Small Business Q&A: Roberts-Shields Memorial Co.
A century-old family owned and operated monument business designs and fabricates lasting tributes.
Today is Memorial Day, a day set aside to pay homage to our fallen American warriors. Ceremonies will be held in somber places where stone monuments mark the passing of those who have gone before us.
Roberts-Shields Memorial Company on Williams Drive in Northeast Cobb has created granite, marble and bronze tributes since 1898.
President and minority-owner Brook Bolton said that where a fallen hero is interred is the biggest factor in honoring a loved one. VA National Cemetery in Carterville and the Marietta National Cemetery are exclusive to military veterans and their families.
"The Veterans Administration has a flat bronze grave marker they offer to service members," Bolton said, "What can be engraved on the plaque is restrictive."
Bolton shared that there are a number of ways to memorialize a family member. Headstones can be personalized with ceramic covered photographs and stone benches and engraved tiles can highlight special places.
Roberts-Shields employs 15 full time staff who wear many hats. Bolton oversees the day-to-day operation of the plant and administrative office. His duties include quality control and loading trucks.
Q. What's the best thing about your job?
A. I love running a family business that helps families in a time of need. I strive to make the process of memorializing a loved one easy.
Q. What is the best thing about Northeast Cobb?
A. I live in Roswell, so we're near. It's a great area for business and living.
Q. Why did you choose to open your business in Northeast Cobb?
A. We were in Midtown for decades, the location wasn't family friendly. So, we sold that property to a guy who turned it into The Compound, it's an events, party place now.
We built here in February 2001 because the location is convenient to get to. We're easy to find from Hwy 41 and I-75. We needed an area that was zoned light industrial so that we could build the monuments on site and we like this street because it is nice to drive through. Families travel past trees and houses instead of heavy industrial buildings.
Q. Why did you pick this kind of business?
A. I married into the family. My father-in-law, Brandon Shields was running the business and getting it ready to sell and he asked me if I wanted to work here. He's majority owner. I've been in the business for 12 years.
Q. What are some of the services you offer that people may not know about?
A. We create all types of memorials, not just headstones and mausoleums. We make art benches, signs, plaques, stepping stones.
We made the original granite Martin Luther King Jr. mausoleum at the King Center and we also designed, fabricated and installed the new double mausoleum that includes Coretta Scott King.
Q. How did your business get started?
A. Mr. Roberts started it in Ball Ground. Roberts put it up for sale and James and Barbara Shields, my wife's grandparents, purchased the monument company in 1959. Roberts Drive is the main street in Ball Ground, some of the family is still there.
My father-in-law still works here, at our other business, selling new and used hearses. He grew up in the monument industry, working summers since he was a teenager. His title is chairman of the board, but, we don't pay attention to titles here.
Q. Do you have advice for anyone who'd like to start a small business in this area?
A. It's not easy, don't expect it to be. Having said that, it is a great thing and I encourage people to be entrepreneurs. You've got to have a viable business plan with enough cash flow to support the business through lean years. If you're not a hard worker I would discourage you from opening a business.
Q. Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?
A. Know that there are professionals whose only job is to create monuments. Don't assume that a cemetery or funeral home is the only place to purchase a memorial. You wouldn't buy furniture from your realtor.
I'm confident that you could not get better quality or value anywhere else. Sometimes we can install and fabricate a memorial for half as much as quoted by a cemetery.
Brook Bolton, president
850 Williams Dr