A Solid Tradition
Emerson Masonry Inc. builds value, versatility into projects
Emerson Masonry Inc. has five generations of experience in the craft of masonry, with quality work and versatility as its hallmarks, according to Chris Emerson, Owner.
The company, with its main office in Franklin, Indiana, is locally owned and operated. The family’s masonry tradition began in 1944 when Emerson’s father’s uncle, Vidas Emerson, came home from World War II. He began carrying hod, as it was known, working as a laborer doing masonry. He taught the trade to his brother, Kermit Emerson, and they ended up teaching their nephew, Melvin. Robert W. Emerson, Chris’s father, moved to Indianapolis in the late 1960s and started work as a union mason. In 1972, Robert started Emerson Masonry Inc. in Greenwood, Indiana.
“We really do have a family history in masonry,” says Chris, who took over the business in the early 1990s. A few years ago his nephew, Justin Emerson, now 31, came on board, making the fifth generation to work in the masonry craft.
Emerson Masonry serves the tri-state area of Indiana, Illinois and Ohio, but in the past two years, its focus has been Indianapolis, where it also has an office. The company will serve any masonry need in brick, stonework or block, on commercial or residential jobs. “But we like the big projects,” Chris says.
Communication Sets Standard for Quality
Chris believes that the company’s success is due to many attributes, but communication is foremost. “The key to any relationship is communication, with a clear line of understanding,” Emerson explains. “Even if there is a problem, we want to know about it as soon as possible.” Company representatives are responsive to scheduling questions and attend any contractor meetings throughout the building process.
Good communication leads to Emerson Masonry’s other strengths, performing quality work and meeting deadlines, Chris says. Sticking to deadlines helps the general contractor, whose construction job may already be behind schedule when the masonry work (done toward the end of construction) begins. A major concern always is safety, with training provided both internally and by outside safety management companies, Chris says. The company does weekly safety reports and has a guidebook for safe work practices.
Creative Solutions Save Time, Money
Chris says that Emerson Masonry is known for its creative solutions to difficult projects. “We have a good history with general contractors for problem-solving,” he explains. A recent example was a project in which the elevator tower was built at a height that conflicted with the plan for the roof to tie in. The construction drawings were incorrect, and the customer thought that about 4 feet would have to be removed from the top of the elevator tower.
Rick Booher, Field Superintendent at Emerson Masonry, came up with the idea of changing to a flat roof in that part of the building. “This kept the schedule going and saved them about $30,000—the cost of tearing down part of the tower,” Chris says.
Over the past few years, Emerson Masonry has worked on major projects throughout the Indianapolis area. One example is the TownePlace Suites by Marriott Indianapolis Downtown. On that project, the masonry company got involved in the design-build process, which saved the general contractor some headaches, Chris reports. The TownePlace Suites were built in a tight footprint; for the masons that means that all building supplies cannot be delivered at once. “We were having to bring in small lots every three days. It takes a lot of coordination with the general contractor and our suppliers.” The suppliers charge for those extra trips, and those charges must be figured into the contract.
Another big project with a tight footprint that Emerson has worked on is The Bentley Apartments in downtown Bloomington, Indiana. The luxury building has studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Communication was essential to get supplies delivered on time over numerous trips. Once again, multiple deliveries were required because the site did not have space for a large amount of masonry materials to be delivered at once.
Expertise in Historic Restoration
An added value is that Emerson Masonry has expertise in masonry restoration, which has led to its involvement in work on historic buildings. That skill resulted in a major masonry contract with TWG, the firm that was building Illinois Street Senior Apartments in downtown Indianapolis. The job involved two buildings, one new construction and the other restoration of a historic building. The restoration covered every facet of masonry, Chris says, including terra-cotta repair.
“We had to rebuild the base block and paint each one,” Chris explains. “There was a tree growing through the front of the building. We had to remove it and then build the front of the building out.” The masons did tuck pointing and lintel replacement and added an elevator shaft. The restoration took six months, and the masonry work on the new building took another six months, with 15 to 20 of Emerson’s employees working there at all times.
Justin Emerson, Senior Project Manager and Estimator, logged his first big project with work on Midtown Flats, a five-story apartment building in Carmel, Indiana, a northern suburb of Indianapolis, completed in late 2020. Developed by the J.C. Hart Company, Midtown Flats occupies a city block near the Monon Trail, a path that follows a former railway. “We were not the low bidder, but J.C. Hart had worked with us and wanted us to do this project,” Chris explains.
A Focus on Major Projects
Going forward, Emerson Masonry will focus on big construction projects, especially multifamily buildings, hotels, apartments and senior living. In addition to new construction, Chris says the company likes big restoration jobs as well. They will be working on five downtown buildings in Marion, Indiana, that will be turned into apartments, installing elevator shafts as well as other work.
To ensure projects stay on track, Chris says that he, Justin Emerson or Rick Booher is on-site daily. Justin Emerson prepares bids, sets budgets, gets materials and signs contracts. Justin’s wife, Brea Emerson, serves the company as Office Manager.
Emerson Masonry has from 60 to 80 employees at any time, with the ability to add workers to keep projects on schedule when times get busy. “We try to recruit the right people—dependable, honest and top-quality masons,” Chris says. In return, the company pays them well and makes sure they have work through all seasons of the year. Many employees have been with the company long-term.
The company shares profits with employees when they have a highly successful year, Chris says.
Chris is proud that Emerson Masonry takes its place in an extensive tradition of providing impressive and long-lasting structures for its customers. “Our versatility is second to none,” he says.