Balancing craftsmanship and technology
While Christie Cut Stone Co. of Galloway, TN, has incorporated automated machinery into its production process, the 107-year-old company still relies on the skilled handwork of its artisans to create custom limestone architectural pieces
“My great-grandfather, Alex, started the company back in 1906,” said Andrew Christie, son of owner Bond Christie and a draftsman at the company. “He was an immigrant from Scotland and opened the mill in midtown Memphis. It was there until 2005 — midtown grew around it.”
A true family business, Alex’s son Fred worked in the mill through his youth and took ownership of Christie Cut Stone upon his return from duty in the Philippine Islands during World War II. Fred’s son, Bond, became the owner in 1984.
Becoming an automated shop
When the time came for the company to move its operation from Memphis to Galloway, it was also time for it to expand its equipment lineup to include automated machinery. “We talked with Park [Industries of St. Cloud, MN],” said Andrew Christie. “We were looking for an Infinity [CNC stone profiling system]. It was the push we needed.
“We built a relationship with Park through saws,” Christie went on to say. “My grandfather was a big fan of them, and then my dad was. We got the Infinity and then things picked up. We had a job with detail work, so then we got the Vektor [CNC stone profiler].”
Christie and another draftsman trained at Park’s facilities for two months, and the Infinity was installed in the 18,000-square-foot mill in 2008.
In addition to the Infinity and Vektor, Christie Cut Stone still utilizes its other machinery, including two saws from Sawing Systems and one from Wilson Industrial. “We still have lathes,” said Christie. “Automated is nice, but it still can’t replace people for detail work — the stone cutters.”
Weathering the economy
Currently, Christie Cut Stone employs a staff of 25. “As soon as we moved out here, things started to slow down,” explained Christie. “We laid off some, but slowly are bringing them back.”
While the company experienced a slowdown in some areas, work remained steady in university and government buildings. “We do architectural limestone,” said Christie. “The University of Arkansas is a big project we are working on now. The University sticks with collegiate architecture, which is nice.”
Recently, the company also completed architectural pieces for St. Louis Catholic Church in Memphis, TN, which received a flood of positive response. “I heard from the people that were putting it together that people were coming to see it. There were old women crying when they looked at it.”
The company also does some residential work, and its market is not limited to the South. “We do houses from Maine to Hawaii,” said Christie. “There was a family from here who moved to the big island of Hawaii. They wanted their [stonework] done right, so they had us do it. We shipped the stone, and we were thankful that none of it broke.”
On the installation end, Christie Cut Stone teams up with skilled masons. “We don’t do installations,” explained Christie. “We have a rolodex of masons who have laid our products and have done a nice job. When we sell material, we hand out a list of masons who we know do a good job and are just getting off a project.”
Christie Cut Stone Co.
Type of work: Government and university buildings as well as residential work
Machinery: an Infinity CNC stone profiling system and Vektor CNC stone profiler -- both from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN; two saws from Sawing Systems, Inc. of Knoxville, TN, and one saw from Wilson Industrial of Elberton, GA; and handcarving tools such as lathes
Number of Employees:25