Pioneers in Demolition
JR RAMON Demolition thrives with a nod to the past
Family archives are a wonderful thing. Especially photos. Sometimes they tell a thousand words of yesterday and other times they can give a glimpse of the future.
The Ramon family scrapbook offers a bit of both. Given where JR RAMON Demolition is today, the early 1970s snapshot of Joe Ramon III—current Vice President of the company—and his brother Andrew playing with a fleet of heavy-duty toy machinery, now looks like a fortuitous harboring of things to come.
The same can be said for the black-and-white photo of their brother and current company President Timothy Ramon. Now 47, the picture captures Timothy at age 8 smiling while sitting behind the wheel of one of the company’s pieces of heavy equipment.
It’s remarkable how far all have come—including the company—while keeping it all in the family.
The Ramons will tell you JR RAMON Demolition started out as a “mom and pop” business in 1945 with the goal of providing for the family and creating opportunities for the children.
Under the current leadership of the third generation, JR RAMON Demolition surpassed expectations of the original vision, grossing more than $10 million in revenue in 2018 while employing 75 staff members. “Throughout the decades, the company has taken on an identity of its own,” Timothy says. “We have had employees with over 40 years of dedicated service, and we have several father/son, mother/son and even some husband/wife duos.
“The concept of a family business is engrained into the core of the culture,” he says. “We are not about money, fame or growing beyond our reaches. JR RAMON Demolition is about family and providing opportunities. Maintaining this culture and spirit, the company will live well beyond any past or current owner.”
A Nod to the Past
JR RAMON Demolition neatly demolishes and removes the debris from more than 500 homes a year in San Antonio and the South/Central Texas area and has the machinery, expertise and ability to deconstruct any building big or small.
It wasn’t always that way.
When Joe Ramon Sr. started the company in 1945, the primary business was road building. He had just returned home from World War II, earning the prestigious Purple Heart given to military wounded in combat. Joe, a Marine, had survived serving in Iwo Jima and opted to use his war pay to purchase a small dump truck and tractor.
He would solicit local ranchers to build and maintain their roads, along with any other work that could be performed.
“He recruited his two sons, Joe Ramon Jr. and Robert Ramon, in the late 1960s,” Timothy Ramon said. “The company was officially incorporated in Texas in 1968 as J.R. (Joe) Ramon & Sons, Inc.”
Timothy said his grandfather remained active in the business until 1985 when a debilitating stroke left him permanently impaired. At that time, Joe Jr. was the Vice President and had more than 25 years of experience with the company.
“He also had a growing family of five ‘hungry’ children, three sons and two daughters,” Timothy says.
Joe Jr. assumed the role of President and purchased the issued shares of the corporation from his father in 1986. He has since retired from the daily activities of the business, but still serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors.
In 2015, Timothy took over as President and his older brother, Joe Ramon III, serves as Vice President.
“These are just titles for the bank,” Timothy said. “We both were raised in the working environment of the business, working every summer alongside Dad and Grandpa. Along with a lifetime of experiences specific to the demolition industry, both of us bring different skills to the table that make JR RAMON Demolition a strong and united family business.”
Timothy has been with the company for more than 25 years and boasts an in-depth knowledge of not just the physical work of demolition, but the administrative skills unique to the demolition industry. As President, his leadership offers a composite of strength and guidance. He also gained greater industry insights when he served on the Board of Directors of the National Demolition Association.
Joe III also has 25 years with the company, and also worked for another demolition company outside of the San Antonio area for about 10 years. “His approach and knowledge of demolition was enhanced when he took an opportunity to broaden his exposure to the demolition industry in other markets in the early 2000s,” Timothy says. In 2010, Joe III returned home to the family business and in 2016 was appointed Vice President.
The Art of Destruction
When it comes to bringing down a structure, there isn’t much JR RAMON Demolition can’t do.
The company specializes in mass structural demolition. Its team has performed its demolition expertise on every military base in Texas and in just about every zip code in the San Antonio and Austin areas. The team is skilled in bridge demolition, house demolition including apartment complexes, demolition of water towers, school buildings, hotels, air-traffic control towers, grain silos, hospitals, warehouses, office buildings and anything else needing to be removed.
“We have also demolished quite a few aircraft, defunct military or commercial airliners that get recycled for their valuable aluminum,” Timothy says. “A good portion of our work is selective demolition, which involves the interior gutting or partial removal of components of structures to accommodate renovations and additions to existing structures. Some of our flagship projects date back to the dismantling of a uranium mine in South Texas in 1979. We conducted the first implosion of a multistory building in Austin, Texas, in 2008. In 2012, we participated in the transformation of the historic San Antonio Municipal Auditorium into The Tobin Center, a state-of-the-art music and event center in downtown San Antonio. Every project presents its unique challenges.”
The company also maintains on-call demolition service contracts with the cities of San Antonio and New Braunfels, Texas State University and the State of Texas.
An Industry in Flux
Gone are the simple days of wrecking balls and pay loaders. In three generations of leadership, the Ramons say the most notable change in the industry is in the way demolition is approached.
“We have witnessed a vast change in technology,” Joe III says. “Back in the day, Grandpa and Dad used the iconic crane and wrecking ball to bring down structures. Now, we have specialized, ultra high-reach demolition equipment that will reach up to 10 stories high to chew a structure down.”
“We have robotic demolition equipment that can be operated from a safe distance, and all the electric equipment to work indoors or in confined spaces. Demolition equipment used to be just another piece of heavy construction equipment. Now, each piece is highly modified and designed specifically for a demolition scenario.”
Timothy adds that, over the last 20 years, the use of demolition attachments on heavy construction equipment has revolutionized the industry.
“These are specially designed ‘add-ons’ that can cut, break, split, rip, crush, grab and hold different types of construction materials,” he says.
Recycling, Repurposing with Good Reason
Another key to the company’s success is its attention to the environment.
Recycling and repurposing are essential, and it isn’t just because it is the trendy thing to do.
Experts in the industry, such as the Ramons, view themselves as stewards of the environment and, equally important, the scrap is profitable.
All metals from a demolition site get recycled. All copper products, aluminum, brass, and tin get culled out of the debris and sold to scrap yards,” Timothy says.
“In very old structures, the dimensional lumber is highly sought after,” he says. “Its value merits its extraction from a structure before demolition. Anything and everything that can get diverted from a landfill will get recycled or repurposed.”
JR RAMON Demolition also operates a concrete recycling facility. All the concrete rubble from demolition sites is taken to the facility for processing and is crushed to make a uniform aggregate, or gravel. The gravel is then sold for use on new construction sites and roadways.
Despite all the advances in the business, Timothy says demolition isn’t rocket science. “The quality of a demolition contractor is gauged on their reliability, safety and efficiency,” he says. “JR RAMON Demolition has refined the process of demolition down to a science.
“We prioritize safety over all other factors on every job. We maximize the efficiency with our company-owned, demolition-specific equipment and highly trained demolition operatives. We uphold the values of honesty and integrity the company was founded on. Our experience in having demolished thousands of structures leaves very little that we have not seen or done before. We share our knowledge with our customers and provide a quality demolition service at an economical and competitive price.”