The Cartmill family, owners of Lock City Monuments since the 1950s, have made some of the oldest monuments and tombstones in Sault Ste. Marie.
In that span of time, three generations of the family have respectfully handled the tombstone or cremation plaque requirements of families who have lost loved ones, turning out quality stones featuring special designs, artwork and lettering.
Lock City Monuments is currently owned by Dave Cartmill, assisted by son Craig (office manager), Dave’s wife Anna (administrative assistant) and shop manager Evan Jones.
The business was established by Dave’s father, Raymond G. Cartmill, and Raymond’s nephews Ralph and Jim McFadden, in 1953.
“It’s nice having your own business. But it’s important to treat your people right. I’ve seen lots of business owners go down the tubes because they were bad bosses. My Dad taught me your staff don’t work ‘for’ you, they work ‘with’ you,” Dave said, he and Craig speaking to SooToday.
The crew also sells accessories that go with tombstones, such as vases for flowers, selling their merchandise to customers from Wawa to the Sault to Iron Bridge.
“We use all granite stones, and we get them in already shaped, and what we do is put all the designing and lettering on, and there are very few shops doing that. All the big guys who sell the granite are normally doing all the lettering now,” Dave said.
Humorous, refreshingly down to earth and not one to mince words, Dave said “there are carpetbaggers out there now, selling monuments. But we’ve always done our own work and employed people in this community.”
“We solely try to get North American granite (not from overseas sellers), already cut, shaped and polished, and we do the finishing touches...we’re the only ones in Algoma with the type of etching machine we have,” Craig said.
Dave was straight to the point when asked why the Cartmills enjoy what they do and what their business means to them.
“It’s a family business, and it’s in Sault Ste. Marie.”
“I don’t buy gas across the river. I buy things from Soo Mill. Everything I buy, I buy from this city. I make my living here,” Dave said, clearly loyal to the community.
“Business is good, and I do it for the pride,” Craig said.
“It’s an honour to carry on in the family business. Not many businesses can go through the generations like we have, and especially in this business.”
“I enjoy helping people do their final act of remembrance for their loved ones. We do get quite a few hugs and tears and thank you cards (from thankful customers for the work Lock City does on their deceased family member’s headstone).”
“We try to keep the mood light after the death and the funeral too. If you can actually make somebody chuckle a bit when they come in to buy a stone, that helps,” Craig said.
“You want to send them away with a good feeling. When I first started I was sombre with customers, and my Dad said ‘you’re never going to make it like that,’ so I started cracking jokes, and you know what? Most people like that and say ‘it’s been a pleasure',” Dave said.
As reported earlier by SooToday, the Lock City crew was proud to etch and donate a plaque, installed near the Vimy Ridge oak sapling at Greenwood Cemetery April 13, in a ceremony attended by Royal Canadian Legion Branch 25, cadets, community leaders and the public.
The etching took about six hours, Dave estimated.
Of the plaque, and all their work, Craig said “we know what we’re doing.”
“I had my Dad teach me, then I taught Craig, and he’ll be teaching others. There’s no school you go to to learn this. It’s not a registered trade, but it’s a trade and an art. And if Evan in our shop isn’t the best in the country at what he does, he’s very close,” Dave stated.
‘We do it the old way, but it’s the best way.”
“And that’s why we’re still here,” Craig said.