Create a Legacy in Stone

Little Falls Granite Works, Little Falls, MN; Murphy Granite, Richmond, MN; Hibbing Monument, Hibbing, MN; and Duluth Monument, Duluth, MN are a group of memorial companies with a rich individual history interwoven to create a brand that has become a leader in North American cemetery memorialization. Their mission is “Creating everlasting stories in stone for people who matter by people who care.” They help over 6,500 families every year honor, celebrate, and remember the people they love and care about. The companies employ 43 full-time workers and have over 150 Authorized Memorial Consultants serving the upper Midwest. Their staff brings a wide array of expertise to the table, including memorial consulting, administration, design, manufacturing, and installation.

The original company, Little Falls Granite Works, dates back to 1898. The other companies came into the fold over the last 50 years. The company is unique because it has three equal owners, Todd Nagel, President, Scott Nagel, Head of Manufacturing, and Don Calhoun, Head of Marketing and Sales. All three owners are the second generation in the business; their fathers Ron Nagel and Ray Calhoun, were original business partners. With knowledge, experience, and discipline, they brought together a fantastic team of employees that perform with excellent efficiency and effectiveness.

A significant hurdle occurred five years ago when the companies had grown to the point where the wheels started coming off the cart. They found themselves frustrated and not enjoying the work as much. They became like firefighters, trying to put out one fire after the other. One day, they decided they had enough and decided to hire professional consultants from out of the state to come in and help them get back the joy and purpose they all needed and wanted.

All three owners knew that they needed to take the next step to move beyond the traditional family business and start acting like the growing professional business they were becoming. The company completely reorganized into silos of discipline. Today they continue to do their best to treat employees, and the family’s they serve with value and respect. The fun part is that Todd, Scott, and Don encourage everyone to be true to themselves and allow for strong individuality. As a result, the company culture dramatically improved, as did the wages and benefits. They also invested heavily in innovation, processes, and equipment.

Today, 9% of the US economy is based on manufacturing. The collective group of companies considers themselves blessed and grateful to be leaders in such a traditional and stories industry. Their work will continue in a very permanent way, like a rock, because they are people who care about what they provide for others.

Little Falls Granite Works

The Little Falls Granite Works was founded in 1911. This fact has been debated throughout the years because a business with a similar name, Little Falls Granite Company, was formed in 1897. Some assumed that this was the beginning of the Little Galls Granite Works. Further confusing the matter was the Little Falls Granite and Marble Works, which was in existence in 1907/08. A careful examination of the historical record and information from Harriet Karlson, daughter-in-law of founder G.W. Karlson, made the origins of the 100-year-old plus Little Falls Granite Works clear.

These were all separate companies, with the Little Falls Granite Company formed by J.F. McAulay, Joseph and Louis Robbers, and George and Charles Hall. (LFDT, May 14, 1897) This company, often referred to as the Little Falls Granite Works in news items, was purchased by the Davidson Granite Company in 1901. The officers of the company were A.R. Davidson, F.E. Kenaston, A.D. Davidson, and A.D. McRae. (LFDT, March 22, 1901) The Davidson Granite Company did not continue the use of the Little Falls Granite Company name.

Murphy Granite Carving

Our company had its humble beginning back in 1961 when owner Tim Murphy started moonlighting from his full-time job with Cold Spring Granite and began carving cemetery headstones, grave markers, and monuments for families in Central Minnesota. In 1968, Tim decided to go full-time on his own and quit his secure stone cutting and polishing job for the Granite Company.

The early years were hard while Tim worked out of his tiny garage with limited staff, money, and equipment. It took another eight years for the company to grow sufficiently to upsize with the purchase of the present building site and location in Richmond, MN. In the early 1980s, Tim’s dream truly began to take shape, and it marked a time when he brought several of his sons into the company to help in its continued growth and expansion.

Duluth Monument Company

Leo Koski started Duluth Monument in 1982 after a downturn in the economy and getting laid off from his work in the mines. Early in his working career, he worked for a private gas station owner. The owner had a sales training program, and Leo discovered he loved connecting with people. He knew that he wanted a career that involved helping others when searching for a new job. Leo came across a gentleman who suggested the monument business, and the seeds were planted during this journey.

The initial years proved to be more difficult than Leo imagined. Dealing with people at a time of grief and heightened emotion was hard to connect on a real personal level. The turning point came in 1987 when his second and third-grade teacher, Mrs. Avis Opine, walked through his door to purchase a memorial for her husband, who had passed away. Leo credited Mrs. Opine as the most influential person in his early childhood development. She was tough, demanding, and yet fair. Running into Mrs. Opine after all these years and trusting Leo during a difficult time meant the world to him. From that time on, the business started to flourish and grow. Mrs. Opine’s confidence and trust in him turned out to be the best thing ever for Leo. Imagine how the same individual turned out twice in his life to play such a key role in his success and development.

Hibbing Monument Company

In 1902, Mt. Iron Granite Quarry was purchased by W. Wright from Duluth, MN. He purchased the 40-acre site in speculation that it would be perfect for mining iron ore, but the site became a complete bust. The huge hill was full of nonferrous granite. This hill of Mesabi Pink granite was used mainly as a place where people enjoyed picnics, campfires, blueberry picking, and graffiti. It turns out that countless high school graduates wanted to leave their mark on the world.

The real story began with David Herman Soderstrom, an immigrant from Sweden who surveyed the site in the early 1930s. As a stonecutter by trade, he had a vision for the hill of granite rock. The granite had a perfect rich pink color, and it was much denser and more consistent in color than the granite quarries around St. Cloud, MN. Mr. Soderstrom bought some used granite equipment and began his quarrying operation. They would cut out various size blocks and ship them to Melrose Granite Company in St. Cloud for cutting them down into more exact sizes and finishing them to become tablets and bases for cemetery memorials.

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