Ten years after opening the doors to thier new business Steve and Beth Carroll are celebrating the continued success of Carroll Memorials.
Steve said he started the business as a second career after spending 30 years as a stone mason in the area.
“It is hard work laying rock,” he said. “My knees started bothering me and I realized I had to find a second career.”
He decided to try his hand at monuments after seeing several monument suppliers in Kentucky while driving to his son’s basic training graduation.
“They just had beautiful displays of all different colors of granite,” he said. “I had never seen anything like it and said that is what I want to do.”
After visiting the dealers in Kentucky to learn more information, Steve signed up for a course in how to succeed in the monument industry in Elberton, Ga.
“They taught us how to measure, the nomenclature they use, how to describe the finish you want, how to set monuments and how to run the business,” he said. “It was a pretty inclusive class. I learned the business from the most professional granite association in the country. It was invaluable really.”
Knowledge in hand, the Carrolls started looking for a location for their new business.
“I did the market research and saw there was not a monument company in Stokes County,” he said.”We bought this building in April 2005.”
“This was the old post office building and then it had become a print shop and had been empty for a couple of years,” remembers Beth. “We spent from April until Aug. 5 gutting it and fixing it back and remodeling and knocking out walls and picking out paint and carpet.”
“Every monument place I had ever been to was just kind of gritty and not very conducive to a good shopping experience,” said Steve. “I wanted a nice indoor showroom that was climate controlled and a comfortable situation to be in.”
Steve said his business has not changed much since first opening its doors, although he does have many more products, including flags and flag poles, to offer today.
“I hired Lisa Amin as an administrative assistant, but I was doing all of the designing and installation,” he said. “Instead of handling 75 pound rocks I was handling 1,200 pound rocks.”
Steve said none of his small staff serve as salesmen, but rather as facilitators for customers wanting to honor their loved ones.
“Most people have never bought a monument before,” he explained. “The first step is finding out what they need and want. If they have no idea we walk them through the showroom and show them the different types of granite and colors and different finishes and sizes so they can get a handle on what they want.
“Once their idea starts developing, then we sit down and look at some books with illustrations of different styles and carvings,” he added, noting that many carvings have symbolic value. “Then we refine the idea of what they want and go back to the computer and start laying it out with the shape and size and the carvings and the name and dates.
“Finally it all comes together and most of the time folks will ask to take the drawing home to show to other family members,” said Steve. If the customer decides to by the monument, he orders it from a dealer in Georgia and the does all of the engraving and installation work here in King. “It takes about six to eight weeks to get a monument ready and during that time Monty goes out and digs and pours the concrete foundation. We place well below the frost line so it is a good foundation for the monument.”
Steve said that while it is a difficult profession he enjoys helping people find resolution to their grief.
“I hear people say they dread coming here and put it off until they feel like they have to do it, but when they leave her they feel better,” he said. “For one thing it is behind them, but it has also been a good experience because they have learned and helped design and make a memorial for someone they loved. It sounds a little morbid, but it is really very satisfying for moth me and the customer. These are for future generations and hopefully grandchildren and great-grandchildren and fifth great-grandchildren will be able to look at the monument and tell a little bit about that ancestors of theirs. We want it to tell the story of a person’s life. A lot of people look at it as the last thing they can do for a loved one.”
While the core business has not changed much, Carroll Memorials now offers many more options for customers than it used to, including QR codes for monuments.
“You put it on the monument and then the family can upload whatever they want to the site it sends you to,” he said. “You can put the obituary, pictures, family history or even video and whoever comes to the monument can scan it and be taken to that website.”
“We also sell vases and accessories for tombstones,” said Beth,noting that they offer granite counter tops, statuary, urns, memorials for cremations and desk accessories and granite plaques for corporate awards. “We also do markers for cats and dogs.”
The company also sells flags and flag poles, and customers can order custom flags as well.
“I never thought I would enjoy anything more than building rock,” said Steve. “But have been able to help probably thousands of people in the past 10 years. It is very gratifying work.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.