Majestic Stone sets out to bring reliability, brand awareness to the stone industry

Patrick Wells, CEO of Majestic Stone, shows the different size pieces of stone they pull from the quarry that can be used for different things Tuesday, July 24, 2018 at Majestic Stone in Dayton, Tennessee. Majestic Stone makes anything from patios to house siding.
Patrick Wells, CEO of Majestic Stone, shows the different size pieces of stone they pull from the quarry that can be used for different things Tuesday, July 24, 2018 at Majestic Stone in Dayton, Tennessee. Majestic Stone makes anything from patios to house siding.

The beauty of Tennessee flagstone and the mix of earthy, orange and brown hues with cooler blues and grays is hard to deny when admiring the natural stone on a fireplace mantle or the exterior of a luxurious home on Lookout Mountain.

But when the employees at Majestic Stone begin the work of extracting that stone on Dayton Mountain in Rhea County, that same beauty can be more difficult to see among the mud and the brush. It takes 45 employees, some heavy equipment and the luck of good weather to get that stone from the pits of a rock quarry an hour outside of Chattanooga to a contractor in southern California who can use it as a pool installation at Disneyland, or to some other high-end home or development.

Standing next to his Ford pickup inside one of the seven rock quarries on the 200 acres of land Majestic Stone leases from landowners, CEO Patrick Wells pointed to slabs of the stone nearby that were wet and muddy from the recent heavy rains. Weather can be a huge detriment to production, and Majestic Stone typically pulls 80 percent of their product from March to October.

"This is what is crazy," said Wells, pointing to the slabs - called "benches" in the industry.

"This isn't pretty, it's kind of ugly out here," he added. "And it's going to be in the shape of Mickey Mouse's head at a pool at Disney."

There are about a dozen companies in the Chattanooga metro area that supply Tennessee flagstone for the region, Wells said, and Majestic Stone is attempting to brand itself in an industry that has historically had a tough time of doing just that.

Two years ago, Alderman Holdings, a Chattanooga-based investment company that Wells is a partner in, purchased the stone company. It was the first of four that Alderman has taken over since then, including Southeastern Tool & Design, Inc., Dalrymple Rigging & Transport, Inc. and A1 Hevi-Lift Rentals. Other partners at the firm include Ben Brown, Jay Hildebrand and Andrew Kean.

Since the 32-year-old took the reins as CEO in 2016, Majestic Stone has nearly doubled the number of employees and grown from 25 distributors to over 130. A $1 million business in 2016, Wells said they doubled that number last year and are hoping to hit $3.5 million this year despite some of the weather setbacks and heavy rains the area has experienced this season.

But setbacks are common in the stone industry, which means excuses are common, too. Part of branding the company means putting those excuses aside, Wells said.

Many homeowners know the drill - a project that was supposed to take one month to complete instead takes six months or a year because a supplier didn't follow through in time.

"The standard in the industry is we will get it to you when we get it and we will sell you what we have, not what you want," he said. "We are going to more professional distributors that have just been begging for a more professional stone company to come along."

With a Masters in Business Administration from Alabama's Samford University and previous experience working in legal outsourcing and the auto salvage industry, Wells said he didn't know a thing about stone but that didn't matter too much. He had institutional knowledge among employees, so he focused on finding opportunities to grow the business.

About 90 percent of Majestic Stone's business is done through distributors, and the company has not only focused on growing their distribution network but also diversifying it.

"It's less about the product and more about the relationship," he said. "The product matters, it has to be good quality, but it's got to be relationally driven. They've got to trust us."

That focus on making the distributor happy is what attracted Ladue Fossett to the company. Now, Fossett is the president of Drain Right Guttering based in Cleveland, but he met Wells last spring when he was the regional manager of Acme Brick Tile & Stone.

He said his two biggest issues with stone companies in the past was them selling directly to customers and going around the distributor, or the company took to long to get stone for a project.

"If you want to be a legitimate stone supplier and use a distributor network you have to be disciplined enough to say no and disciplined enough to always tell the truth about your lead times," Fossett said. "That industry is notorious for neither one of those things happening."

According to Fossett, Majestic Stone has done a good job of creating a well-organized business, though.

"They've turned a historically unorganized business that is disloyal to the distributor and made it loyal," he said. "That may not sound like a lot, but if you don't do that then you are exceptional."

While Wells doesn't expect to increase the number of homeowners he sells to directly, he hopes to increase brand awareness of Majestic Stone in the region, too. About 95 percent of Majestic Stone's business is outside the region.

It's hard to brand something that many don't realize is there, though. For example, a cyclist or walker along the Tennessee Riverwalk might not realize that a few condos at Cameron Harbor feature Majestic Stone on the exterior, or that the Tennessee Aquarium's new conservation institute at Baylor School's campus in Chattanooga features Majestic Stone's product both outside and inside the development. A few months ago, Majestic Stone also finished a castle up on Raccoon Mountain.

"We have a long way to go, but we are gaining traction," Wells said. "There have been some tough days and are team has had to learn really quickly, but we are building a really cool company."

Contact staff writer Allison Shirk at, @Allison_Shirk or 423-757-6651.

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