Family-owned monument business sells to another family-owned monument business

Danyelle Harrison and Marc Arntzen

Danyelle Harrison, left, and Marc Arntzen stand outside the front of the former Gem City Memorials at 2503 Locust. The business recently was sold to Harrison Monuments. | David Adam

QUINCY — Marc Arntzen and Danyelle Harrison had similar experiences as kids.

Harrison remembers growing up in Warsaw and visiting her grandfather’s business, Harrison Monuments, when she was 3 years old. After moving to Quincy from Hannibal, Arntzen remembers as a first grader going to work with his father, Glendon, at Gem City Memorials.

“He would babysit me and work on tombstones,” Arntzen said.

When the decision was made to sell Gem City Memorials, Arntzen knew who he wanted to work with.

“We interviewed several prospective buyers,” he said. “In the back of my mind, I knew Harrison Monuments would do the best job of continuing it on. We interviewed a few people, but I knew that wouldn’t happen and it wouldn’t be a smooth transition. I texted Danielle many times, and I finally caught her on the right day.”

Details about the sale have not yet been filed with the Adams County Recorder’s office. Arntzen sent a letter to clients and vendors earlier this month informing them of the sale.

All client records and digital designs of previous work have been transferred from Gem City Memorials, 2503 Locust, to Harrison Monuments, 1523 S. 12th. Harrison Monuments will finish any previously contracted work that has not yet been completed.

Gem City Memorials was in business for 57 years, originating in the Graceland Cemetery chapel at 37th and Maine. Harrison Monuments has been in business since 1963 and still maintains the original location at 115 S. Sixth in Warsaw.

Harrison says she will maintain the Locust business for a year but expects to merge the two stores into the one on 12th Street.

Arntzen will help for the next couple of months  with the transition, and he also will be managing a rental business he owns. His wife, Kelly, will take a job in the accounting field after working for about 12 years at the monument business. They had been grooming their son, Tanner, to take over the family business. Instead, he is in Davenport, Iowa, with his girlfriend’s veterinary practice.

Choosing to leave the business was bittersweet for Arntzen.

“This is all about the legacy of our family,” he said.

Harrison says monument building is a difficult job.

“It takes quite a long time to learn the skill set,” she said. “My dad is 71, and he still crawls around on the ground as far as pouring concrete and digging holes. That’s something you want the young kids to be doing. I understand the rigorous role of having to build monuments, and it’s not something you want to do on your own. Marc probably doesn’t want to train somebody at this point.

“I honestly encouraged (Arntzen) not to go in the beginning, but we always had a good working relationship with (Gem City Memorials). This just kind of happened.”

Harrison’s stepdaughter, Natalie Henning, runs the Quincy branch of the business. She says her stepson, Wilson Henning, is “working hard to learn the industry.” Her brother’s stepson also is employed by the business.

As the owner of a family business entering its fourth generation, Harrison believes caring for the families served by Gem City Memorials is important.

“Since we started doing this a few months ago, really working out the details of the best way to do that, we could have come in and said, ‘On April 1, you’re done. You need to get the heck out of here,’” Harrison said. “That’s not the world that we want to live in. I know that’s not the world that Marc wanted to live in. 

“(The Arntzens) have been great to work with. We’ve learned a lot about each other’s families. No doubt it has been a little weird coming over here (to the Locust location). But I remember when we opened our first day 17 years ago. (Marc) brought us a delivery and a greeting to Quincy. Yeah, he didn’t have to, but he did, and that showed character. That’s why we’re here sitting here today to explain to people we’re doing everything we can to make this comfortable for families.”

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