October 25, 2013
Cass Davis, owner of Elkin Monument Co., has been digging graves since he was in high school. Decades later he finds himself owning Elkin’s most notable monument company.
Cass admits that customers naturally try to disconnect or distance themselves from the selection of a tombstone, but he feels that he and his wife, April Davis, make the process easier to get through.
“It’s not your ordinary task. Most people don’t stumble in, but in general you know what you’re looking at when you walk into our store,” said Cass.
Elk Monument Company is located at 1685 N. Bridge St. in Elkin. It offers sales of headstones, cleaning, repairs, floral arrangements and seasonal maintenance.
“We actually help people through an unfamiliar process. Our goal is to make things easier for our customers,” said Cass.
“Sometimes it’s the last thing I can do for people. You have to be really into working with people. Everything on what we do is through the toughest times in people’s lives,” he said.
According to Cass, he was taught by one of the best. Larry Church, former owner of the company, pulled in Davis as a young boy. Church unknowingly acted as Davis’ mentor in the business. Church would routinely joke with Davis about him actually owning the business. One day, the conversation took a dramatic turn from jokes to real numbers.
“I bought the business back in November. I admire Church tremendously. He’s buried a lot of people around here,” said Cass.
According to Cass, he filled his first grave in 1990. He was a student at East Wilkes High School.
Excavations vary from a shallow scraping, to removal of topsoil to a depth of 6 feet (1.8 metres), or more where a vault or burial chamber is to be constructed. However, most modern graves in the United States are only 4 feet deep as the casket is placed into a concrete box which prevents a sinkhole, is strong enough to be driven over, and will not float in a flood.
“People don’t really go six feet under,” said Cass.
Recounting how he got into the business, Cass said that his cousin was helping Larry and couldn’t make it to work one day.
“Yea, I guess you can say I dug myself into this business,” said Cass. “After a couple of years, I was laying stone.
“I really didn’t think about why I did it to begin with. Over the year’s I started liking it and accepting it. I feel it’s the last thing that I can really help people with. I can’t say that I love it, but I certainly do know it,” continued Cass.
According to Cass, some people come in because they don’t want to leave the expense or burden to the kids. They advance order the item and it’s handled per the specification and wishes of the customer.
The gravedigger said he really depends on a relationship with other funeral homes.
“They send over families. Many people find themselves with suddenly having to buy an item they know nothing about,” he said.
The business does have its trolls.
Cass and April chimed in on a technique commonly demonstrated by other monument companies.
“They hunt down customers over the Internet through public obituaries. I’ve had customers reached on the day of their service pushing a sale. It’s a sad reality, but we will never do that here,” said Cass.
April started doing floral arrangements that she now sells for grave sites.
“We displayed items this year at the Pumpkin Festival,” said April. “I am thrilled to offer the service.”
According to Cass, flat markers lie on the ground and can range from a price of $350 and up to $5,000. Every family is different and budgets vary. A headstone can vary in price too, but has a much higher starting point depending on the size of the stone.
The couple lives in Clingman and has two teenage boys.
When reflecting on the past with how she felt about dating a gravedigger, April said she never really paid attention to it.
“Cass works hard. This is a seven-day business,” she said.
“When I was a kid I had so much fun for Halloween,” said Cass. “I was always a ghost as a kid. You cut up a sheet and there you go. You’re a ghost.”
The Davis family said they commonly have been the recipients of jokes pertaining to people wondering if they were going to decorate their house with headstones for Halloween.
“Never had headstones at the house for Halloween,” said April with a chuckle.
The couple joked that they have adapted to the seasonal humor that comes with the type of business they’re in.
Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 835-1513 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.