by Joel Davis

Quarry Photos by Joel Davis; 1910 Harris County Courthouse photo by Nash Baker Photography

Additional Photos by Tennessee Marble Company (hover over images for captions)

Tennessee Marble President, Monica J. GawetWhat Tennessee Marble Company sells is not just stone – it’s permanence and beauty in a disposable world.

Recognized with a 2013 Pinnacle Award for Excellence, the restoration of the Harris County courthouse was an immense undertaking, in which Tennessee Marble cut and fabricated bookmatched panels of the supplied Georgia Pearl Grey marble, working with Camarata Masonry Systems, Ltd. of Houston, Texas on the restoration.Based in Friendsville, Tennessee, the 20-year-old company brings the legacy of the historical East Tennessee marble industry firmly into present and capitalizes on the timeless elements of the stone.

Tower Oaks, Maryland completed in 2007, features  flooring and walls of Endsley Pink marble, in a polished finish. “We offer North America the opportunity to use domestic stone,” said the company’s President Monica J. Gawet. “We are like hundreds of fabricators who work everyday to create art that functions. Our product is quarried, fabricated and installed primarily here in the U.S. and often, the product is part of a historic building.”

Completed in 2010, interior and exterior projects for the Ritz Carlton, Charlotte, N.C.  feature flooring stone using Light Rose Tennessee marble laid in a diamond matched pattern, with a Cedar border. Exterior uses a Veined Cedar with a honed finish. The modern Knox County Metropolitan region, which includes Blount County, was the site of a marble industry that thrived through the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. This is a source of pride for Gawet.

Completed in 2010, interior and exterior projects for the Ritz Carlton, Charlotte, N.C.  feature flooring stone using Light Rose Tennessee marble laid in a diamond matched pattern, with a Cedar border. Exterior uses a Veined Cedar with a honed finish. Monica Gawet and foreman Steve Kerr discuss the blocks being produced at the reopened Granox quarry.“It’s a good feeling to know that our marble is part of history and that as long as 100 years ago, Tennessee marble was used in flooring wainscot, stairs, and exteriors, and that an owner or architect thought the stone worthy of being kept or restored, or even added to,” she said.

“In this disposable world, this is something that can create a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

To know that other families like mine, whether they were quarry owners or not, labored to take raw stone from the ground and turn it into something that is beautiful and durable is a satisfying thing for me personally.”

Gawet has a family history in the stone industry, but she only became involved in 1993 when she helmed the acquisition of a defunct stone production facility in Friendsville.

“My dad was looking to expand the business to see what opportunities were out there.

This was a beautiful, almost brand new facility unlike anything in the country. I saw it could be a great opportunity and a great challenge. I did not intend to get involved in the family business. It was something that happened. It was fate.”

Her family’s involvement in the marble industry dates back to 1919, but it had never operated any quarries. This was new territory.

Benetti Wire saw in operation at the historic Granox quarry, producing blocks of Quaker Gray.“Honestly, when the acquisition was made in 1993, the intent was to be mainly a fabricator,” Gawet said. “We had no experience operating any quarries, but a large project at Grand Central Terminal in New York City required us to quarry new blocks for the East Grand Stair. So in 1996, we started quarry operations exclusively in the lower Dark Rose layer. The rest is history.”

Quarrying marble to match the stone used in the construction of the Grand Central Terminal more than 100 years ago led the company in a new direction.

There are numerous regional and federal structures graced with Tennessee marble, from local municipal buildings in Knox and Blount Counties, to national landmarks. These graded blocks are destined for Washington, D.C.“We extract from four Tennessee quarries now,” she said. “These quarries are extremely challenging.

There are large open seams inherent in the deposits along with natural fractures and color ranges that make recovery extremely low.”

Still, the quarry operations are only part of the advantages that Tennessee Marble Company offers. “The success we found is in being vertically integrated,” Gawet said. 

“Trying to be a block supplier from these quarries would be impossible, in my opinion.

The vertical integration is what makes it possible in terms of bringing product to market.

One of our taglines is ‘From quarry to crate.’ We can control the whole process from extracting the stone to working with clients.”

The formula has proven to be successful.  

“We are celebrating our 20th year and I am very proud to reach this milestone,” Gawet said. “In so many ways, I can’t believe it has been 20 years.

We’re fortunate to have several people who have been with us all 20 years and their skills and talents made this anniversary possible.

We employ 40 people: eight staff in the quarries, six in administration and 21 in the plant.

We’ve made two acquisitions in the past 10 years; one was the Champlain black quarry in Vermont and the most recent, five years ago, was the purchase of the assets of Tennessee Valley Marble, which were comprised of the Endsley quarry and a small plant.”

Gawet praises her employees. “I’ve got people who have been with me for 20 years,” she said.  “I feel I have a strong and multi-faceted staff. Everybody here is important for what they contribute – 90% of our staff are local people from Blount and Knox Counties. Training is an important part of what we do.”

Gawet did not grow up in the stone industry despite her family’s business. “I was never involved in my family’s business in Vermont,” she admitted.
Still, there were benefits.

“When we started in 1993, the fact that my father and family had been in business since 1919 certainly provided credibility,” she said. “It’s tough being new in this industry. This is a detailed, multi-faceted field – what you don’t know can really hurt you.”

Tennessee Marble Company’s main plant includes more than 100,000 square feet of manufacturing space. Its Endsley location provides another 20,000. Between the two plants, the company fields three gang saws, three Standish stationary belt saws, two polishing lines, four GMM saws, and a Breton tile line.

“We produce tile from several domestic quarries here and collaborate with other block producers like Georgia Marble for fabrication,” Gawet said. “Many of projects each year will involve tile or paving production as well as dimensional stone. So when we have a multi-faceted project involving cut to size and flooring, the client can receive all these products from one producer.”

Recently, Tennessee Marble Company received its second Marble Institute of America Pinnacle Award of Excellence. The project was known as 1910 Harris County Courthouse. “It’s a Beau Arts building in Houston, Texas, that was completely transformed on the interior,” Gawet said. 

“Painstaking efforts were made to restore wood, glass, plaster and marble elements in the building. TMC supplied over 15,000 SF of Georgia Pearl to the project and the highlight of the work was in the rotunda of the building.

“By carefully selecting blocks that had to match existing panels there, TMC fabricated diamond matched panels up 35 foot tall columns. We not only diamond matched the four panels, but we matched it all up the columns as well. The judges’ comments were very complimentary and we give credit, of course, to the installer, Camarata Masonry, for their fine on-site work.

“I really have to thank the Marble Institute of American and my building stone industry colleagues,” Gawet said. “I value their devotion to the industry and what they do. They have always provided support and encouragement to me. It’s an incredible and unique industry we’re all involved in.”

Over the years, TMC has contributed to many projects of national and regional significance: it provided 25,000 square feet of pink marble for the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center; stone for the East Grand; stone for the Knoxville Convention Center; pink diamond book-matched flooring for the Ritz Carlton; and 15,000 square feet of Georgia Pearl marble for the 1910 Courthouse project.

Gawet also points out a few unique, small projects to which her company has contributed: a block of stone supplied to an artist for New Mexico’s Po’Pay statue at Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol and the marble base, sculpted by Rugo Stone, for the Ronald Reagan statue also in the Capitol.

Currently, Tennessee Marble Company is involved in several projects across North America. In Ontario, Canada, the company is working with contractor York Marble, Tile & Terrazzo in restoring the Toronto Union Station, which uses a few North American stones.

“The train station is being revitalized so the project is being done in phases, and it ranges from new bathroom partitions to floor, wainscot and base,” she said.

In Washington, D.C., TMC is involved in the 1800 F Street modernization project for the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which involves providing Quaker Gray marble, with contract installation by Rugo Stone. The company is also supplying pink marble for the exterior and interior of the Center for Strategic International Studies.

The demand hasn’t stopped at the borders of the continent, Gawet said. “The farthest away Tennessee marble (Quaker Grey) has gone is Asia. And not just a little – close to 15,000 square feet over several years.”

Tennessee Marble Company also supports projects local to the East Tennessee region. In Knoxville, it contributed flooring to the University of Tennessee Law Library, and its stone was used in the university’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

In Blount County, where the company is based, it provided marble for the Maryville Municipal Building interior flooring and the grand stairway at the Clayton Center for Performing Arts at Maryville College.

“It’s wonderful to use local stone,” Gawet said. “We have to thank all the predecessors here in Tennessee for starting quarrying in East Tennessee and for local architects and the public who continue to take pride in the fact that we continue to quarry and supply Tennessee pink throughout the country.” 

Please visit for more information on their history, and a list of past and current projects.