On the morning of April 20, 2016, Greg Hughes Jr.’s company, Mother Earth Granite & Marble, located in Lake Havasu, AZ, which had been servicing Mohave County for more than 19 years, came to a fiery halt. “We usually start the work day at seven in the morning during the winter, but we were about to change that to six in the morning for the summer time hours due to the Arizona heat,” said Hughes. “We are very blessed that we didn’t change it to 6 a.m. yet. It was an older building with overhead power that comes in by the meter. Well the meter’s positive and neutron collided, and while it blew out lights every now and again, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I just thought I had to keep replacing them due to normal maintenance.”
At 6:23 a.m. on that morning in April, Mother Earth’s meter blew out and created sparks — initially catching the nearby rolls of carpet on fire, which ultimately led to the building burning down to the ground. “We lost all of our machines that we had purchased brand new,” said Hughes. “We lost three forklifts, a van that was 30 or 40 feet away from the fire, but the entire side of it melted off and warped due to the more than 2,000 degree heat the fire caused. We didn’t just lose our granite shop, we lost rolls of vinyl, carpet, padding, tile and tools. We also lost our inventory of sinks as well. We lost our family company RugHut Ltd./Cary’s Carpet and our family sink company, Sinks Plus Faucets. It was not only one company that burned down, but three of our companies. Luckily for us, the two other companies’ showrooms are at a different location, but all our products were located at Mother Earth Granite & Marble. One firefighter got injured and released on scene. The fire captain said it was one of the hottest fires he had to put out; that there was a heat shield around the building and did a flashover in one of the storage bays. I lost all my rolling — everything. I don’t think I even walked out with a single polishing pad. But we were very fortunate and blessed that no one was in the building. The business near ours had a video recording of the building catching fire and it went up extremely fast.
“My dad, Greg Hughes Sr., asked me what I want to do with the company — close it down and build houses?” said Hughes. “I said, ‘no.’ I still want to do granite, but I want to do it my way.”
After the fire happened on a Wednesday, that Friday Hughes called the supply truck out to his location so he could take care of his loyal customers. “By Monday, we were back in action after the fire,” said Hughes. “I had to use a Skill Worm saw, generators and a garden hose, and would cut slabs using that saw system. We ended up only having a week delay on our jobs that were active. The slabs in the fabrication stage at the time were cracked from the heat and from the foam the firefighters used to put out the fire. I was able to get new slabs out there by Monday and had to rent a forklift since all of mine were gone. But I am really proud of my guys, Mat, Justin, Colton and Zach. They are like family. They came back from this and got the work done.”
For the past year and a half, Greg Hughes Sr., age 70, and Bonnie Hughes, age 66, have been battling with health issues and battling with the insurance company when they had plans to retire and turn it over to their son Greg Hughes Jr. “They had to delay retirement due to the fire,” explained Hughes. “After a month and a half, we fabricated in the back of our old burnt down granite shop.”
Currently, Mother Earth Granite & Marble operates out of a building they rent. Hughes explained how he had to convert from single-phase to three-phase power with phase converters and transformers so he could run his machines. “We used to buy new tools,” he said. “Now we buy them used or buy them outright and not finance them,” he said. “After the 2008 economy crash, we realized it was really hard to make some of those machine payments and I didn’t want to go through that again.”
The company used to run a Matrix bridge saw and a ProEdge III polishing machine from Park Industries. Now they purchased a Park Industries Yukon saw from a competitor, Pro Stone Source in Lake Havasu City, AZ, and since then have purchased a Park Wizard Deluxe and a Montresor Luna 740 edge polishing machine. “While I want to get more automated machines, and digital templating, our production has been better than before the fire,” said Hughes. “We were doing about two or three kitchens a week, and now we are doing five or six. With the new machines, we are able to get more production done.” Hughes’ temporary facility, while the new one is being built, is 5,000 square feet, with a fabrication space of 3,000 square feet. He currently runs one shift with six employees and two installation crews.
“I really believe the economy is doing better and growing,” said Hughes. “It’s not like it was before 2008, but it’s definitely better. So I am trying to purchase equipment that not only that I can get value and production out of now, but also that will help us in the long run and continue to grow the company. Our businesses are RugHut Ltd. / Cary’s Carpet, Mother Earth Granite & Marble and Sinks Plus Faucets. Our mother company RugHut Ltd. has been serving Mohave County for 40 years. We are a family owned and operated business. My employees are my family and that’s part of the reason I kept the doors open. Recently, we had an outdoor kitchen that we did with a mitered L shape. We would never have been able to do that in the past, but because of our new equipment we can.”
Hughes Jr. said when the fire happened he was in shock on that Wednesday morning. “That Thursday morning I felt empty and was lost mentally,” he said. “I would walk in that building for 19 years in the morning and it wasn’t there anymore. It was gone. The sweat and tears I put into the place were gone; there was nothing left. You mentally feel beat up. That Friday I got mad. I was not going to let this fire conquer me mentally or physically, and I was ready to fight hard to do what I needed to do to take care of my family and employees, their families and my loyal customers. Saturday we set a temporary shop and purchased 2-inch PVC piping for poles, tarps for shade, grinders, the Skill Saw Worm Drive, generators, etc. Sunday still determined, we had to put everything together. Monday was the big day to see if everything will work temporarily. We had a plumber come out to put a water spout out for water. All my supplies and slab deliveries came in that morning. Everything worked out that it brought tears to my eyes, knowing we are going to pull through this disaster. I felt pride knowing that I could take care of my customers. I have seen on social media that customers were saying, ‘I guess I won’t be getting my granite countertops, and it was a very prideful feeling to be able to call and tell those customers we will be installing their countertops that following week.”
Mother Earth Granite and Marble
Lake Havasu, AZ
Type of Work: Residential