrete blocks.  Now, Watkins offers clay face brick, manufactured stone, natural stone and glass block. “Many local consumers do not realize we make many of our concrete products we sell right here on site.  Our production facility is state of the art and can produce quality concrete materials that are attractive,” Lackovic comments. 

Watkins is always seeking updated looks for its customers.  It explores methods of blending colors to create a more natural look and experiments with oversized units.  It varies the use of aggregate, the small pebble-like rocks that are part of concrete mix, to create different styles.  Watkins has also replicated the look of limestone, affording customers a more affordable alternative to natural stone and eliminating the need to ship product in from other states.

In 2005, Watkins introduced its Ultimate Backyard Challenge.  Inspired by ABC’s Extreme Makeover, the Ultimate Backyard Challenge allows contractors to introduce the latest trends in hardscape design to their clients for reduced, incentive pricing.  “Nationally people are staying home more and making their backyards their vacation destinations.  They are spending money on existing homes instead of moving up,” Lackovic has observed. 

“We think homebuilders will start offering backyard outdoor rooms as part of their upgrade packages.  It is becoming a standard to have a fire pit or water feature.  Homeowners have come to expect it,” Lackovic states.

Outdoor kitchens are features homeowners are anxious to build.  “Everybody grills in their backyard,” Lackovic says, and they enhance the experience by installing countertops, mini refrigerators, even wine stewards around the grill.  Responding to this trend, Watkins carries pizza ovens and ready made fireplaces.  “We have lighted water features and grill islands.  Contractors just need to set it in place and voila!  Instant Ultimate Backyard!” enthuses Lackovic.

Homeowners as well as professional architects and contractors benefit from Watkins’ experience.   Far from the warehouse feel of national home improvement chains, Watkins hosts customer appreciation grill outs and box lunches.  The designer showroom is open to the public Monday through Friday and displays all their products.

It is a local business, owned by a Nebraska family, which manufactures its product in house rather than ship it in from China.  It is invested in the community that helps support it.  Buying from Watkins is buying local. 

Watkins Concrete Block
14306 Giles Road, Omaha, Ne 68138
(402) 896-8611

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