The origin of StonExpo
A personal account of the beginnings of StonExpo and Stone World’s role in its promotion
Stone World was started by Mike and Stephanie Lench in November 1984. At that time, GranQuartz was busily introducing machinery and equipment for the stone industry to include large diameter (11-6 foot) block saws, automatic abrasive line polishers, edge polishers, etc. All of these machines in the early years were produced in Europe, which necessitated a trip to Europe every time a machine was sold, since Marble Institute of America (MIA) and Building Stone Institute (BSI) only had tabletop exhibits, precluding demonstration of large machinery.
Very soon after the inception of Stone World, Mike visited us at GranQuartz and we immediately supported the magazine with advertising. We also recommended that Stone Worldbecome involved in the monument industry which at that time was probably the single largest sector of this industry. It employed at least 5,000 people in Elberton, GA; Barre, VT; Cold Spring, MN; Millbank, SD and scattered industry around the U.S. and Canada. This industry sector was the first user of this new equipment, thus the recommendation.
In 1986 at a Monument Builders of North America meeting, Jim Stengel got tired of hearing Peter Edwards complaining about the lack of stone tradeshows in the U.S., so he encouraged Peter to set one up. This, the MBNA would support through loaning Peter the use of Pennie Sabel who was employed by them at the time. Peter promptly visited all of the trade associations, including MIA, BSI, Barre Guild, Elberton Granite Association, Allied Stone Industries and others, asking for association support, which was mostly enthusiastically given. He also contactedStone Worldand Dimensional Stone Magazineand they promptly offered monthly free advertising for the tradeshow.
Mike and Stone Worldbecame fervent supporters of the concept and there was frequent communication on the development, culminating in the first StonExpo set up in Atlanta, GA in 1987. It proved extremely successful -- attracting more than 1,000 attendees, and consequently a StonExpo board was set up to perpetuate the tradeshow. The association heads recognized that the suppliers were largely carrying the costs of the show, while the suppliers recognized that the associations would promote the show to their membership. The magazines provided industry-wide advertising and insight from their perspective and made many useful suggestions, many of which were adopted. Thus, we had a unique connection between industry suppliers, associations and trade magazines which made the show the success it was (and is) until its sale to Hanley Wood in 2004.
The negotiating team to sell StonExpo to Hanley Wood consisted of Alex Bachrach, who was not only the president of StonExpo Federation but also publisher of Stone World; Gary Distelhorst, MIA executive vice president and myself. Thus, once more a close connection between Stone Worldand StonExpo.
Readers who might be interested in the full story of the sale to Hanley Wood, please contact me.
For those interested, the list of the original Association Trustees in 1987 included:
- Allied Stone Industries, Ranier Devido
- American Monument Association, Jim Stengel
- Barre Granite Association, Norman James
- Canadian Granite Association, Luc Dallaire
- Dimensional Stone Magazine, Jerry Fischer
- Elberton Granite Association, Thomas (Tom) Robinson
- Indiana Limestone Institute, William (Bill) McDonald
- Marble Institute of America, Bob Hund
- National Building Granite Quarriers Assn., Kurt Swenson
- Northwest Granite Mfg Assn., Earl Zniewski
- Stone WorldMagazine, Stephanie Lench
Mike and Stephanie would be proud of what they helped set up more than 30 years ago.