GATE CITY, VA – (AUGUST 12, 2021) — “Every death was a life and every life was a story.” It’s something Burke Greear said he thinks about every time he works carefully to restore and clean the monuments and grave markers found in cemeteries throughout Southwest Virginia, where his new business, Highland Monument Conservation, LLC operates.
The business, which is licensed and insured, offers stone preservation and historic documentation services and is a recent recipient of a $6,500 Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority seed capital matching grant.
“Highland Monument Conservation, LLC is perhaps one of the most unique businesses the seed capital matching grant program has funded since it started,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “The services they provide are very specialized and yet have the potential to impact almost everyone who has a loved one or ancestor buried in a cemetery. Within three years, the business projects one full-time employee and two part-time employees.”
On his way back from cleaning several graves in two cemeteries one Saturday afternoon, Greear, who co-owns the business with his wife, Amy, said so far the new business has kept him busy, with many of his customers becoming so by word of mouth.
“When I’m working in a cemetery on a gravestone, I often have someone come up to me to ask what I’m doing and that invariably leads to a request to look at one or more of that person’s ancestral graves,” Greear said. “I try to be careful not to overextend the business, as there are emotions attached to this and I don’t want to disappoint the people who ask me to help them.”
Greear said he has been using the VCEDA seed capital grant to purchase needed equipment, including an adjustable tripod which helps with the heavy lifting involved in re-setting and re-leveling monument markers.
“Cleaning the stones is only a small portion of what I do,” Greear said, noting in many cases, the markers he works on are those dating back to the 1800s which have broken or toppled over. Standing them upright again and repairing the broken stone before cleaning them is part of the service he offers.
“We actually use the same methods and materials they would have in the past to clean and repair,” Greear said, adding “each stone is as individual as the person they were set for.”
He charges $60 per hour for the service with the average cleaning and repair ranging from $120 to $300, depending on its complexity.
“When I first started doing this, I thought I would just do a stone for a person, but I’ve been approached by municipalities to do whole cemeteries,” Greear said.
“This really started as a hobby for family and friends as part of genealogy research, but I realized there was a real need here for the service and so I stepped up to try to fill the void,” Greear said. “It’s very satisfying to see the before and after comparisons of what I do.
“The VCEDA seed capital grant has helped me to purchase the equipment I needed which has enabled me to take on larger jobs,” Greear said. “Having the proper equipment brings legitimacy and safety to what I am doing.”
Professionally trained in stonework conservation, Greear said the company only utilizes appropriate biological cleaning agents to maintain the integrity of the markers he cleans. In addition to the preservation services offered, he said the new business also offers consulting guidance to individuals, associations, churches, municipalities, historical societies or other organizations charged with the proper care of monuments and cemeteries.
The new business in on Facebook and may be reached by calling 423-571-2835, or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greear worked with the Small Business Development Center at Mountain Empire Community College in the development of his business plan and application to VCEDA. The Scott County Industrial Development Authority provided a letter of support.
“It has been a pleasure for Mountain Empire’s Small Business Development Center to work with Highland Monument Conservation,” said Becki O’Quinn, MECC SBDC director. “Burke’s hard work and expertise have created a successful small business that combines passion and purpose. MECC SBDC is grateful to have the opportunity to work with Burke and Amy.”
About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. www.vceda.us or www.e-Region.org.
About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region for-profit businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees are eligible to apply for dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $10,000 from the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund. Applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications to VCEDA that include detailed business and financial plans. Businesses must be located in or plan to operate in the VCEDA region in southwestern Virginia that includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton.