There’s nothing like a declining bottom line — and for stone fabricators, an end to the once boundless lineal feet of countertops — to get people considering ways they can expand their products or services to bring in a few more dollars. For stone, one solution isn’t so much a different product as it’s an old standby in a different plane. Stand that countertop on its edge, decorate it, and Voila; a sign is born. It isn’t really quite that simple, but there’s a certain synergy between various aspects of the industry that helps some operations tie signage in with their other work, be it countertops or landscape stone. And, even those who work with stone daily but have never shaped an ogee edge say it’s a market with plenty of potential that hasn’t really been slowed much by the present economy.
Granite Slabs are For More Than Monuments
When most people think of adding words to stone, the first concept is monuments. These testaments to stone’s durability are certainly part of the mix, and a launching pad for some now doing stone signage.
Mark Lange went to work for his father at Northland Monuments in 1985. Five years later, he launched Granite Designs Inc. in the small central Minnesota community of Longville to fill what he saw as a need for granite countertops. Today, he’s still doing countertops, but having added two other monument companies to Northland, that portion of` the business is averaging about 45 cemetery monuments a week, plus doing a brisk trade in other types of stone signs. “We do signs from granite, limestone, sandstone and boulders,” he says. “‘We fill a certain niche because we have big saws.” About 30 miles east of Manhattan, in the Long Island community of Brookville, N.Y., Maggie and Hugh Tanchuck of North Shore Monuments also used a family business to point them toward other opportunities, including signage.
Hugh Tanchuck started working for his father when he was barely a teenager, learning to do hand—carving and tooled letters, as well as sandblasting — among other things. When the couple relocated the business to Maggie’s hometown, they quickly became acquainted with neighbors anxious to tap his skills moving and restoring large pieces of stone. “We also had architects see that we could carve big signs for them,” says Maggie Tanchuck. “‘Then, about I5 years ago, we started doing engraved bricks and donor recognition.”One of their most-recent projects: engraving 24″ X 24″ tiles with donor names across 3,000 ft. of rooftop terrace at New York’s tamed Cooper Union.
On the other hand, monuments and signage can serve as another business opportunity tor someone looking to branch out from the countertop business. Just ask Alec Turner of the Fairbanks, Alaska-based Alaskan Granite…