Building monuments to last forever
James Jefferson builds monuments that will last forever.
Jefferson, owner and operator of Newsom Monument Company of Chase City, is in the business of creating monuments and grave markers sacred to the memory of loved ones who have passed away. It’s a serious business but also a rewarding one, as it gives people a focus for their memories, as well as a tangible place to visit and a symbol of the people they have known and loved.
Jefferson said that he’s worked hard through the years he’s owned the business, but it’s obviously something he is very proud of. The reputation of the business and respect for it in the community is important to him.
Newsom Monument Company was a family business and served the community for more than half a century before it was purchased by James Jefferson in December of 2006. Jefferson, however, did not start off in the monument business.
After working around the area, for some years at Burlington, Jefferson started his business Southern Backhoe. Eight years later, the business changed direction and became Southside Grave and Vault, digging graves and manufacturing and supplying burial vaults. In 2004, he started thinking about moving into monuments.
“Of course, we’d been doing grave and vault work since 1992,” explained Jefferson. “I was always looking for opportunities to grow, and my thought was, ‘Why not do monuments? We’re already in cemeteries anyway’.”
The problem was that through the years, Jefferson had become friends with Wade Newsom.
“How do you venture into a business when you have a friend doing it right down the road? That slowed down the process,” he explained.
As it happened, one day the two men were doing some work together and the subject came up. As it turned out, not only was Newsom interested in retiring, but Jefferson was interested in taking on the business.
“We ended up purchasing the place,” he explained.
Of course, it wasn’t quite that easy. Jefferson admitted that when he started he didn’t really know the business. In September of that year, Jefferson began training with Newsom, learning the trade from the ground up.
“I worked 40 hours a week for the rest of the year,” said Jefferson. “When Wade took off that year for Christmas, he didn’t come back.”
Despite all the changes that were taking place, Jefferson determined early on that the name of the company would not change.
“That name was the same for over half a century,” said Jefferson. “People grew up here, and there was a familiarity. Even if they’d moved away when they gained a need for a monument, they remembered Newsom. I could have changed the name, but the name wasn’t broken. Why fix it?”
Along with the vault business, Jefferson soon found the firm expanding. At times, the staff has numbered up to 17.
“Through my customers and associations, we make about 2,500 vaults a year,” he said. “We have nine different models, and we keep an inventory of those on hand. Our inventory will usually float between 200 and 300 of the models.”
And while the idea of monuments might be tied up with stone carving, Jefferson smiles and explains that the process has become more streamlined and much faster with technology.
“It’s gotten high tech,” smiled Jefferson. “First, we have to find out what the customer wants. We help them through the process and come away with the design laid out on the computer. From there, the printer makes a template. Then we attach that to the stone to start the engraving or etching process.”
Hand carving has given way to computer controlled sandblasting of the design onto the monument.
As for the designs possible today, Jefferson said that almost anything you can dream of can be designed and crafted. Photos can easily be etched into the stone, but even more elaborate and complex designs are possible. Jefferson said that people have Harley Davidson-styled monuments made every day.
While Newsom Monument and Southside Grave and Vault has become one of the best known services in the area, Jefferson says he tries to stay humble while admitting that “we’ve done well.”
Newsom Monument Company is located at 15450 Highway 47, Chase City. Call (434) 372-4951 for more information.