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Local stone business offers new retaining wall option

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Steve Doty is so excited about the new look he's bringing to town he's bringing it to the entrance of his Fox Chase neighborhood in Kanawha City.

Doty, owner and operator of Peerless Block and Brick in St. Albans, installs retaining walls throughout West Virginia. His company now manufactures a more natural-looking retaining wall made of cast concrete in St. Albans called Rosetta.

"It's different than any other retaining wall system out there," Doty said. "It's just a different look than cut stone."

Compared to traditional retaining walls that travelers would see along a highway holding rocks back, Rosetta is about two to three times more expensive per square foot but has a lower installation cost, Doty said.

After a vehicle accident destroyed part of the Fox Chase entrance, Doty and his wife said they thought a Rosetta welcome sign would be a good fit.   

"Since this is our first [outcropping] wall, it may take a little while longer; they're still learning," Doty added. "I'm excited to see what it looks like when we get the whole thing done."

Russell Means, a stonemason for nearly 25 years, assembles Rosetta walls for Peerless. The hardest part for him is setting a solid foundation, he said. Each stone must be level and at just the right angle to greet drivers entering Fox Chase. But each Rosetta product comes with a piece-by-piece layout, he said.

"Everything is laid out for you; it's just like putting a puzzle together," Means said. "Once you get started with it, you can just kind of run with it."

For the last three years, Peerless sold Rosetta products, but until recently they could not manufacture it themselves. As the market grew in the region, Rosetta Hardscapes, based in Michigan, agreed to give Peerless a manufacturing licensing for West Virginia and parts of Virginia and North Carolina.

The smaller Rosetta stones weigh about 400 to 500 pounds, while larger stones can weigh up to 1,500 pounds -- making shipping manufactured Rosetta not cost-efficient, Doty said. 

Jeremy Manthei, a product developer for Rosetta Hardscapes, said right now there are two choices for retaining walls. Traditional retaining walls built with large blocks of concrete that function well for retaining but look very industrial. Then there are walls built with natural stones that look softer but often is more expensive than concrete blocks and less efficient at retaining.

"What we're trying to do with Rosetta is give the best of both worlds," Manthei said. "At the same time, everyone wants something that looks nice but gives a good value."

Peerless has manufactured Rosetta for about a month now. They completed their first job in Huntington, installing a wall around a pool. He likens the manufacturing process to making ice cubes.

"You know how ice cubes are in an ice tray? You put concrete in there and these things are flipped upside down and come out like ice cubes in an ice tray."

Peerless makes the ice cube like mold each morning and will increase mold production if needed. Initially, the company invested $140,000 bringing the product in-house.

The molding process allows the manufacturer to create impressions on three sides of the stone instead of just one, front-facing impression. This creates a manufactured stone that looks like it came out of the forest.

Both Doty and Manthei said they think Rosetta will sell.

"West Virginia is a market that appreciates the look of a natural product," Manthei said.

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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