Bob Murrell 

M3 Technologies

Photos by Bob Murrell

Businesses closed due to COVID-19
Julie Murrell heading off to work a restoration job.  Over the past few months there has been a big demand for marble restoration in both the residential and commercial markets.

Julie Murrell heading off to work a restoration job.  Over the past few months there has been a big demand for marble restoration in both the residential and commercial markets.

It’s good to see small businesses like our Farmer’s Market opening back up. Such signs of normalcy – even with a mask– are very reassuring.

It’s good to see small businesses like our Farmer’s Market opening back up. Such signs of normalcy – even with a mask– are very reassuring.


Wow! Just wow! Can this year get any weirder? Wait, don’t answer that, as it’s not over yet. It is now early October, as I write this. So we were steaming along nicely in February when COVID was officially announced. Was it the plague, or more akin to the common influenza, that most everyone has contracted at some point in their life? No one knew, not even the so called “experts.”

In February, we were looking at stock market records and the stone restoration and maintenance industry was going gangbusters. Everybody was in 5th gear or overdrive (it would’ve been 4th gear for us older people) and winding out, when all of a sudden it felt like a front tire blew out. Most of us were told to quarantine in our homes, and many companies were basically dead in the water. If you weren’t Walmart, the grocery store, or some other “essential” industry, you were shut down and told to shelter in place at home. 

So, for most of March, many of us stayed home and hunkered down, per the government’s suggested course of action. Some states were stricter about it than others, but the entire country pretty much heeded the experts’ (scientists) advice. Flatten the curve they said, and everything would be fine. No need to wear a mask, as the healthcare professionals needed the scant supply available. Wash your hands frequently and don’t touch anything unnecessarily they said, as you could spread the virus by contact with contaminated surfaces.

So through April and into May, we stayed at home. With a few exceptions in certain states, most of my clients in the stone and hard surface restoration and maintenance business were pretty much shut down. Then slowly, in early to mid-May, some of the shutdown states started to allow re-opening, albeit on a restricted basis. I started to see orders coming in again. In fact, many of these orders were fairly significant in size. There was hope, and I, as well as many of my customers thought we saw a light at the end of the tunnel.

The problem, however, was that some of our largest customer base were in cities and states that had been highly affected by the virus, or had some of the toughest restrictions on business operation. Some of these states were New York, Nevada, and California. As you probably can guess, these states have some of the largest stone restoration and maintenance opportunities.

We, at M3 Technologies Inc., also had our own issues. Massachusetts, our base of operations, was one of the strict lockdown states. In March, we had to start doing all of our normal operation work from home. It was no problem for me, as that is what I do anyway. However, for the office personnel, this was a first. Also, we were very lucky that we had someone who lived basically next door who could come in to do the processing, boxing, and shipping. We did have a steady stream of orders coming in, mostly from areas of the country where the operations of most businesses were less restricted.  However, places like Las Vegas were basically shut down, and that really hurt business,  and is still hurting to this day.  

By June, many restoration and maintenance companies were starting up again, especially in the Southeast and Midwest. This newly restored flow of business was “manna from Heaven” for us, here at M3 Technologies Inc., so to speak. I’m sure the contractors themselves were grateful to be working again, too. I mean, really, we were all getting cabin fever by this time. So equipment, chemicals, and consumables started moving again, and we started to feel some relief and optimism that the end was in sight.

But before we were able to get up and going again, new waves of infection begin to arise, mostly in the newly opened-up states. By this time, more information about the virus was being released. Governors of many or most states were either strongly suggesting the use of masks and social distancing or, in some cases, mandating their use. Restrictions on businesses hours of operation, social distancing, and number of patrons and/or employees per square foot of space were put back in place.

Needless to say, this slowed everyone down once again. If business owners were limited as to how many clients they could serve, it obviously affected their bottom line. This in turn has affected the amount of budget these businesses had available for restoration and maintenance projects. Some businesses however, were able to hire some contractors to do some restoration and maintenance as their facilities were empty of personnel, and it was actually the perfect time to do renovations.     

Notice I haven’t said much about residential work, yet? The reason for this is that I believe while home owners were sitting at home in quarantine staring at the current condition of their interiors, they decided it was a good time for some remodeling or restoration and long overdue maintenance on their marble and other hard surfaces. At least here in East Tennessee, this was the case. My wife Julie’s business, Knoxville Marble Polish, is doing quite well, despite the pandemic. Of course, I attribute most of her success to her professional attitude and quality work. (You have seen some of that work in the pages of the Slippery Rock, and I plan to present more of the historic Candoro Building restoration.)

I say all of this because we are very lucky to be in the business we are in. In most cases, the contractors I know have been able to stay somewhat busy. The restaurant and entertainment industry has not been so lucky. I read a Yelp Local Economic Impact Report that claimed that, due to local restrictions in many states, many of the affected businesses resulted in a 60 percent permanent closure rate. Let that sink in for a minute.   

I know this COVID thing seems like it is going on forever, but as Americans we live in the greatest country on earth. We are learning more about this virus now and know that the most vulnerable are the elderly, especially those who are medically compromised with pre-existing conditions. At least four vaccines are in their final approval stages now, and the therapeutics are getting better every day. So wear your mask, practice good hygiene, use common sense, and we’ll get through this soon. We will get through this and we will come out on the other side stronger. I’m confident this will be the case.  

As always, I recommend submitting a test area to confirm both the results and the procedure prior to starting a stone or hard surface restoration or maintenance project. Also the best way to help ensure success is by partnering with a good distributor, like Braxton Bragg, that knows the business. They can help with technical support, product purchase decisions, logistics, and other pertinent project information.

I pray you all stay safe and healthy.

Bob Murrell has worked in the natural stone industry for over 40 years and is well known for his expertise in natural stone, tile and decorative concrete restoration and maintenance. He helped develop some of the main products and processes which revolutionized the industry, and is currently the Director of Operations for M3 Technologies.