Patten Monument Company in downtown Comstock Park holds the distinction of being the largest provider of cemetery memorials in Michigan. The company was established in 1917 on Plainfield Avenue in Grand Rapids. In 1993 Patten Monument’s sister company Great Lakes Granite Works started almost as a hobby in a back room when vendors urged them to expand into manufacturing countertops since they had the materials they would need. The new business took off immediately and needed room to grow.
“Great Lakes needed space, needed to move,” said Andy Bolt, who this year became majority owner of both companies. “Patten also needed more space, but we could make due until we built the (Great Lakes) building.”
When Great Lakes Granite Works opened at 3970 West River Drive NE in 1994, it was the first granite fabrication plant in the Grand Rapids area. The historic Comstock Park Feed Mill was torn down to make way for the 25,000 square foot granite counter manufacturing facility. Patten Monument followed in 1997, building a 45,000 square foot facility next door at 3980 West River Drive. There are now approximately 95 employees at the two companies. The Comstock Park site was a good choice, said Bolt.
“The location gives us good visibility,” he said. “It’s easy for customers to find being right off the (131) expressway.” He added that proximity to the expressway makes receiving materials and shipping product convenient.
Patten Monument makes close to 7000 headstones a year and is affiliated with some 300 funeral homes in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. They have nine locations – eight in Michigan one in Indiana - and deliver as far away as Indianapolis, Sault St. Marie, and Cleveland, as well as every cemetery in Michigan.
The monuments come to the Patten plant polished and cut to shape, and the company does the engraving, artwork, and installation. Most of the granite used in monuments comes primarily from domestic sources with quarries in Vermont, Georgia, and South Dakota being big suppliers.
They also make other products such as cremation memorials and natural stone signs.
Bolt started at Patten Monument when he was a senior at Western Michigan University working summers in delivery. After graduating from college he took a position in sales. He and Chris Fortosis, a longtime employee at Patten Monument, bought the company in 2005. Fortosis retired early this year, and Bolt became majority owner.
Bolt said he has seen monuments become “far more personalized” since he started in the business. People have asked for grave markers in shapes such as motorcycles and tractors, 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.
Bolt and his wife Kelly live in Jenison, and have three children ages 14 to 22.