Look around the Twin Cities, and it's easy to find pieces of Mankato on many buildings, but a company that has been mining the cream-colored limestone for 125 is suspending operations.
A couple of quarries in Minnesota mine for the popular building stone that was used in the construction of the new Blue Earth County Justice Center, but one of the two is now suspending its business.
After 125 years of family-owned operation, the Coughlan family may be the latest victim of the recession in the construction industry even though many buildings display facades from Mankato Kasota Stone. In fact, there's still stock in the quarry yard, but company leaders say the once-fluid demand has turned to stone.
"We had a decent time through 08 and 09, and then, all of the building stopped," Tom Ahern, CEO of Coughlan Companies, told FOX 9 News. "Permitting stopped and then all of the long-term leading indicators turned out to be exactly what it was in construction -- and that was the bulk of our business as far as Mankato Kasota Stone. It just got tougher and tougher."
The family-owned business dates back to 1885, when T.R. Coughlan started the quarry near the banks of the Minnesota River. The stone produced there was quickly recognized as a durable building material that is still used today in buildings like the new headquarters for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the St. Peter Community Center and Library and the downtown post office in Minneapolis. It was also used in many of the buildings at the University of St. Thomas campus in St. Paul.
The company is proud of that heritage, and is now shifting its focus to publishing children's books because Capstone Publishing Company is now its most profitable business. Yet, the suspension of the stone operation doesn't mean the business is gone for good.
"It's been through suspended mode before and come back revitalized and recapitalized," Ahern said. "I think the brothers -- Bob and Jim -- would love nothing more than to see an environment where we can get back at it profitably and turn that back into a business."
The Mankato Kasota Stone quarries aren't going anywhere, but since the profit centers for Coughlan Companies has, they are working to transition some employees into other areas of the business.