jump to content immediately

Daily Archive for April 15 2011

Making Monuments

Brent Sears

Sears Monument Company has itself become a monument in the Charleston business community.

Its secret? The customer.

“It’s about treating the customers properly,” said Brent Sears, the company’s owner. “It’s about listening to what they have to say. We’re turning their stories and family histories into permanent monuments, and we take that very seriously.”

The company, which is celebrating its 100-year anniversary, produces and installs civic memorials, markers of granite and stone, signs, remembrance benches and plaques.

“Our product is not a commodity,” Sears said. “We have to know the product well. What kinds of granite hold up the best over time? What is the best way to engrave it? What colors are available? We know that marble just doesn’t hold up as well as granite, for example. We’re informing them of options. Sometimes, they don’t even know what to ask.”

Roy Oscar Sears, a wholesale specialist, founded the company in 1911, choosing Charleston over other locations in West Virginia.

Its original building was located on Kanawha Street, now Kanawha Boulevard, where Charleston Newspapers now sits. In 1927, it moved to Virginia Street, where United Bank’s Charleston headquarters now stands.

Roy’s sons, Jack and Roy, bought the business in 1955. Jack incorporated the business in 1965. By then, Sears had purchased Carmichael Monument Company in Parkersburg and had an office in Beckley. The Huntington sales office opened in 1972, the same year the Charleston location moved to its current home at 124 Virginia St.

“In 1972, this location was on the outskirts of Charleston,” Sears said. “Now, we’re downtown.”

Brent, Jack’s youngest son, became Sears’ president in 1988 and then owner in 2009. His brother, John, manages the Huntington branch. The company now employs 16.

As you can imagine, a lot can change over a century – especially technology. When Sears first opened, the process involved pouring liquid stencil on the granite and allowing it to harden. The design would be hand-cut.

Today, a rubberized stencil on a roll creates the computer design, and sandblasting applies it to the stone. Laser etching allows images and a varity of fonts.

“A customer recently asked if we could put an inloader and dozer on a memorial,” Sears said. “We had stock images, but they asked if it could come from a photo. We were able to do that. Things like that give meaning to the monuments.”

Sears has been a Charleston Regional Chamber, and now Alliance, member since 1976.

“Being an Alliance member allows you to learn about elements of the business community,” Sears said. “It gives you a larger voice and keeps you in touch.”

We salute Sears and are proud to have it as a member of the Alliance family.  Sears has produced hundreds of thousands of monuments over the past 100 years, but the focus on customer service has built one stalwart pillar in Charleston.

The Alliance’s focus is helping other businesses follow the formula of success. Whether through special events such as the Small Business Summit, reguar offerings such as Business After Hours or topical sessions such as SUCCESStrategies, we’re assisting others on their way to the century mark.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter