EAST PALESTINE, Ohio – Eric Beight, the fourth-generation owner and president of O.T. Beight and Sons Inc., 505 state Route 170 in East Palestine, says growing up in, and operating, a family business presents its challenges, but the rewards are lifelong.
“As you get older, you realize what a blessing it is to have worked with your parents and grandparents,” Beight says. “They pass down so much knowledge and opportunities.”
Beight says he’s hopeful that his youngest son will eventually become the fifth generation family member to run the business when he retires.
O.T. Beight was founded in 1897 by Beight’s great grandfather, Oscar Tobias Beight. O.T., as he was called, relocated from New Castle, Pa., to East Palestine to take a job in a monument company. When the owner of that firm died, his widow had no interest in running the business and O.T. acquired the company. For 125 years, the business has carved and installed monuments and burial stones.
Beight says the industry has changed considerably since he first learned the trade from his father, Cecil, and his grandfather, Wilbur. “I was fortunate to come in when I did,” he says.
His grandfather used old-school methods to hand-carve headstones and monuments, applying techniques and knowledge that Beight says are invaluable to understanding the occupation.
“We are a full-function shop,” Beight says. “We cut the stone, install the foundation and do any inscription or artwork.”
By the 21st century, however, most of those methods had been replaced by automation, enabling computer-controlled laser cutters and plotters to transfer intricate designs and carvings onto stone.
“It was all done by hand before,” Beight says. “Now I can run the shop by myself.” Beight admits that some of the work still requires the dexterity and talent that only comes with hand sculpting.
Beight says the company today can turn out more work in two months than his grandfather could in a single year. In 2021, the company achieved $1.5 million in sales.
Automation has also enabled the company to provide more options for customers, as clients today are more selective regarding designs, engravings and the type of stone used. “I’m up to 400 different designs for markers,” he says. “You scan the design and it cuts right into the granite.”
In another example of how times have changed, stone that was previously sourced from the United States and Canada is now quarried from all over the world.
“I’ve been to China and India,” he says. “I started with old-school and then witnessed the beginning of computers and the global market. It’s changed drastically.”
Pictured at top: Eric Beight, Kristine Weber, Tara Hicks and Mike Fair operate the business.