Phenix Marble Co.: The resurrection of a historic stone
After years of dormancy, Phenix Marble Co. has started production once again, offering a multitude of options for clients
Originally based in Phenix, MO, the Phenix Marble Co. first opened in the early 20th century. At the time, it was one of the largest producers of stone and marble in the country, employing 250 workers. The town of Phenix boasted two hotels, a church, a schoolhouse, a general store, a depot and a large community hall paid for by the Tompkins-Kiel distributors. Each family had a two- to three-room house provided by the company and were paid in script that could be used at the general store and elsewhere in the town.
Because of the town’s proximity to the KCCR line, the company had direct access to crucial rail distribution. The original owners of the company were based in Kansas City, MO, which provided a huge market for Phenix stone. For a time, there was even a second fabrication shop in Kansas City. From Kansas City, Phenix marble was shipped all over the country and the distributor, Tompkins-Kiel, was based in New York and sold it widely throughout New York City and the East Coast. One of the most notable historical Phenix examples is the use of Napoleon Gray on the floor of the original trading room of the New York Stock exchange.
In 1945, the quarry was sold to Vermont Marble Co. which ran it until 1951 when they sold it to Carthage Marble. In the 1980s, Dave Richter purchased the quarry and owned it until Conco Quarries bought it in June of 2016. Conco Quarries, based in Springfield, MO, is the majority partner of Phenix Marble Co., while Freddie Flores is the minority owner. The historic Phenix quarry itself is wholly owned by Conco Quarries, Inc. While the offices are located in Springfield, MO, the fabrication center is in Willard, MO, and the quarry in northwest Greene County near Walnut Grove, MO.
Through Conco, the company has a strong local and regional relationship with the construction and design community, so they have been their “hometown” clients to date during their “start-up” phase. “As people are becoming aware that the Phenix material is again available, we are seeing growing interest and projects in the broader U.S. market,” said Mary Neely, director of marketing for the company. “We are members of the MIA+BSI and the APT national and Central Plains chapter. We have started attending tradeshows to tell our story of the Phenix revival, and to develop relationships in the industry. A big part of our immediate efforts is to inform the architectural and design community of our stone. We want to create demand for our products in the design phase through awareness of the material. At the same time, we are now actively developing distribution relationships for slabs and blocks, with the intention of restoring the business to its original Phenix footprint, which was coast-to-coast distribution and into Canada.”
According to Phenix Marble Co., the material is highly versatile. As a dimensional stone, it is an ASTM Type III, high-density limestone with buildings in service for more than 100 years. At the same time, the Phenix quarry was made famous for its distinctive “Napoleon Gray” vein cut marble, which is seen in iconic buildings throughout the U.S. and even Canada. “Today we offer blocks, raw slabs, finished slabs, split-face veneer, thin veneer, architectural, cut-to-size and tile,” said Neely. “To date, our sales, by revenue, have already been evenly split between blocks/slabs to others, split face and dimensional stone cut to order and custom marble fabrication and installation.”
The company has just started its mining of block last summer. They have gone through a remarkably fast start-up phase and are fully up and running, mining new block, slab production, dimensional stone and general fabrication.
Establishing distribution relationships
“Our emphasis in 2017 is to begin establishing distribution relationships nationwide and we are pleased to see the interest in our material from a number of partners, and we are in the very early stages of developing and expanding those relationships for mutual benefit,” Neely went on to say. “Our most notable, and certainly most high-profile recent project is Phenix’s contribution to phase one of the Missouri State Capitol restoration project. Phenix Marble was used in the original construction of the Missouri Capitol in 1917 in an interior application, our Napoleon Gray marble is throughout the Capitol rotunda. Last year, Phenix was selected as the replacement stone for the exterior stone pavers and the prominent South Steps.”
The company fabricated the pavers, installed on a pedestal system, in-house. For the steps, they shipped blocks to Quarra Stone in Madison, WI, that fabricated the pieces. The project was on an extremely tight timeframe, so having two shops involved allowed the project to be completed ahead of schedule. “The Phenix quarry provided approximately 8,600 cubic feet of block for the prominent South Steps and additional blocks for our in-house production of 470 large stone pavers for the exterior terraces and portico,” said Neely. “We were honored to be selected for this exciting project, as it speaks to our capabilities as a mine and to the stone’s physical properties that allow it to perform in this application and at Missouri’s most important public building. Presently, we are sending split-face veneer and dimensional cut pieces to Oklahoma City for the new Streetcar Storage and Maintenance facility being constructed next door to the historic Union Station.”
The quarry produces a high-density limestone and polished marble products. The company employs four workers at the quarry operations and 11 at the fabrication facility, which is approximately 7,000 square feet with an additional outside production area for its veneer products.
The quarry and fabrication shop uses a WF Meyers quarry saw; an Atlas Copco SpeedCut 100, an Atlas Copco FlexiROC T15 Drill, a Standish Steel Narrow Belt Saw, a GMM Sirio polisher; a Park Industries Yukon bridge saw, a Park Industries Hydrasplit (60- and 24-inch chisel models) and a Park Industries TXS-3000 ThinStone Veneer Saw.
The company’s total production since July of 2016 has been an estimated rate of 1,100 cubic meters. “Our local fabrication/installation capacity is limited by design to a small number of installations per week, an average of three, dealing with custom builders and end clients,” said Neely. “These projects all involve custom marble design, fabrication and installation. If it can be made with a CNC, we are not involved in that and prefer to provide a slab to others who do. Our partner, Freddie Flores, is an artist, designer and stone sculptor, so he brings a custom design and fabrication approach to virtually every project we are involved in as a marble fabricator. Freddie and his team do very distinctive work, but it is a subset of our fabrication business. With the equipment and people we have in place, we are able to perform fabrication for a wide range of applications — new residential and commercial construction, and historical renovation/matching.”
The company manufactures specialty custom marble design and fabrication using Phenix Napoleon Gray and Fleuri material. That includes countertops, custom sinks, vanities, shower surrounds, fireplace surrounds, hearths, furniture, tile and other things. They also produce split face veneer stone in both full-bed depth and thin veneer, saw-cut exterior panels, pavers, sills, lentils, coping, caps and benches. The company produces Napoleon Gray marble and Fleuri slabs for the wholesale market, selling to date to independent fabricators and finally sell block and oversized slabs as needed.
In the future, Phenix Marble Co. plans to grow its shop as the demand for its products grow. “We believe our focus will be on blocks, marble slabs and exterior stone for fabricators and projects across the U.S.,” said Neely. “We will continue to see Freddie create one-of-a-kind projects for his discerning clients.”
Phenix Stone Co.
Types of Work: Residential and Commercial