Fourth generation

New fourth-generation owners Michael and Mandy Marsh pose for a photo in the showroom at Marsh Monument Co. in Durand.

DURAND — Michael and Mandy Marsh have taken over Marsh Monument Company in Durand, making the married couple the fourth generation of Marshes to own and operate the business since it opened in 1931.

The couple recently purchased the memorial and gravestone company from Michael Marsh’s parents, Gary and Linda Marsh of Swartz Creek, keeping the family chain unbroken for 88 years.

“We wanted to keep it in the family,” Mandy Marsh, 36, said. “And I really like the business. It’s holding people’s hands and helping them through a hard time.”

Marsh Monument Co.’s roots were formed when Max Marsh opened Marsh Vault and Tile Company in Vernon in 1927. In 1931, the company began making monuments and gravestones.

A number of years later, Max Marsh’s sons, Richard and Fred Marsh, took over the business and renamed it Marsh Monument Co. In 1950, Richard Marsh’s sons Gary and Jack Marsh, and Fred Marsh’s son Dan Marsh joined the family firm.

Richard Marsh’s son Gary and his wife Linda Marsh purchased the monument business in 1984 and moved it from Vernon to its current location, 8966 E. Durand Road.

Two years ago, Gary and Linda Marsh’s adult children, Michael and Melissa Marsh, had worked at Marsh Monuments for many years. The pair were planning to purchase Marsh Monument Co. when, sadly, Melissa Marsh, 48, passed away in a drowning accident during a vacation in Mexico.

“My sister and I talked and our goal was to take over,” Michael Marsh, 47, said. “But then Melissa passed, and Mandy came in.”

The family faced a choice: either sell the business or recruit Mandy to participate in the purchase. She didn’t hesitate to say yes, quitting a customer service position to fill the slot at Marsh Monuments.

Having been trained by her mother-in-law, Mandy Marsh now handles customer service, administrative duties and manages sales at Marsh Monument Co. Michael Marsh, who has devoted nearly 30 years to the company, designs memorials, and performs on-site production — which includes sandblasting — and deliveries.

The company’s only other two employees work at a second Marsh Monument Co. location, at 4496 Center Road in Burton in Genesee County. When the four are stretched too thin, Linda and Gary Marsh are always available to help out, the younger couple said.

The best part of the job, for Michael Marsh, is “helping the families,” he said. “They’re grieving, and the last step of their grief is the memorial. The work we create, they’re comforted by.”

Although the company is located in Durand, the Marshes said their customers come from “everywhere.”

“Being a long-running, established company, that helps a lot,” Michael Marsh said. His wife noted the Durand building holds an archive of paper files dating back to the 1960s.

Turning to the future, the Marshes said they don’t plan to change what has been a winning business formula, but they are modernizing. Mandy Marsh revamped the Marsh Monument Co. website, installed Wifi, and set up a Facebook page and Instagram account. The couple is also looking at purchasing some new machinery, they said.

Trends in gravestones and memorials haven’t changed much over the years, they said. However, in the past 15 years more people are making advance arrangements for their stones in order to avoid putting the burden on their children, the Marshes said.

Black has become a popular color, not only because that option is a fairly recent development but also because it’s possible to do etchings directly on the black stone, they said. Marsh Monument Co. hires an artist to hand-draw on memorials and gravestones.

The couple, who live in Durand, are passionate about helping their community, including by advertising their business in school fliers and the high school yearbook, and attending golf outings to support school programs and other worthy causes.

“We’re a small business and we’re in this community,” Mandy Marsh said. “It’s good to give back.”

At nearly 4 years old, Max Marsh — Michael and Mandy Marsh’s son — is much too young to decide whether he’ll take Marsh Monument Co. into the next generation. But his parents are hopeful.

“I would like it to stay in the family,” Michael Marsh said. “How many places can say they’re fifth generation anymore?”

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