Like the stone it pulls out of quarries such as the one it has operated along CTH H west of New Holstein since 1964, Buechel Stone Corp. wants to make sure it operates its business on a rock solid foundation.
To that end, company officials have spent some time in recent years deciding what the company should be at this time in its history as it approaches its 50th anniversary.
Director of Operations Mike Buechel said there was a time not too long ago when Buechel Stone Corp. “wanted to be a little bit of everything to everyone.” As owners of the company, Tim and Scott Buechel decided to narrow the focus back to what Buechel Stone does best—getting stone out of area quarries, processing it in a variety of ways, and getting it to the customers throughout the U. S. and Canada who want it.
“I think for the most part, locally we’ve put a lot more focus on contractors,” Mike said. “Nationally, it’s a lot more with our dealers, people who resell our materials.”
Economy is looking up
Since supplying stone to contractors who then use it on exterior and interior projects in commercial and residential settings is a focus of Buechel Stone Corp., it has obviously been impacted by the downturn in the housing market in recent years. But Mike echoed what others in the construction and real estate markets are saying—things are looking up.
“It seems as though things are getting a little bit stronger in the construction industry,” Mike said. “People are a lot more optimistic.”
Mike was quick to praise Buechel Stone’s employees—some of whom have been with the company for more than 30 years—for helping the company throughout the course of its history. Buechel Stone currently employs about 100 people and is looking to add some more full time and summer help. “There’s certainly things that you need to have every summer and spring,” he said about products demanded by customers.
For the most part, working in a stone quarry is not what it was back in the 1960s when Mike’s grandparents, Francis and Alyce, converted their 125-acre farm into a working quarry, nor does it probably fit the perception of most people.
Solid safety record
For starters, a person might think that the combination of heavy equipment, heavy stones and big saws everywhere would create some hazardous working conditions. Buechel Stone’s focus on having a safe work environment has allowed the company to go the last two years without a lost-time accident. That has helped the company operate in a manner befitting of the recent lean economy. “We can’t afford to have people gone and our employees’ health and safety is a top priority,” Mike said.
In addition, about 90 percent of the company’s jobs have employees working indoors or inside enclosed machinery. Over the years some procedures have been brought indoors for the comfort and safety of employees.
Paying attention to the ergonomics of work stations has also helped at Buechel Stone, yet there are still jobs which require repetitive lifting of heavy stones. “There is no way you can get everything physical out of the job, but we’re trying to limit the amount of lifting,” he added. “It’s not a job for everybody.”
Mike said he can shrink most of what Buechel Stone does into this: making big stones into smaller stones. “At the end of the day, that’s what we do.”
Any blasting done by the company these days is outsourced to experts who can loosen the sediment stone in layers. From there the process of pulling the stone layers out and taking them inside for cutting and sometimes other procedures such as sanding is done by employees who can be considered artists—only these artists use giant cutters and saws rather than paint brushes and easels.
Their work really does need to be artistic as a lot more stone is being used on the interior of homes these days. The plethora of home improvement shows on TV—a number of which Buechel Stone has been featured on—have helped give homeowners and contractors alike more ideas for using stone indoors, including on bathroom and kitchen walls. If people have not been building new homes in recent years, they have been remodeling what they have and the use of natural stone in backyards for patios, fire pits, outdoor cooking areas, etc. has grown as well.
Despite all that, when it comes to stone, for most people “it’s not something you deal with every day,” Mike said. That is why the company has worked on its Web site to offer more information than ever on natural stone and its uses. Check it out at www.buechelstone.com.Available are several hundred photos of projects, links to Buechel Stone’s Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and Pinterest sites, and the ability to do a live chat with a stone specialist.