IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR
Published 11:52 am Wednesday, March 13, 2019
By Anne Carmichael
Highbridge Spring provides spring water, underground storage in former quarry
In 1976, unbeknownst to his wife JoAnn or any of his family, W.R. ‘Bill’ Griffin of London, Kentucky, purchased a 32-acre limestone quarry near High Bridge at a bankruptcy auction. He hadn’t a clue what he was going to do with it, but he thought perhaps it would make a good storage facility for the U.S. government.
“Bill didn’t want to tell us he’d bought the quarry until he could tell us what he planned to do with it,” JoAnn Griffin recalled prior to her passing in 2012. “He originally thought he could store government commodities here, but he couldn’t because of the moisture, so he fixed the moisture problem by bottling the water,”
Griffin’s daughter, Linda Griffin Slagel, also remembered how it all began.
“My father was a very interesting man,” she said. “He died in 2001. He first bought into this place as a stockholder. It was a mushroom farm at the time. Only months after he invested, it went into bankruptcy and he bought it at auction, thinking there must be something he could do with the quarry.”
Bill Griffin was determined to prove to his family that his investment was a wise one. To resolve the moisture issue, they bottled gallon jugs of the spring water that flowed into the quarry, loaded them onto a pickup, and sent daughters Mary and Linda out to sell it.
“Dad told us, ‘Don’t come back until you’ve sold it all,’” Slagel said. “Our mother, father, my sister and I bottled, delivered, and sold every gallon of water that left here for the first two years in business.”
The Griffin family founded Highbridge Spring Water Company, Inc. in 1982. The company was named for the nearby 308-foot-tall, 1,125-foot-long railroad bridge that connects Jessamine and Mercer counties.
High Bridge was designed by John Roebling, who later designed the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. It was dedicated in 1879 by President Rutherford B. Hayes and was, at that time, the highest railroad bridge in North America. The bridge overlooks the High Bridge Quarry, the Kentucky River conjoined with the Dix River, and Lock No. 7 — as well as High Bridge Park, which is now a popular site for weddings and other local events.
Bottled water wasn’t the popular commodity in the early 1980s that it is today, but it wasn’t long before they had regular customers, Slagel remembers. People soon discovered that buying water in sanitized gallon jugs wasn’t just convenient, but the limestone-filtered water tasted much better because of the naturally occurring minerals.
“We had about four years in the beginning to just learn what we were doing. We hit it just right, because by 1987, bottled water took off. We doubled our sales every year and by the 1990s, we couldn’t bottle it fast enough,” Slagel said.
The natural spring at the back of the quarry is the source of Highbridge Spring Water. Sitting under that spring is a holding tank which serves as a catch basin for the natural flowing water. From that catch basin, there are a few hundred feet of pipe that carry the water to a reservoir at one end of the quarry. A 10-foot high dam holds several million gallons of Kentucky’s finest spring water. The water is then piped 750 feet to the Highbridge plant where the water is bottled.
Once the water reaches the plant, it is filtered through a reverse osmosis system. Before bottling, the water is ozonated which takes the place of chlorination. There are eight stainless steel tanks from which production lines bottle the water in convenient sizes from 12-ounce individual bottles and cases to 5-gallon bottles.
The only products that are sold in reusable containers are 3- and 5-gallon bottles. The other products are in recyclable containers. Since the 3- and 5-gallon bottles are returned to the Highbridge Springs facility to be reused, equipment is onsite to thoroughly wash and sanitize them before they are refilled with Highbridge Spring Water.
“We are now in nine states and in chains such as Kroger, Meijer and Walmart, and independent stores like ICA and Laurel Grocery, as well as offices and residences. Our fundamentals are highest quality, competitive prices and incredible service,” Sales Manager Colin Werner said.
With the initial moisture problem resolved at Highbridge Spring Water’s bottling facility, Bill Griffin and the shareholders proceeded with the expansion of a sister company that would become the storage facility he had originally envisioned. Kentucky Underground Storage, Inc. began storing data for business and industrial clients more than 30 years ago. The facility provides a customized dehumidification system that maintains the humidity below 60 percent. Gale Griffin, Bill’s eldest daughter, ran the company for the first 20-plus years in operation. Her sister, Slagel, now acts as president for both companies.
Below the Highbridge Spring Water facility, 130 feet underground, lies millions of cubic feet of subterranean storage space with specialized protection to meet every client’s needs. Businesses can not only store paper files and online electronic backup in a temperature-controlled, dry facility; they are assured their data is protected from natural disasters such as tornadoes, fire, floods, earthquakes and power outages.
Even minutes without power or access to data can significantly impact any business and those who depend on that business. KUSI protects against loss of power with both battery and diesel generator backup.
Subtac Data is Kentucky Underground Storage’s 2,300-square-foot state-of-the-art data center. The central location makes retrieval and collection of materials convenient for all clients. Records management services and unparalleled security provide KUSI customers with peace of mind.
Security and confidentiality are the top priorities at Kentucky Underground Storage, Slagel said. They employ a resident guard and utilize an electronic security system which is monitored 24 hours a day from a central monitoring station. Motion sensors, surveillance cameras, and 10-foot-thick, steel-reinforced concrete walls, floors and ceilings are all features which further instill confidence in KUSI’s ability to keep data safe.
Isolated maximum-security vaults designed for storing data on magnetic media offer protection for storage that meets stringent standards.
A bar-coding system guarantees complete accuracy. By scanning each item, bar-coding not only ensures the material remains classified, but it also increases efficiency in accurately locating and retrieving materials. Document imaging and storage coupled with Scan-On-Demand service can provide needed copies of critical documents the same day they are requested.
In addition to the on-site services, the KUSI team visits facilities and assists staffs with file purging, file inventory, boxing files, or transporting files to their storage facility.
Slagel, who serves as president of High Springs Water Company Inc., says the plan is to just keep doing what has worked so well for the company.
“Our philosophy is that we’re going to do what we know and what we do best. We’re not going with trends, such as vitamin water or energy drinks,” Slagel said. “We have a good product and we’re going to stay with what we’re doing now. We don’t ship from Atlanta or Fiji or Iceland. We’re a local company. We hire local people. We’re family owned and operated, and we have a great product.”