Stacy B. Williams

Special Contributor

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Holy Land Stone laser engraver Pat Dalpra pitches in to help with a large Comfort Cross® order, one of their most popular items. “I can only imagine how many Comfort Crosses® are with our troops in the Middle East right now,” says  Penny Martin.Stone, like faith, is strong. Both have qualities of permanence and security. Both are capable of withstanding all kinds of weather and turmoil. On a business trip to Israel in 1996, one man felt the connection between stone and faith in the ancient city of Jerusalem.

Penny and Jim Martin in Bethlehem.Florida native Jim Martin was astounded at the beauty and serenity of the “city of stone.” His experience of being surrounded by the cream-colored temples, walls and monuments made of Jerusalem stone left a lasting impression. When he made a return trip a year later in his role as Director of Contracts and Export Administration, he was determined to bring back some stone as a souvenir to his wife, Penny. 

Jim felt called to share the experience he had with the Jerusalem stone. After some careful and determined research, he successfully corresponded with a quarry in Jerusalem who shipped some pieces to the Martin’s home in Melbourne, Florida. Jim and Penny, along with Jim’s brother Mike and two other couples, decided to commit to creating stone mementos, and Holy Land Stone LLC was born. 

The Comfort Cross is a 4-inch tall Jerusalem Stone chiseled cross, sectioned into two crosses and tied together. Holy Land Stone ships this in a velvet gift bag with a certificate of authenticity on the origins of the stone, and a product description. They have been put to many uses as a remembrance gift. Often, they are separated as a memorial gift– one piece to place in the casket of the deceased and the other to keep as a remembrance of the loved one. Holy Land Stone offers a wide range of laser-engraved spiritual and inspirational stones. The growth of the company of the popularity of its products has been spurred by the many stories and testimonials of customers.With Penny, a former accountant, administering the business and Mike managing the production process, they set out to design and make a gift of Jerusalem stone. This is a good time to note that no one in the group had any experience with cutting, sculpting or polishing stone.

“We really learned by doing and the early products were very primitive,” says Penny. 

The first product was a small rough-edged cube with a bronze insert. It was simple, but powerful. As Holy Land Stone has grown over the past 16 years, the product line is varied and the machinery is larger, but the message is still simple and powerful. 

Holy Land Stone produces unique inspirational gifts made in the USA and quarried in the holy land. Their products include commemorative plaques, celebration gifts, jewelry and more. 

Holy Land Stone has eight employees, and Penny still considers the company a family business. Jim’s sister, Anne Bower is the office manager.  The company imports six tons of Jerusalem stone on a quarterly basis, and Penny places weight on business relationships.  

“Our supplier in Jerusalem has been a Godsend,” says Penny. 

Jerusalem stone refers to several different types of limestone and dolomite limestone quarried in and around Jerusalem. It is one of the most ancient building materials and can be found throughout Israel. It is still used by many faiths, Judaism in particular, in architecture all over the world. There are several different color variations of Jerusalem stone, but the Martins always stick with beige-pink, Penny says. This type is soft and porous, and its light color is symbolic of the pure and weathered strength of faith that grounds Holy Land Stone in its principles. 

The creation of the company’s most popular gift was a Martin family affair. When the Martin’s mother passed away in 2000, Mike went to the workshop and cut two identical stone crosses. He left one in the casket with his mother and gave the other to his sister, Ann. In this way, she could hold the cross and know that their mother was resting in peace. 

Around this time Penny was meeting regularly with a Christian bookstore client to discuss new products. 

“I told her the story of Mike making the two crosses, and she said they would like to offer something like that,” Penny recalls.

The Comfort Crosses® was launched online and in the catalog in 2003, and it immediately took off as a bestseller. 

Holy Land Stone offers a wide range of laser-engraved spiritual and inspirational stones. The growth of the company of the popularity of its products has been spurred by the many stories and testimonials of customers.Penny calls it a connection or separation gift because it allows two people to hold the identical stones through time and distance. Penny has so many moving stories involving Comfort Crosses®, it seems they begin to take on a life of their own as soon as they are shipped. Penny admits that they do receive some unusual requests, but that they like to do the custom work. The business seems to be powered, in part, through stories and testimonials of customers. 

“I can only imagine how many Comfort Crosses® are with our troops in the Middle East right now,” she says. 

One of the most meaningful aspects of their work, according to Penny, is how institutions are giving to communities and individuals. She says that many organizations or churches will purchase gifts in bulk, and give them to individuals or families as a symbol of peace in a time of need. The bereavement market is responsible for a bulk of the company’s sales. Today, many cemeteries and Catholic churches stock Holy Land Stone’s Comfort Crosses® and include them in their ministry as a symbolic gift. 

The company has many non-cemetery clients in the northeast and upper Midwest regions, but there are pockets of wholesale buyers all over the country. Two of Holy Land Stone’s long-standing clients include the Washington National Cathedral, which sells their products in the museum gift shop, and the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), who has been influential for the company’s expansion.

As the company’s business grew, the Martins debated the purchase of a waterjet cutting system. The production process had always been very labor intensive, says Penny. The waterjet machinery was a big commitment fiscally and strategically. Penny recalls the annual Coverings events she attended and remembered meeting some representatives of OMAX. 

“In fact,” she says, “We always enjoy Coverings because we make good connections and get ideas.”     

They finally purchased an OMAX waterjet system in 2008, and it has been essential to Holy Land Stone’s ability to grow with the demand of their expanding markets. Jim also founded another business, in the name of efficiency, to fully utilize the waterjet system. 

Accuracy LLC, Waterjet Cutting and Machining Services, allows local companies access and use of the residual capacity of the waterjet machine. Accuracy acts as a source for machining services (utilizing Holy Land Stone’s waterjet cutting system) to local companies for cutting anything from stainless steel to carbon fiber to glass tiles. 

As word has spread about Holy Land Stone, many religious organizations have called on the Martins to be a supplier of Jerusalem stone in the Brevard County area, and Penny is happy for the company to act as a resource. They recently supplied several slabs of Jerusalem stone for a small replica of the Wailing Wall at a local church.

The Martins’ faith in their path and goals for Holy Land Stone has paid off in a big way, but that’s not what Penny likes to record. 

“Jim and I feel very privileged to do the work we do,” she says. 

The Martins seem to be fulfilled through the peace and faith they can share through the gift of Jerusalem stone. The stories that find their way back to the business are what inspire the Martins to do what they do. As Jim’s initial calling was to share Jerusalem stone with others so that they may experience the peace and beauty he witnessed, the foundation of Holy Land Stone is about giving back.   

For more information about Holy Land Stone LLC, visit or call 1-800-952-3412.