Cornerstone in Lowell for a Century
LOWELL -- Adrian Luz annually told his son they would complete his cemetery monument next year.
In 2011, however, there was no longer next year for the father of Luz Granite, the Lowell monument firm on Gorham Street.
Quickly, they needed to get together a monument for the funeral, so his son Adrian “Chip” Luz engraved one quickly.
That gave Chip time to design a much more elaborate one for him at St. Mary Cemetery in Tewksbury.
Today, the temporary one Chip swiftly carved sits in the backyard of Luz Granite, standing out from dozens of strangers’ crosses and names.
“I like it here,” Chip, 42, said last week, looking over his father’s memorial. “He’s here, too, you know. It’s nice.”
This year, the third-generation business -- a staple in South Lowell and a go-to place for memorials around the region -- is celebrating 100 years.
Chip’s grandfather, Andrew Luz, launched it as a cement garden furniture business in 1918, and then evolved into cemetery memorials.
After all, the shop on Gorham Street is conveniently across the street from St. Patrick Cemetery and near other cemeteries within five minutes.
“If not every day, a few days a week we’re sending monuments across the way,” Chip said.
His grandfather came to America from Portugal as an infant in 1902.
The family settled in Lowell, and he started the cement garden furniture business in 1918. He manufactured ornamental concrete products, lily pools, bird baths, waterfalls and more.
“He was very good with his hands,” Chip said of his grandfather. “And it was a way to make a living.”
Around 1930, he made the switch to cemetery monuments. Chip’s father then began working there while attending Lowell High School in the early 1940s, before serving on an aircraft carrier in World War II.
After the war, Adrian worked alongside his father and eventually took it over. Adrian was 50 years old when he had Chip, resulting in only three generations over 100 years.
“That normally would be a four-generation business,” Chip said.
The nickname Chip was perfect for the business, but he says it was “just a name they liked.”
Like his father, Chip worked at the shop while attending Lowell High School. He then graduated from Holy Cross in 1998, and returned to work alongside his father for several years.
“He taught me to make sure everyone is pleased with the final product,” Chip said. “Listen to people and treat everyone fairly, and you’ll be successful.”
As a recent customer at Luz Granite, James Coates stressed that Chip and longtime artist Michael Laliberte listened closely to his and his wife Irene’s thoughts about a monument for the couple.
Chip and Laliberte worked diligently for months, keeping them informed, James said. It resulted in a finished product that the Coates’ families can take pride in for many generations to come at Lowell Cemetery, James said.
“Their professionalism helped us to transform a piece of earth into a piece of art,” said James, who added that they wanted to get a jump on a monument, with them being around 60 years old.
“It’s the type of product that most of us never buy in our lives,” he said. “I’m glad we could get it at this point in our lives.”
In 2005, Chip’s father started to slow down and Chip began to take over the reins. His father still came in every day, even working until a few weeks before he passed in 2011.
What would Chip’s grandfather think, 100 years later?
“He’d be very proud, especially with how unique the memorials have become,” he said. “It’s the style of memorials we produce, and most importantly the continued quality of memorials we make.”
Back in the day, all of the monuments were limited to the traditional religious style. Over the years, they’ve started to personalize memorials with more creative designs. In the shop, they display one with golf clubs on the side.
Laliberte -- who has worked as an artist for all three Luz generations -- said today is much different than when he joined on March 12, 1978.
“We’ve gone from standard shapes and designs and colors to the new technology available for laser etchings,” he said.
The family has treated him great for 40 years, Laliberte added.
“I wouldn’t still be here if I didn’t like the job,” he added.
When family members visit McDonough Funeral Home after a death, they frequently ask John McDonough where they should get a gravestone. The Luz family has been a go-to recommendation for decades, he said.
“Those guys are the best on the planet,” McDonough said. “You’re not going to find a better guy. He’s got the genes.”
It’s typically a very difficult time for people when they enter Luz Granite, but Chip says he has met some wonderful customers over the years.
“It’s not a place you want to go in unless you have to,” Chip said. “But I’ve really met some really nice people. It’s a chance to bond with them, and design the only piece of artwork they’ll commission in their lifetime. You’re designing someone’s legacy.”
How many more years will Luz Granite be a staple in Lowell? Another century?
Chip says he hopes to run the shop for at least another 25 years. He has three kids -- 9, 8 and 6 years old.
“Right now, we’re just trying to get them to eat their vegetables, and then we’ll go from there,” he said.
“You can’t ever force someone,” Chip added. “You can encourage them to look and do something else, and if they come back to it, great. If they don’t, we certainly had a good run.”