Andy Bolt (left) and Chris Fortosis are co-owners and presidents of Patten Monument Company and Great Lakes Granite Works. Bolt is the manager of Patten Monument Company, and Fortosis is the manager of Great Lakes Granite Works.
Patten Monument Company in downtown Comstock Park holds the distinction of being the largest provider of cemetery memorials in Michigan. The company has distributors throughout Michigan and showrooms in Cadillac, Holland, and Warsaw, Indiana in addition to the main showroom and headquarters at 3980 West River Drive.
Andy Bolt, manager of Patten Monument, said the company makes close to 7,000 headstones a year and is affiliated with some 300 funeral homes in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. They deliver as far away as Indianapolis, Sault St. Marie, and Cleveland, as well as every cemetery in Michigan.
The company was established in 1917 on Plainfield Avenue in Grand Rapids and in 1993, the sister company Great Lakes Granite Works was basically born in a back room there. “Great Lakes needed space, needed to move,” said Bolt of the decision to move. ‘Patten also needed more space, but we could make do until we built the (Great Lakes) building.” Great Lakes moved into its new building in 1994, and Patten monument moved into its 45,000 square foot facility in 1997. The Comstock Park site was a good choice for the two companies, said Bolt. “The location gives us good visibility,” he said. “It’s easy for customers to find being right off the expressway.”
The monuments come to the Patten plant polished and cut to shape, and the company does the engraving, artwork and installation. There are 46 employees. They also make other products such as cremation memorials and natural stone signs. Bolt said granite used in monuments comes primarily from domestic sources with quarries in Vermont, Georgia, and South Dakota being big suppliers. Customers can choose from dozens of colors of granite, and sales people are available to help with that decision as well as the monument’s style. They also educate the customer about cemetery restrictions.
Bolt, who has been with the company for 26 years, started there during his senior year at Western Michigan University working summers in delivery. After graduating from college he took a position in sales. Bolt said he has seen monuments become “far more personalized” since he started in the business, and noted that something unique is installed almost daily. People have asked for grave markers in shapes such as motorcycles, tractors, and cars, as well as having pictures with views from a favorite duck blind or a favorite golf hole engraved on monuments to memorialize their loved ones, he said. The enduring quality of the product appeals to Bolt. “It is gratifying to make a product that’s not going to be used and then thrown away,” he said. “We get thank you notes (from customers) for our help with closure during hard times.”
When Bolt and Chris Fortosis became full owners of the two companies, they kept the tradition of lighting the large fir trees along West River Drive in front of the businesses. “It gives a good feeling coming into work,” said Bolt, who lives in Jenison with his wife and three children ages 16 to 8.