The Rock Cutters
K2 Stone uses new North American quarries to cut into larger markets
By Benjamin van Loon
Mount Kitchener is the stalwart ruler of the Canadian Rockies. At 3,505 metres high, it towers over the forests of Jasper National Park. Its strength is its stone, whose bedrock roots stretch deep across the continent.
Culling inspiration from Mount Kitchener itself, K2 Stone continues to expand its quarry holdings to provide stone options to an even wider range of commercial and residential clientele. With four new quarry acquisitions in Montana—including three rentals and one full purchase—K2 Stone has tripled its product offering.
Part of what inspired the quarry expansion, says K2 Stone general manager Rob Broekhuizen, is buyer demand. Despite the economic crisis of 2008 having a detrimental impact on the North American stone industry, Canadian business for K2 was consistently increasing. “We needed to widen our product options for our customers,” Broekhuizen says. “They wanted more styles and colours.”
In 2009, K2 Stone started to seek out new stone throughout British Columbia, beginning its search in the area around its Nanaimo headquarters. It made sense to find and produce stone in the area central to the company’s stake, but nothing was turning up in K2’s search.
Around the same time, the strength of the Canadian dollar began to inflate. US stone producers—specifically those from Montana—were moving into K2’s territory and going after its customers. “We were looking for brownstone and a lot of Montana brownstone was coming up to us, especially in Alberta,” Broekhuizen says. “In the spring of 2010, we were talking to every supplier and quarrier in Montana that we possibly could.”
After more legwork, K2 Stone came across the Montana company Stanton Stone, which owned one quarry and leased three others from Plum Creek. The holdings were all situated in western Montana near Glacier National Park. “Stanton Stone had its own saw shop and yard, and had owners that were willing to open discussions on selling,” Broekhuizen says. “It was a perfect, strategic fit for us. In order to better serve our customers, we needed to expand our thin stone-product offering.”
K2’s pride has always rested confidently on its ability to produce building, masonry, and decorative stone of the highest quality. Thus, K2 knew it had the practical skill set to use these new assets to its advantage, and the results have been fruitful: the Perma Gold quarry, which K2 now wholly owns, has added two new hues of stone to the company’s diverse collection—Autumn Flame and Autumn Gold.
Today, business is bustling at the K2 Stone franchises and third-party US affiliates. The retail stores in Nanaimo, Vancouver, Victoria, and Kelowna, British Columbia, as well as in Calgary and Edmonton, showcase the range of K2’s offerings. And the new store in Kalispell, Montana, epitomizes the strategy behind the expansion.
K2 Stone also takes special care to emphasize the importance of utilizing sustainable and green practices during the entirety of the production process. “As a member of Build Green and the Canada Green Building Council, K2 practices ongoing quarry restoration in all of its quarries,” Broekhuizen says. The company also repurposes production waste for crush, road base, and other building materials.
Broekhuizen cites longevity and the beauty of the Canadian Rockies as an example of the advantages natural stone has over artificial stone. “We try to make people aware of the benefits of using natural stone over manufactured stone,” he says. “It has a much smaller carbon footprint … Natural stone is just better.”