Freshwater Stone evolves its stone business
Since the beginning, the owners of the Orland, ME-based company have prided themselves on being creative and diversifying to help grow their business
In 1972-73, Jeff and Candy Gammelin moved to Maine after college. The recent graduates built a home and wanted to figure out how to live life. “We wanted to be physically active while also being creative,” said Jeff Gammelin. “We built our own house, we used the materials that were on the land and we taught ourselves how to work with stone. It was a trial-and-error process.” In 1976 Jeff and Candy built their first fireplace in their own home, after catching the attention of another person, they were asked to build another for a customer.
One year after building their own fireplace, Jeff and Candy commissioned their first fireplace using for the first time the Freshwater Stone name. In 1988, Freshwater Stone moved its offices from Jeff and Candy’s home in Ellsworth to its current location in Orland, ME. “We hired and trained the first crop of stone masons,” said Jeff Gammelin, founder of the company. “Most of the work was manual, lots of lifting. About 30 years ago, we had an idea of building the fireplaces in our shop first, then break it down to put it back together in the customer’s home.” According to Andy Odeen, the general manager of Freshwater, there isn’t anyone else in the area that does what they do in regards to construction. “We mock everything up here,” said Odeen. “We go to the job site to template and then we build it back here in the shop. At the shop we have bridge saws, wire saws and overhead cranes and that allow us the capability to build large-format stonework. We then can take the finished project to the job site and build it permanently. This allows us to work through any issues there may be, here in the shop. It also reduces the amount of waste, water and noise that would be on site. We are making it a better experience for everyone that is involved and it’s a quicker build process.”
DIVERSIFYING A BUSINESS
While the company was growing, they started the fabrication portion of the business in 1990 and 1991. “We were the first fabrication shop in Maine,” said Odeen. “The shop was started as a result of clients asking for interior stone. We started out cutting and finishing everything by hand and transitioned to a digital shop starting in 2009 with the purchase of our Prodim Proliner.” It had a good customer base, but Gammelin recognized they needed to solve one of their biggest issues, getting good quality stone material. In 2001, Freshwater Stone purchased the Mosquito Mountain Quarry in Frankfort, ME. “Sourcing stone yourself is half the battle,” said Gammelin. “We had to upgrade the shop to deal with the larger stones that we were now bringing in. We had to put in a bridge saw and wire saws that were big enough to handle it all. With all these large purchases, we knew we had to diversify the company.”
The company currently has four divisions, allowing it to provide a bevy of solutions for its possible clients. “We have the quarrying side of the business where we purchased the Mosquito Mountain quarry, and we currently have two others that we are leasing,” said Odeen. “We also do architectural stonework, what others may call cut-to-size. We have stone construction, which does residential fireplaces, chimneys, patios and walls. We really focus on weathered stone and large format. Lastly, the fabrication department is responsible for all our interior stonework that includes showers, countertops vanities, hearts, etc.
“We can do anything when it comes to stone given our experience, equipment and creativity,” Odeen went onto say. We do some of our best work on projects that are challenging unconventional.”
As far as saws and fabrication equipment, Freshwater Stone has a GMM Axia 38 bridge saw, a GMM Egil 46 bridge saw and moulding machine, a GMM Diama 40 full bridge saw, two GMM Litox 38 automatic bridge saws, three Gaspari Menotti wire saws, a Pellegrini DF 2000TOP wire saw, a Prussiani CNC Oceania, a Thibaut T108L and a 5-foot gantry wire saw from Wilson Industrial Electric. The company gets its tooling from GranQuartz and uses a Prodim Pro-Liner and a Laser Products 2D3D for its digital templating needs. They have a countertop fabrication shop annual capacity of 25,000 square feet processed.
THE QUARRYING SIDE
For the stone quarries, there is the Freshwater Pearl Granite quarry on Mosquito Mountain in Frankfort, ME; the Hall Quarry granite quarry located in Mount Desert, ME; and finally the Cherry Fields granite quarry in Jonesboro, ME. The company produces quarry blocks, slabs, architectural cut to size, veneer panels, tiles, hardscape, monuments, signage, custom interiors, pavers, steps/stairs, ramp and twist wall caps/copings, fire pits, fireplaces, carved sinks and tubs, water features, and finally custom countertops. Currently, the company has 40,000 cubic feet of quarrying capacity a year. In the quarry, Freshwater Stone has several line drilling machines, two Novamac P212-V pneumatic drills, a Marini Spherical Block cutter and a Xiamen Bestlink Factory drill. In addition, they have an atlas Copco DTH Speeddrill, Pellegrini DTH Slim Driller, Atlas Copco SpeedCut 100 wire saw and a Pellegrini TDi65 wire saw.
In total, Freshwater Stone has 59 full-time employees, along with several sub-contractors. According to Gammelin, the company allows its employees to be physical and creative, helping the process of retaining good employees. “I think we are a very creative company and we have a great group of people here,” said Gammelin. “We cross train our employees. If they want to try their hand at something else, we let them. It allows them to be as creative as they want to be, as well as being physical. Because we have four branches, and we have Alpha Cam and AutoCAD, it allows for a wide variety of skills to develop in our company. Our company has also taken on a large variety of projects, so we are not doing the same work over and over. People who stay and put in the time end up really enjoying the work. We of course try to keep pay and benefits as good as we can, but we also put a focus on safety, being licensed and certified.”
Gammelin sees tremendous growth potential for stone and the stone industry. “Being in Maine, you have to deal with some pretty harsh environment conditions,” said Gammelin. “But being able to see what you can get out of a quarry, it’s the best, most durable material out there. It is a great material to use up here in Maine. Currently, the costs of stone are going down while the costs of other building materials are going up. Stone won’t rot, it won’t need painting, and I think stone makes a lot of sense being used as door sills and window sills. Wood flooring won’t last, but stone floors will. Stone will last and it is beautiful. I get that ‘R Value’ can be a concern when using stone but for long-term value, there is no question that stone is the best.”
More about Jeff Gammelin
For someone visiting Maine for the first time, what do you consider a must see?
JG: A visitor to Maine has a lot to choose from but for me the solitude of the woods and inland waters and the spectacular beauty of Acadia National Park are tops.
Outside of the stone business, what are some of your hobbies you enjoy the most?
JG: Thinking about fishing, Biking/tennis, Exercising, Gardening, Family time
Most memorable experience since being a part of the stone industry?
JG: In 1976, the image of my wife climbing a ladder to the top of a chimney carrying a bucket of mud in one hand or a stone balanced on her shoulder. She was my first tender. We are still married.
Furthest place from you that you have traveled to?
JG: We’ve visited our daughter in Cape Town, South Africa and the surrounding areas five or six times.
Type of Work: Residential, wholesale, retail
Machinery: An Axia 38, two Litox 38, a Diama 40, an Egil 36 — all from GMM S.p.A. located in Gravellona Toce, Italy; a DF2000TOP from Pellegrini, located in Verona, Italy; an Oceania from Prussiani, located in Albano Sant’Alessandro, Italy; a T108L by Thibaut, located in Vire Cedex, France; a gantry wire saw from Wilson Industrial Electric, located in Elberton, GA; a SpeedCut100 wire saw and Speedrill VH rock drill from Atlas Copco, located in Nacka, Sweden; three Gaspari Menotti wire saws, located in Carrara, Italy; tooling from GranQuartz based in Atlanta, GA; a Proliner from Prodim USA in Ft. Pierce, FL; and a 2D3D digital templating system from Laser Products located in Romeoville, IL
Number of Employees: 59