Silvara Stone Makes a Splash with Tennessee’s Native Sandstone
Photos Courtesy Silvara Stone
Silvara Stone, located in Crossville, Tennessee, is in the heart of Crab Orchard sandstone country. Pictured left to right: Jim Sullivan – Project Manager, Lisa Rogers – Office Manager, Jon Kraus–Owner
Silvara Stone’s Wilson block saw sections a custom order for Tennessee Crab Orchard sandstone. This dense, dimensionally stable stone is now finding a larger audience outside the region.
If you’ve visited East Tennessee, chances are you’ve seen Tennessee’s native stone, called Crab Orchard for the community on the Cumberland Plateau where it’s quarried. This rustic-appearing, variegated stone forms the infrastructure of many of Tennessee’s state parks, public buildings and homes with a distinctive color and character.
But you don’t have to come to the Volunteer State to see Crab Orchard stone. Because of its versatility and beauty, this stone can be seen all up and down the Eastern U.S. and into the Midwest. And if you’re talking about Crab Orchard stone, chances are Silvara Stone of Crossville, Tennessee, is high on your list of providers.
Silvara Stone owner Jon Kraus doesn’t mince words about the company.
“I’m confident in saying that for the large projects that call for Crab Orchard stone, we are probably the premier provider,” he said. “We have good service, fair pricing, and we don’t fall behind on these projects. However, we work very well with our friendly competitors in the area, as well. I see them more as partners than competitors. We help each other out whenever possible. We couldn’t do what we do without them.”
Silvara Stone was founded in 1960 by the Botbyl family of Silvara, Pennsylvania, and since then Silvara Stone has been a fixture of the Crossville community on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau. Kraus purchased the company from James Botbyl, son of the founder, in 2012, after working as general manager for Silvara since 2004.
Kraus’s background is in accounting, but he soon fell in love with the stone industry.
“I love it,” he said. “There’s no two stones the same, there’s no two days the same. Being on the inside of the business for eight years, I had a very good understanding of it. I bought it when the market was recovering, the perfect time. I had a tremendous confidence that we could make a go of it.”
Kraus also hired project manager Jim Sullivan, who brought his architecture design and drafting expertise with him when he looked to move south from New England.
“He came at a perfect time,” said Kraus. “We needed a professional piece, a professional person that could take our business to the next level.”
That next level, according to Kraus, is taking on more large-scale and custom projects.
Crab Orchard perimeter blocks and piers going up on the updated Braves stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. This wall shows the beautiful range of color available in the sandstone.
Above: This wall at the Blue Ash Summit Park incorporates a sawed veneer with a cropped, split face rubble to give the wall a rich color variation and also a nice depth and reveal.
Above: Perimeter and climbing-feature wall at the Summit Park in Blue Ash, Ohio. The rich, natural earth tones of Crab Orchard sandstone on the climbing wall is a perfect match of stone to purpose.
Above: Silvara does several large, custom pool projects every year. This project in South Georgia incorporates Silvara’s sawed paving with radius, bullnosed coping on the spa area.
Right now, the Silvara Stone core business is providing stock items to landscape and stone supply yards throughout the Northeast, Midwest and Southeast. Silvara Stone quarries the material, fabricates and delivers, but they do not install.
The Silvara quarries have three color ranges: earth-tone (brown and tan), variegated (a variety of colors, including pink and brown), and Tennessee blue/grey. It is a hard stone, and the layers come from the quarry in different thicknesses that lend themselves to different applications, from landscape boulders to full stones or even thin veneers.
“The color ranges are so unique that you can’t find it anywhere else in this country,” said Kraus. “Rarely do you find a stone that is so versatile.”
So, while the stock side of the business is booming and will continue to do so, Silvara is reaching out to more custom project work, including civic buildings, parks, and homes. Project work has been part of the Silvara model for some time, but Kraus and Sullivan want to expand.
And Silvara’s already got some impressive completed projects to its name. New York City’s Rockefeller Center sports Silvara Crab Orchard stone in the outside front walkway and inside floor. Silvara’s work appears in Nashville’s Centennial Park and Walk of Fame, Cumberland Medical Center near Silvara’s headquarters, and at Dollywood’s Splash Country.
Atlanta has a healthy dose of Silvara’s Crab Orchard stone, too. The Atlanta Braves stadium features 1,800 linear feet of benches by Silvara that wrap around the diameter of the stadium, plus a wall of Silvara’s Crab Orchard.
Coca-Cola’s corporate headquarters in Atlanta has a decorative stonework entryway by Silvara as well.
Silvara’s stone also appears in the custom homes of many celebrities, including Nashville country music stars, the home of former vice president Al Gore, and a vacation home owned by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
Depending on the season, Silvara Stone has between 20 and 25 employees, including four office staff, two or three drivers, two or three heavy equipment operators in the quarry, and the rest in fabrication.
Kraus said Silvara Stone uses a lot of Park Industries equipment in their fabrication shop.
“They do a great job,” he said.
The three bridge saws are by Wilson with blades ranging from four feet to 10 feet in diameter. The small bridge saws and fabrication saws are Park Industries. Hydraulic splitters are by CeeJay and Park Industries. Heavy quarry equipment is by JCB and Caterpillar.
Advertising at Silvara is word-of-mouth and repeat business, but they are also very proud of their website. Visit them at www.silvarastone.com .
“We have drawn a huge customer base where people order consistently,” said Kraus. “We have people that continue to come back to us. We have people who come in and say, ‘My neighbor got stone from you,’ and we welcome business like that. We’re not a retail shop, but we accommodate those customers.”
Kraus credits Silvara Stone’s long history with helping the company weather the downturn in the housing market.
“Our business got cut in half in a year and a half,” he said. “Being so old, we didn’t have a lot of debt, but we also did all the things you have to do to stay afloat. But the economy has recovered, and we have grown along with it.”
Sullivan said Silvara Stone has become increasingly involved with custom homebuilders. In the works for 2017 are about 18 civic/governmental projects that “we’re really excited about,” he said.
“We have room to grow,” said Kraus. “We have the people to do it, we have the spectacular stone to do it, and we have the willingness to do it.”
For more information about Crab Orchard stone and their projects, visit Silvara Stone at www.silvarastone.com or call 931-484-6653.