Granite supply shortages cause grave delays for grieving families

 									cemeteries								,  									Coronavirus								,  									Coronavirus in NY								,  									funerals

Michael Cassara of Supreme Memorials says there is a shortage of gravestones due to a shortage of stencil material and granite. Helayne Seidman for NY Post

It’s a monumental problem for grieving families.

A shortage of materials and backlogs at granite quarries are leading to long delays in getting gravestones.

The issue is the latest glitch for relatives seeking to bury loved ones since the coronavirus pandemic began and overwhelmed funeral homes.

“We’re telling families what used to be a two- to three-month delivery is now more like a minimum six-month delivery,” said Tom Fricke of Alan E. Fricke Memorials in Ronkonkoma, L.I. “We’re not even able to guarantee a dedication or an unveiling date.”

Jews typically do an unveiling of a gravestone about a year after a death. Christians might time the tombstone to a special date or simply install at the earliest possible date.

 									cemeteries								,  									Coronavirus								,  									Coronavirus in NY								,  									funerals

A lack of granite is one reason gravestone orders are delayed.

Helayne Seidman for NY Post

Fricke said among the problems for monument companies was a delay in getting granite. He said his main Vermont supplier just told him any orders placed now would not be ready until January or February.

“They’re so backlogged with their current orders,” he said. “Even with increased production — they put on a second shift — they still can’t keep up with it.”

Another issue is a shortage of the stencil material that is used to create the template for the stone’s inscription. The sheets of stencil are manufactured by two companies that are having trouble getting materials to make them, according to monument companies.

“Everyone is fighting for what’s available,” said Michael Cassara of Supreme Memorials in Brooklyn. “Nobody in this country will be able to produce a stone unless they have stencil.”

Cassara said he still had stencil on hand and was trying to figure out how to get more.

Sprung Monuments on Long Island, one of the region’s largest gravestone companies, put a notice on its web site warning customers that supply chain disruptions were “creating major delays in the completion of monuments — in many cases, by several months.”

 									cemeteries								,  									Coronavirus								,  									Coronavirus in NY								,  									funerals

A lack of materials is causing gravestone orders to be delayed several months.

Alamy Stock Photo

The shortages come at a time when demand is up because of COVID-19 deaths and some families, perhaps using federal stimulus checks, are ordering monuments even for relatives who died long ago, said Michael Lewis of the Lewis Monument Co. in Queens.

A FEMA program that launched last spring also provided $9,000 toward funeral expenses, including the cost of a gravestone.

Lewis said a single gravestone costs about $3,000.

Compounding the industry’s problems, Lewis said, were labor shortages making it difficult to find drivers to take the stones from Vermont to the New York City area and an overwhelmed contingent of monument setters to erect the memorials in cemeteries.

“It’s really a multi-layered fiasco,” he said.

The delays are not sitting well with some families.

“We’re being inundated with frantic calls,” he said.

At Fricke Memorials, customers are being asked to read and sign a letter that spells out the delays.

“I don’t want families screaming,” Fricke said.

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