Sitting on the shores of the Albemarle Sound, you might see a majestic bald eagle fly by clutching a fish in its talons, or you might even glimpse the silvery gray backs of dolphins as they glide up and down in the water.
The peaceful, gently lapping waves on the shores of Chowan County don’t give you the impression that much is going on here – at least not on the water.
But you’d be mistaken.
Sit by the river for a while, and you’ll likely see a massive barge quietly glide by.
This barge, the size of a football field or bigger, slips past vast swaths of forestland, family farms, and winding rivers that feed into the Albemarle Sound on its way to or from Riverbulk Terminal.
You’d be forgiven for not knowing about Riverbulk. Many around Edenton and Chowan County are unaware of this company, with barges and tugs moving thousands of tons of freight with crews all over the East Coast.
Riverbulk Terminal sits on the Chowan River, about 20 minutes from historic downtown Edenton on the former site of the United Piece Dye Works plant, once one of the largest employers in Chowan County.
Launched as the Edenton River Barge Company in 1999, the company that would become Riverbulk quickly made its name, supporting some of the biggest manufacturing companies in the country, including Nucor Steel, and moving thousands of tons of metal and materials to be processed and recycled.
And they’ve created a very successful business over the last 24 years, ferrying millions of tons of bulky and unwieldy cargo up and down America’s waterways 365 days each year.
In 2005, they officially partnered with Stevens Towing Co. of South Carolina, adopting the name, raising their regional profile, expanding their fleet, and creating the opportunity for the next stage in the evolution of their business.
Things continued to grow and evolve in the years after 2005 such that they needed a place to support their fast-growing business. Barges, tugs, and the fleet of equipment that is needed to support the transportation of the biggest and hardest-to-move cargo imaginable require space and specialized facilities.
These facilities are hard to find. They had to decide either to stay here, in the community that had supported their growth, or go somewhere else to “test the waters” in a new place.
Ultimately, this “choice” wasn’t much of a “choice” at all.
Founder Simon Rich, who grew up in Chowan County, explained his desire to keep the business local because “the natural beauty of the area, the weather, the water, and the community” make this such a desirable place to live and run a business.
“Small-town life with great options and interesting businesses make Chowan County a great place to live and work.”
With this in mind, they acquired the old waterfront dye plant facility, which had sat empty for years and desperately needed repair.
Riverbulk purchased the property and set to work, cleaning up the environmental issues and turning it into Riverbulk Terminal’s central location for the states-wide barge and maritime towing business.
Now, this 50-acre site boasts 1100 feet of waterfront with a 114-foot ramp to dry-dock large barges for maintenance, a 350-foot bulkhead to facilitate loading and unloading of a wide range of materials, a 100,000 sq foot warehouse, and more.
Additionally, the site includes a fleeting area with a water depth of 12 feet that can accommodate docking for up to 15 barges.
More than a decade of investments into this facility has created a transportation hub specializing in the most environmentally safe and efficient method of transportation.
Today, Riverbulk employs more than 40 people who operate the facilities locally, where they maintain a growing fleet of barges and tugboats to provide materials transportation for customers worldwide.
Because of their prime location on the southeastern coast, they are able to move millions of tons of cargo up and down the east coast from north to south.
Their decades-long success, their growing customer base, and impressive facility continue to pay dividends in Edenton and Chowan County, creating new and surprising opportunities with an increasing array of companies that want to do business with them.
Today, Riverbulk is able to offer a wide range of services and transportation solutions, including manufacturing and storage facilities, shipyard services, and more, to strategic partners in the defense, transportation, and manufacturing sectors, among others.
Riverbulk is a supreme example of the dynamic and successful partnership between business and government that exists in Chowan County.
“Chowan County and the Edenton-Chowan Partnership have supported the growth of our business every step of the way,” says Simon Rich. “They act quickly and are very responsive as an ally for our business.”
Riverbulk has been an economic engine in Chowan County for over 24 years. It is a prime example of how a business can grow, be successful, and provide job opportunities to people in the community.
But, as the business grows, they are actively looking for people who can help, support, and grow with this company. Riverbulk is always hiring deckhands and crew for their fleet of 24 barges and tugboats.
Riverbulk “provides an excellent career path for young people with a high school diploma.”
When someone comes to work for Riverbulk, they “provide the training and opportunities that can translate into a successful career for anyone who is a determined and diligent worker.”
Riverbulk’s commitment to top-of-the-line facilities and equipment, its proven track record of safety and efficiency, and its investment in the local economy and community make it an attractive option for anyone looking to settle in Chowan County and build a life here.