Surviving successfully in a niche

Specializing in solid bricks –
the Steenbakkerijen van Membruggen
in Membruggen-Riemst, Belgium

The solid brick is the brickmaker’s archetypal product. A simple product, although its actual production is anything but simple. The solid brick has become a scarce in the product ranges of brickworks. A brickworks that only produces solid bricks is a rarity. But the Steenbakkerijen van Membruggen, in the Belgian Province of Limburg, has never done anything else – genuine solid bricks, I should say, without any perforations whatsoever. But the range is by no means boring, as various sizes and many different natural fired colours ensure variety. The brickworks’ success justifies this specialization in solid bricks – production is sold out long in advance, so there are only few stacks of bricks in the stockyard and kiln has not been shut down for three years. There follows a report on a small family business, which is completely devoted to producing solid bricks.

1 Company history

The history of Steenbakkerijen van Membruggen is still a relatively short one; it only starts after the Second World War. However, production did not start with the latest technology of that time, but as a simple brickfield. In 1947, Emile Porthoens and his brother Adam decided to earn their living with the production of solid bricks. In those days it was still common in many rural districts of Belgium to make the masonry bricks you needed for building your own house yourself, in a very rudimentary fashion. Accordingly, Emile and Adam Porthoens had been familiar with clay...

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