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Dakota Granite Celebrates 90 Years In Business


Dakota Granite, near Milbank, is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. Granite from its quarries is shipped all over the world. The business continues to change.

“So this is the quarry where it all started, Sunset Mahogany Quarry.”

Dakota Granite’s Marketing Director, Betsy Baldry, is looking out over a massive hole in the ground. Stone from this quarry is known as Dakota Mahogany, a dark granite that Baldry says creates a rich, warm, timeless look. She says this exact color can only be found here.
“There is not another mahogany like this anywhere in the world. This is the only quarry, the only location for Dakota Mahogany,” Baldry says.
Inside the pit, the granite looks tan-ish and grey-ish,

Inside the plant, machines polish the granite. Memorials are also polished by hand.

but at the onsite plant the stone is cut and polished, both by machines and human hands, giving it the shiny, dark appearance you expect to see in a headstone or other type of memorial. That’s what most of the rock at this and Dakota Granite’s four other quarries is used for.

The company’s President and CEO, Rick Dilts, says he’s noticed two big changes in the memorial industry: first, more people are choosing personalized monuments. Second, the number of cremations is on the rise. A report from the National Funeral Directors Association projects a cremation rate of 56 percent by 2020. He says this is leading to a decrease in demand for memorials.
“We’re trying to counter it with more cremation type monuments, where we can core a whole where they can put the cremation, the ashes, in the monument,” Dilts says. “And there’s also columbarium, public columbarium or private columbarium where they can put the ashes in behind a niche door, and carve it, letter it however they want. So that’s really been our big push is just to education, the industry is trying to educate the consumer on how you can memorialize and why you should memorialize for cremation.”
Dilts says although some who choose cremation opt for no memorial, his plant is still producing more columbaria than in the past, as well as other related products. The granite was recently used to pave the walkway at a new columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery.