FIsher Rocks in running for “Coolest Thing Made In Kansas”
By Deb Hadachek Telescope News
Read online – www.thebellevilletelecope.com
The products made at Fisher Rocks in Belleville are a labor of love, says Julie Hartner.
Emphasize the word “labor”. And a finished product that displays customers’ special loves.
In a sector where manufacturing is connected with mechanization, Fisher Rocks’ handmade products still weigh in as a contender.
The Belleville company is one of 16 chosen for this year’s Kansas Manufacturing Council’s “Coolest Things Made in Kansas” competition. The winner will be announced at the Kansas Manufacturing Summit October 6.
Fisher Rocks is up against Kansas contenders like Garmin, which makes GPS devices, and a company that designs struts for space telescopes.
“It is such an amazing thing,” says Hartner, who has managed the company since 2013 when it moved to Belleville. Fisher Rocks was one of several local businesses nominated for the competition by Republic County Economic Development Director Luke Mahin.
Fisher Rocks creates custom made limestone displays ranging in size from paperweights to business entrance signs. All the limestone comes from Kansas, Hartner says. The company has shipped signs to all the continental United States, and internationally.
The company was started near Home City in 1994 by Mike and Jolene Fisher. When the Fishers decided to sell the business, it was moved into the former Kansas National Guard Armory in Belleville, owned by Steve Anderson.
Most years, Fisher Rocks depends on retail sales from its website and US81 traffic, and wholesale distribution from dealers across the Midwest.
In 2020 sales took an unexpected twist.
The staff of HBO pundit John Oliver’s show “Last Week Tonight” found a television clip about Fisher Rocks on the internet dating back some eight years when Mike Fisher pleaded with the US Postal Service to keep an office open in Home City.
When USPS officials asked why the Home Post Office recorded such heavy weights–”What are you shipping–rocks?”– Fisher answered, “Yes”.
Oliver used the old clip to illustrate the current need for USPS for small businesses.
Oliver’s staff were especially smitten by a series of limestone rocks that the company sells featuring funny sayings about wiener dogs, Hartner says.
The video clip of that segment went viral, with more than six million views.
Suddenly, stacks of orders for the business’s limestone signs began to flood their inbox.
“It’s what really saved us this year,” Hartner says. “That happened in April. Our busiest time is usually before Christmas, and then we sell a lot of products from the people who travel up and down US81, and vendor shows we attend. Both of those were down this year because of the pandemic.”
In a normal year, Fisher Rocks will sell more than 2,000 individual pieces, Hartner says. Most are custom-made designs that might feature a customer’s name, business name, military status, or school allegiances.
And yes, most still ship through US Postal Service flat-rate boxes.
“If it fits, it ships,” says Hartner.
(To see the Last Week Tonight segment, as well as the Fisher Rock products, go to www.fisherrocks.com.)