“I had one loader and figured I would just do what I could by myself,” Dana said. “I didn’t want employees. Things started to take off a little, and my wife and daughter ended up running equipment and helping out. It turned into a family business.”
Dana and his wife, Gayla, now own and operate what became 3P LLC DBA Rockdale Stone. They recently took the titles of President and Vice President respectively. Their daughter, Jessica Pendergraft, is the Secretary and does bookkeeping for the Lueders-based company that now has two locations.
“I love the fact that we all work together,” said Gayla. “I think that’s been a real key to our success. Along the way, extended family came on board and helped us expand. We have a common goal, and that’s for the business to thrive. Each of us has been willing to do whatever it takes to make it work.”
The Pendergrafts no longer run equipment, but they continue to operate the original quarry near Avoca, Texas, which is a 300-acre site with numerous rock ledges of various colors. Dana and Gayla’s nephew, Matt Huggins, is a Quarry Manager. He has helped expand the product offerings and customer base during the past few years. 3P LLC DBA Rockdale Stone recently added a third saw at the quarry and now has a staff of about 20.
“Our products are limestone slabs generally used for building and landscaping, such as the outside of houses and buildings, fireplaces and mantles, countertops, walkways, and more,” explained Huggins. “We custom cut, but customers also come and pick up raw material and do their own things with it. It’s used all over the country, and some has even been shipped overseas and to Mexico.”
“The material here is harder than in some other places where there is a lot of sandstone,” Huggins pointed out. “That makes a really good building material for all areas. A good example is in places where the temperatures change a lot during the year. Our limestone is not as affected by cold weather, so it doesn’t crack in those conditions.”
A few years ago, the company leased a second pit that has a similar footprint to the original location. Adding a second site allowed the company to expand its offerings and is currently managed by Jessica’s husband, Philip Davis. “This pit has what’s known as the charcoal color, which is actually more blue than black,” noted Davis. “It has become very popular. Right now, we’re pulling four different layers.”
“Overburden removal is not that big of a challenge itself, other than it can be hot and dusty in this area, which is hard on machines,” said Davis. “The real challenge for the excavators is in taking out the stone because you have to get underneath the seam and pop the slab out. They are heavy, so it takes power to get the job done. The PC360LCs handle whatever we throw at them without breaking down.”
Most of the time the excavators work in tandem with Komatsu wheel loaders. 3P LLC DBA Rockdale Stone uses a WA430-6 and a WA470-7 at the Avoca, Texas, quarry and a WA500-7 at the Lueders site. Operators move the slabs and load trucks using forks.
“They have to be able to lift and haul a sizable load,” said Dana. “We have never had an issue with one not being able to handle the weight. I used to load trucks with the loaders and buckets. (Territory Manager) Todd Coffey at Kirby-Smith talked to me about putting forks on, and it really changed things because it significantly sped the process up.”
3P LLC DBA Rockdale Stone bought its first Komatsu machine about 15 years ago, when Dana rented a loader then turned it into a purchase. Coffey helped with that acquisition and each one since. Kirby-Smith Machinery Inc. (KSM) Product Support Sales Representative Cody Christopher assists with service.
“We have a great relationship, and they have always steered me in the right direction,” said Dana. “Todd and Cody work with the quarries around us too, so they see what works and doesn’t and offer good advice on ways to improve our operations and efficiency. We generally handle service on the machines ourselves, with help as needed from Kirby-Smith,” he added. “If we call, they are right on it, and their service techs do an excellent job of identifying whatever the issue may be and get it taken care of quickly.”
Jessica boils down 3P LLC DBA Rockdale Stone’s success to two things. “Dedication and perseverance. We put a lot of time and effort into it, and it’s nice to see it paying off. Everyone deserves credit for our success, including our non-family-member employees. They are a hard-working group.”
Dana said that someday Jessica will take the helm and steer the company forward, along with help from Davis, Huggins, and others. Jessica and her husband recently had their first child, so a third generation may someday be involved.
“We have high hopes that it will happen,” said Dana. “I believe we have built a pretty solid foundation to work from, so the opportunity will be there. That’s the dream.”