BRENTWOOD, New Hampshire — P.R. Russell, a New Hampshire-based company that manufactures mulch, has been on a steady growth trajectory, and the company expanded further this year with an acquisition.
P.R. Russell has continued to turn to CW Mill Equipment Co. for the Kansas company’s line of HogZilla grinders for processing wood material into mulch.
P.R. Russell was started by Peter Russell in Maine in 1989. Marco Carrier and his brother, Richard, purchased the business over a two-year period from 2007-2009 and have been operating it — and expanding it — since then. Marco, who lives in Portland, manages the company’s day-to-day operations. Richard lives in Skowhegan, about 40 miles north of the Maine capital, Augusta, where he owns and operates a trucking company and is not actively involved in P.R. Russell.
The company relies entirely on C.W. Mill Equipment Co. HogZilla grinders to produce mulch and other products and now has six of the Hogzilla machines. Five of the machines are tub grinders, and the other is a horizontal grinder mounted on a trailer. All are diesel-powered and use hammermill cutting technology.
P.R. Russell for years had been based in Richmond, about 15 miles south of Augusta. Marco and Richard quickly began growing the company and opened a second facility in Brentwood, New Hampshire only about 10 miles from the Massachusetts border. From this facility the company sells to customers in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
P.R. Russell manufactures and distributes mulch and other wood fiber products. It also has expanded its product line to include soil additives and soil products.
The Boston metropolitan area and the central Massachusetts region have proven to be good markets for the company, according to Marco, who called it “a very good move” to position P.R. Russell to serve markets in the Eastern half of the Bay State. It sells to landscape supply companies, garden centers and property management firms, among other customers.
Accordingly, the company has focused on expanding the production capabilities of its New Hampshire facility. It has grown from 15 paved acres to 25 and now employs 15 people.
Production has increased from about 500,000 cubic yards of mulch annually to 650,000, which includes both bulk and bagged product. There has been more growth in sales of natural mulch products as opposed to colored mulch in recent years, indicated Marco. P.R. Russell also added a second automated bagging system at Brentwood supplied by Premier Tech in order to keep up with growth. Bagged products are sold under the P.R. Russell brand, and the company also sells bagged mulch under private labels for customers.
It discontinued mulch production at its Maine facility about six years ago and essentially is operating it as a wood yard with one employee to buy and store wood products and re-sell them, primarily biomass, chips, and pulp wood.
For raw material, P.R. Russell buys bark from sawmills and softwood logs from tree service businesses and loggers. Oversize logs from tree service companies are not a problem because the company has splitting equipment to break them down. Wood purchased from logging contractors is specified up to 24 inches in diameter. All the wood is processed first by the HogZilla horizontal grinder, whether it is 30 feet long or 1 foot long.
PR Russell uses both dry and wet colorants to produce colored mulch, although it relies more on dry colorant products. Most of the equipment the company uses for coloring mulch has been fabricated in-house.
The company also sells wood fiber material for playground surfaces for schools, parks, and other applications. The playground surfacing material is made of 100% virgin engineered wood fiber that is certified through the American Society of Testing and Materials.
The company expanded further earlier this year by acquiring a similar business, White Mountain Mulch Products, located more than 130 miles north in Jefferson. P.R. Russell will continue to operate the White Mountain production facility, which is located on about 10 acres and has four full-time employees, and use it to serve customers in central and northern New Hampshire.
P.R. Russell purchased a new HogZilla ATC1564 tub grinder powered by a Caterpillar C32 engine at the beginning of the year, and Marco recently ordered a second machine — the same model — although with the smaller Cat C27 engine.
Marco explained why the company has stayed with HogZilla grinders. “It’s a good, reliable machine,” he said, and the HogZilla staff provides good support for the grinders. He considered other manufacturers only briefly. “I didn’t see anything more than what HogZilla can offer,” he said.
“Their machines have been very durable since we started with them,” added Zach Eaton, manager of the company’s facility in New Hampshire.
“Everything’s pretty standard…It’s one of the reasons why we like it,” said Marco. The company has transitioned to having the same equipment for its operations. “The machines take the same screen, the same tips,” noted Marco. “It’s easy to keep things going. ”