From lumber to granite: Personal project sets Mann family down new business path

  • Thomas S. Mann IV of T.S. Mann Lumber Co. in Athol with the sandblasting chamber used for engraving stone markers. Mann is pursuing a new business avenue, T.S. Mann Memorials. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Thomas S. Mann IV of T.S. Mann Lumber Co. in Athol now offers granite memorials, grass markers, headstones and millstones. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 8/19/2021 1:40:11 PM
Modified: 8/19/2021 1:40:17 PM

ATHOL — Thomas S. Mann IV has sold reclaimed granite at his family’s legacy lumber business for 20 years. But he never needed to sandblast anything onto the material until much more recently.

The 10th-generation Mann to work in the wood industry was awoken by a call from his brother at 2 or 3 a.m. on March 6, 2019, with life-shattering news: Their father and family patriarch, Thomas S. “Sid” Mann III, had died unexpectedly in Florida. This left Tom Mann with the undesirable task of etching his father’s name and birth and death dates onto a headstone the family had.

“It was the craziest thing,” Mann recounted. “It was just, he’s gone.”

He bought a sandblaster from Turners Falls sculptor Jack Nelson, who crafted pet memorials and address markers as the owner of Carriage House Designs. But what started as a necessary purchase has quickly evolved into a new business venture, T.S. Mann Memorials (mannlumber.com/memorials), that Mann said also serves as a way to honor his father.

“It is a challenging thing. I get choked up … more than you can imagine, even though it’s been 2½ years. I think about my father every day and I go to the grave every now and again. He taught me how to use this table saw,” he said in his shop on Petersham Road. “He gave me advice on how to use other tools. He taught me how to turn a wrench on a car.

“He passed away at 77. I thought we had 10 more years with him. Two years before that, he was driving a CDL truck as a part-time job at 75,” he continued. “The things you wish you would have said and done had you known...”

The business has already taken full-service orders for granite memorials, grass markers, headstones and millstones. Mann gets his granite from a Barre, Vt., factory that fabricates it into blocks of various shapes and sizes.

“It’s like a light switch — you can just go ahead and do it,” he said about his new business venture, which didn’t require formal training to learn. “And because Barre, Vt., has so much quarrying capability and machining, they now bring in colors from around the world to Barre, Vt.”

Some of the customers are clients left in the dark by Athol Granite Works. According to a newsletter from T.S. Mann Lumber Co. detailing its new service, the longtime owner of Athol Granite Works handed the business over to a young man who reportedly took 50- to 100-percent deposits on headstones, memorials and engraving work, and then disappeared. Reports in the Athol police logs reflect similar problems. Mann said he is working with these customers to make matters right in this problem he inherited.

T.S. Mann Lumber Co. and T.S. Mann Memorials can be reached at 978-249-2206.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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