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Startup Limestone Fabricator Cutting Its Teeth

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 12:16pm
Rick Seltzer, The Herald-Times

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) -- The sound of saw teeth cutting into rock echoes through the 21,000-square-foot mill where TexaCon Cut Stone processes limestone, making it hard to hear co-owner and general manager Tevin Norman.

If the noise bothers him — if he even notices the reverberations of blade on stone — he doesn't show it.

"We ship to job sites all over the country. Canada is a really big market, too. We do a lot of high-end residential in Canada," Norman told The Herald-Times (http://bit.ly/1gTpwlF ).

Norman has just finished giving a tour of the mill, explaining how 25,000 pound limestone blocks are cut down to size by an assortment of heavy-duty equipment. There's an enormous belt saw. Rip saws. A profile saw. A CNC mill.

Cut pieces then move on to a finishing area. There, workers smooth and detail them using hand tools and sandpaper until they're ready to be shipped out for mounting on building exteriors.

TexaCon is a newcomer to the local limestone processing industry. It opened in December in the old Fluck Cut Stone Co. building at the corner of South Victor Pike and Fluck Mill Road.

The company is the brainchild of two business partners from Texas and Connecticut. One, Brenda Edwards, owns TexaStone Quarries in west Texas, operating both quarries and a fabrication facility. The other, Joe Dellacroce, owns manufacturer and distributor Connecticut Stone Supplies.

They've known each other for more than a decade — they're both past presidents of the Building Stone Institute industry group. And they found they were having similar problems getting highly sought-after stone from the "Indiana belt" of Monroe, Owen and Lawrence counties.

"We've always had difficulty with getting proper fabrication and getting delivery dates that anyone in the belt would stick to," Dellacroce said. "We needed something definitive both in my marketplace and Brenda's marketplace."

Eventually Dellacroce and Edwards brought in their third partner for the business, Norman. He's worked at several companies in the Indiana belt, picking up stone fabrication and setting knowledge over the years. Dellacroce, Edwards and Norman first met when a friend and customer who operates a materials company in Kansas City, Kan., encouraged Norman to join the Building Stone Institute.

The new business TexaCon purchased its mill in November, according to county property records. The sale price was $500,000, those records show.

Soon after that, the new business was open and cutting stone.

"We were told that we might possibly have problems getting blocks, materials," Edwards said. "That's been the easy part of it. Everyone's been wonderful selling us material, and we got more applications for employees than we ever thought we could possibly have."

Today TexaCon has 11 employees. That's up from three when it started.

The company has had its share of challenges, though. It bought the mill along with equipment it contained after a previous operator had gone into bankruptcy, according to Dellacroce. That means maintenance has been a challenge.

"This is an older mill than what we are used to," Edwards said. "The equipment's been an issue, keeping it running and getting it up to par."

TexaCon also has some work to do in its offices at the front of the mill building, according to Norman. The space that's slated to be its conference room isn't finished yet — this week workers made use of its empty tile floor by laying out plans for a project.

Dellacroce and Edwards are visiting once every three weeks or so while the business gets off the ground. They're not aiming to dominate the area's limestone fabricating industry, though.

"We're not out to hurt anybody in the belt," Dellacroce said. "We're not going to try to take business from anybody. What we'd like to do is provide some leadership by example of how Indiana limestone should be fabricated and fabricated on time."

In fact, the business can't fulfill all applications at the moment, according to Edwards. So its owners want to maintain good relationships with nearby companies so they can outsource work when necessary.

Norman is enthusiastic about the business and what it can do. The fact that it has the CNC mill, a computer-controlled, precision cutting tool, is a big bonus, he said. Many companies don't have such mills, and the machine can cut the time it takes to finish a piece from days to hours.

In addition, Norman has brushed up on his mill building's history. A look through some old industry magazines leads him to believe the building was originally constructed in Chicago before being torn down and rebuilt at its current location. Monroe County records show its construction date as 1930.

Norman is also enthusiastic about Indiana limestone in general.

After leading the tour of TexaCon's production area, he steps outside to show off limestone blocks waiting to be cut. Norman compares specimens from Indiana to a white example shipped in from one of Edwards' Texas quarries.

"Hers is a warmer color," he said before leaning in close to an Indiana limestone block. "Ours is a little bit cooler. Look how tight the grain is. That's the beauty of Indiana limestone."

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