After teaching in the Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools for 32 years, Ron Taylor was looking for a side job to keep him busy and to make some money to supplement his retirement income.
He came upon his Taylor’s Tombstone Cleaning business by happenstance.
“I was doing genealogy research, and I was going out to the cemeteries to check for dates on some of my relatives,” he said. “I started to see how bad the stones looked, so I started cleaning them, and I did the same thing for some friends.”
He decided to go to a workshop in Raleigh that was led by a person who does restoration work for the N.C. Office of Archives.
“He showed us some of the better techniques so you don’t damage the old stones,” Taylor said. “I have just been doing this commercially since March a year ago.”
His business cleans and repairs tombstones and metal grave markers.
“You don’t want to use household chemicals,” he said. “Some of the products I use I learned about in that workshop I took. Sometimes, in some hard cases, I’ll use a pressure washer, but I’ll try to use low pressure as opposed to the highest pressure so I don’t damage things. I won’t generally use a pressure washer on the oldest ones. There is too much risk involved of doing damage.”
Taylor said he offers more meticulous work than than that done by some cemetery workers who do it on the side.
“I’ve come in and I’ve just sort of tried to dedicate myself to doing just this,” he said. “I don’t cut grass or things like this. I’ll run a Weed Eater around once in a while if the grass is overgrown.
Q: What products or services do you provide?
A: I clean most stone as well as metal markers, and where I can, I try to restore them to original condition. But that’s not always possible. I both clean them, and in the case of stone markers, if one is cracked for example, I now know how to try to do repairs on it and so forth.
The monument companies used to do a lot of this, but frankly, their overhead for trying to send a couple of guys out in the truck is so high that they have to charge lots, and the cemeteries that have the metal markers they offer a service where they can send them back to the factory and have them restored. What I try to do is do it actually in place.
I do this both in commercial cemeteries, church cemeteries, family cemeteries. I’ve done a family cemetery above Castalia for a lady I used to teach with. It makes you feel good when you walk out of there and you know you’ve done a good job.
Q: Who are your key leaders?
A: I’m a one-man operation.
Q: What is your business philosophy?
A: I try to help people honor the memories of their loved ones, and I try my best to do a good job, and I’m hoping that by word of mouth people will begin to find out about what I do when I do a job. If you are not satisfied, you don’t pay.
Q: What makes your business unique?
A: There are not a plethora of people who are doing this. A lot of people want the stones cleaned or the markers restored, but they don’t know where to turn.
People don’t go to the cemeteries like they used to. But when they go, and a lot of times they see how bad Mama’s tombstone looks, they might try to clean it themselves. But if you don’t know what you are doing you’re not going to be very effective at it.
Q: How has your business grown?
A: It’s a slow process. I’ve done some advertising, and I’ve got some signs that I’ve put out. But frankly, your best advertising is word of mouth. I’m like any new company. I’m not swamped, but I’d say it’s relatively steady. I don’t do it to put beans on the table, but a little bit of extra money for a retired state employee comes in handy.
Q: What kind of growth do you expect in the coming years?
A: I’d like to be busy four or five days a week, not necessarily all day. Sometimes with some jobs you can get them done in a couple of hours. Others you may have to go back and work on them two or three days. It depends. But I’d like to have a steady amount of employment.