At first glance, you would certainly know that Emerson Monument Company in Northwest Arkansas sells memorial stones to celebrate and remember loved ones. What you might not know is the company is also in the service of caring and connecting with family members left behind who want to honor the lives of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and children.
Emerson Monument originally started in Clifty, Arkansas in 1914. More than 100 years and a couple of different names later, and ownership by a few Arkansas families, the business operates with two shops in Bentonville and Springdale, employs seven people and makes over 1500 monuments each year.
When Alison and Scott Raymer purchased Emerson in 2007, they were transitioning out of the construction industry and into a business they took the time to learn. Their first year was, in a way, an intense crash course in managing the industry but also learning how to help clientele. Alison, who holds credentials in accounting, never imagined the skills she would develop to serve the families who walk through the door at the Springdale storefront. The Raymers have worked deliberately to maintain the high standards needed for quality work. They take great pride in what they sell, but also in their care and respect for customers who are in the difficult position of burying and remembering loved ones.
Part of Alison’s role is to help people understand the symbolism of a monument and walk them diligently through the process. She points out the significance of such symbolism, dating back to hieroglyphics by Egyptians who recorded their history in symbols and images in stone. As she describes the process, her love for what she does shows.
“The whole process can be healing for families. After losing someone close, many people need a tangible place to go to—away from their home. This process and the end product offers them a chance for that.”
Alison wants her customers to be emotionally involved in deciding how they want a monument to look. The process takes time and requires care and comes with many options for customizing. Alison assists families throughout so they won’t be overwhelmed: sometimes she counsels and explains, other times she comforts and sympathizes. Often, she simply listens. Over time, she has learned to gauge people’s readiness for the emotional toll. At times, she has suggested that family wait before beginning the process of creating a memorial—placing value of people and relationships over the sale of a product. She can recall details about families with whom she has worked over the years and stays in touch with many of the shop’s past customers.
The people at Emerson Monument take care of the entire journey: from working with families and assisting in design to creation and installation. The workshop where stones become custom monuments is part of the Springdale storefront.
Inside that workshop, the detailed artistry involved is immediately evident. Quality monument customization is an amazing craft. Emerson ships monument-grade granite from quarries in other states and sometimes from other countries, but craftsman in the Springdale shop take care of the stenciling and carving of images themselves, and by hand. Design, sandblasting and polishing work is started and completed a few feet from where customers order the product.
Last year, the company performed a major shop overhaul, purchasing new equipment that takes the sandblasting process up a notch and helps make the shop safer for their workers in time for this year’s busy season ahead of Memorial Day. This is the time of year that families who haven’t yet purchased a monument tend to think about wanting one.
When they come to Emerson, Alison and Scott and the employees who make up the business will be ready to carry on the tradition and serve with the respect, reverence and quality families have come to expect from this long-time Arkansas business.