CENTER, Mo. -- Most of the things Lola and Randy McDonald do at McDonald Stone Co. are purposeful.
They are picky about the stones they select. They work hard to ensure a quality product is sent to customers. And when business picked up considerably the last few years, they spent nearly 12 months looking at the best places to expand.
Within the next few weeks, things will be finalized for the McDonalds to purchase land south of Hannibal along U.S. 61 to establish a new walk-in design showroom and office, large stone inventory and retail shop.
"The goal is to have easy access for folks to come in and pick out stone signs for their homes, businesses or cemetery monuments," said Lola McDonald, co-owner of McDonald Stone Co. "We want to increase our service area and have a more inviting walk-in location. If it's a service people like, then we're up for it."
The expansion is a milestone for the couple and their business after it was first established as a side project, then a hobby, before developing into a full-time endeavor.
From sand to stone
The McDonalds started a painting and sandblasting company in 1986, and for years Randy McDonald mentioned to his wife he wanted to experiment with adding engraving and designs to stone and glass.
"We were busy, so I didn't encourage it," Lola McDonald said with a laugh.
In 2001, Randy's brother died, and as a tribute to him, Randy and his other brothers dug up a large boulder from the ground and engraved a cemetery memorial in the stone.
"Looking back at that now, it was very elementary (in design), but we wouldn't change it for anything because it was made with so much love," Lola McDonald said.
After that memorial was made, people began to ask the couple if they would create something for them.
"At that point it wasn't even a hobby," Lola McDonald explained. But after a few years of making the stone creations, the McDonalds decided they would learn to do the work professionally. The couple sold the sandblasting business and began operating McDonald Stone Co. full time from the family's Century Farm three miles south of Center near Madisonville.
Soon after there was a six-month waiting period for a custom piece. Today, there is a team of people who work at McDonald Stone Co., and the waiting list is no more than two weeks.
‘Limited by imagination'
"We're artistically inclined around here," said Lola McDonald, who is an artist. "We are limited by our imagination, and often it's our customers' imagination that is where the fun things come from."
Customers can either submit their own designs to be put on stone, or Lola and other artists with her can create the artwork. If customers choose the latter option, they can receive the original, autographed paper piece of art.
When it comes time to cut the stone and engrave it, about half of the work is done by hand and the other half done by machine. Stands for the products are handcrafted.
"We really do have a great time with it all," Lola McDonald said. "We're especially honored when people ask us to do cemetery memorials."
The business has customers from across the Tri-State region and throughout the United States, and the finished stone products, starting at $299, can be shipped to customers by either UPS or by freight.
Unique items in retail shop
As soon as the U.S. 61 property deal is finalized, the first thing to go up is a stone sign and water feature advertising McDonald Stone Co.
"A few years ago we put up a display sign along Highway 19 in Center," Lola McDonald explained. "We thought about putting our new building where the display sign is, but in looking at traffic flow, it's much greater on Highway 61."
Lola envisions the new building resembling a rustic barn and having a customer-friendly atmosphere. She said many fun and unusual items will be sold in the building's retail shop, and one of the items to be sold includes sequoia and other trees that can be planted in honor of the life or death of someone or to mark a special occasion.
Also to be set up on the property is an 1830s-era log cabin.
"About the time we knew for sure we could purchase the property, Randy saw advertised logs for sale from a historic Ralls County log cabin," Lola McDonald explained. "We bought the whole thing. Putting that up is going to be the first fun project for the new property."
The production portion of business operations will remain in Center, and the couple sees the expansion as a way to help potential customers envision what design and stone possibilities can be created, including custom cuts for fireplaces, benches and more.
More information about McDonald Stone Co. is available by calling 844-517-8663 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.