Stone World

Made in America

February 1, 2013
Just before the start of this past holiday season, I made my final business trip of 2012 — boarding the last of many flights I took to cover our industry over the course of the year. My final destination was a fairly common one for me — a granite quarry that recently expanded its operations. The difference, however, was that I was not flying to Italy, Brazil, Finland, Norway or any of the other countries that you see stamped in my passport over and over again.

In fact, this particular trip didn’t even leave the U.S., so I got to leave my passport at home for a change. My journey took me to the hills of North Carolina, where Rock of Ages has expanded the operations of two quarry sites in the greater Charlotte area (see page 40 of this issue).

Over the course of a single day, I took extensive tours of the Salisbury Pink quarry in Salisbury, NC, and the Gardenia White quarry in Rockwell, NC. The quarry managers showed me all of the investments made at the two sites. This included new equipment such as diamond wire saws and drills, but it also included expansion of the quarries themselves. Rock of Ages took more than two years to re-develop the quarries so that they are not only producing high-quality material now, but they will continue to do so for years to come.

My tour of the Rock of Ages quarry sites was also attended by some of the company principals, including owner Kurt Swenson, who has been involved in stone quarrying for several decades. As we walked the sites and viewed the tremendous progress that had occurred over the past few years, Swenson beamed like a father watching his child graduate from college. At one point, he stepped away from our group and took a few minutes to speak with a pair of quarry workers, who had just finished drilling work on a massive chunk of granite. “I love the pride that our workers have,” Swenson said to me as he re-joined the tour. “They know that there’s a real future for them here.”

Over the years, I have written about the level of passion and pride that I have seen among stoneworkers in Brazil and Italy, among other places, but I can also tell you that it is alive and well right here in the U.S.

At both sites, the quarry managers would show off their new equipment like a motorcycle rider might showcase his new Harley-Davidson. After seeing me take a photo of a pair of new diamond wire saws, one worker even called back to me, “Are you sure you got a good shot?” (By the way, that photo is at the top of page 41; I think I nailed it.)

Also in this issue of Stone World, we are covering the expansion of the Queen Anne Mansion, which was originally built in Carthage, MO, in 1891, and was disassembled and moved to Eureka Springs, AR, in 1984 (page 78). To build the walls of a new courtyard, stone was extracted from the nearest quarry, Ozark Southern Stone. Workers used timeless, labor-intensive extraction methods to produce a stone product that looked like it could have been laid back in the 1800s.

While stories like these serve as a reminder of the pride and vitality of the American quarrying sector, they will not be the last time that we showcase a U.S. quarry in Stone World this year. Our staff has made a commitment to cover more American quarries in the short term as well as the long term, and if you work at one of these sites, I encourage you to e-mail me at michael@stoneworld.com, and share your story with our readers.