Rebuilding a sandstone operation after 30 years

March 11, 2003
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The fate of Annandale Sandstone seemed grim after its founder, Louis Tiche, passed away. With no successors stepping forward to take control, the quarry remained dormant for 30 years. But in 1997, Tiche's great-nephew, Sam Tiche, decided to purchase the site from his family, with the objective of turning the company into a profitable enterprise.

"I wanted to own and operate a successful sandstone quarry with vision to prosper and grow in the sandstone business," said Tiche, when explaining the reasons for purchasing the 375-acre site. "I'm a self-motivated problem-solver and set a goal to make this business as successful as it is today."

The beginning, however, was a bit of a struggle. "The quarry was a mess," said Tiche. "It took nearly 10 months to make the site ready for production." He explained that because the initial operation did not have all the equipment and technology that exists today, there were piles of rubble and waste material all over the site. "It needed to be pushed aside and leveled out," said Tiche, adding that the property also contained old derricks, which had been used to lift the stone. "There was a lot of metal and cable intermixed with the rock that needed to be removed." Additionally, the high wall above the quarry had caved in, so the site had to be re-excavated.

But after some work, the quarry was up and running again along with a fabricating facility, which is equipped for splitting ashlar, veneer and dimension stock. "More detailed shaping is currently done by others," said Tiche, adding that both the fabricating shop and quarry are located in Boyers, PA - just north of Pittsburgh.

Originally, Louis Tiche opened the site in 1932 for erosion control on the Great Lakes. Also, historical records indicate that local builders used the quarry as early as 1875.

The sandstone produced is part of the Homewood Sandstone Formation, and the stone is estimated to run 75 to 95 feet deep. Currently, the company is quarrying the first level - working on the exposed wall. The site measures approximately 400 yards back x 800 yards.

According to Tiche, the quarry produces four distinct shades, which include tan/buff, dark brown, yellow and light gray. Additionally, some of the sandstone is red with variations of tan, but that is not considered to be one of the company's primary colors. "I always remind people that there is a range to those colors," said Tiche. "It's a natural formation. It is not like going to a paint store and specifying an exact color. It can't be assured."

The machinery

Currently, the operation is equipped with a Wilson Electric diamond blade gantry block saw with a diameter of 11 feet, 6 inches; a Hydrasplit splitting machine from Park Industries; and various track drills, hand drills and loaders for use within the quarry. On average, the company produces 500 tons of material per month and approximately 6,000 tons annually.

The majority of the company's business is in the Northeast. Annandale Sandstone receives the largest demand for wall veneers, dimensional blocks and slabs from contractors and fabricators, according to Tiche. Another primary market for the company is in irregular and dimensional pavers and sawed-two-sides flagging. The products are often used for landscaping, building facades, fireplaces and other structures.

In the future, the company is looking to expand its fabrication capabilities by installing another Wilson 11-foot, 6-inch gantry block saw and a 3-foot Wilson profile saw. "We want to perfect the large dimensional block production for the commercial market," said Tiche. Additionally, the company intends to increase its staff from eight employees to 10 or 12 in the near future. Another step Annandale Sandstone has recently taken to expand its growth is launching a Web site at www.annandalesandstone.com.

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