Baseball fans in St. Louis are getting a new stadium, and WISHSTONE Chisel & Mallet, Inc. of O'Fallon, Ill., will play a part in finishing off the Cardinals' new roost, slated to open for the 2006 season.
WISHSTONE's artist and stone carver, Gabe Drueke, will hand-carve each of the 11 original designs into Indiana limestone, with the finished pieces ranging in size from 16"x22" up to 3'x3'. Once the originals are complete, molds will be made and approximately 74 cast stone replicas will be used for accenting the exterior brickwork of the $400 million St. Louis ballpark.
"One of the unique things about Gabe is he's an artist first off and then he moved into stone carving," says brother and Co-owner Steve Drueke. "He started playing around and making molds of some of his artwork, and once he did that a light bulb really went off for us."
Combining Gabe's works of masonry art with Steve's tenacious marketing skills, WISHSTONE took the prize of being the exclusive source for the stadium's decorative stone medallions.
"I don't think anyone really took the initiative," explains Steve. "It was a small design aspect of the stadium that Gabe and I caught last summer. We noticed that there were some blocked-out spaces on the Cardinal stadium. Gabe called me immediately and said that he wanted to be involved."
After almost a year of pouring over the preliminary designs, contacting third parties involved with the stadium project, and making dozens of phone calls and visits to the Cardinals' front office, Steve landed a meeting with the Cardinals' Design Committee and HOK Sports in April, signing a contract with them in June.
"It was a grueling process but we made a lot of good contacts," says Steve.
The fact that a small, but established, firm such as WISHSTONE was able to gain a foothold in such a large-scale project was significant, but another factor also made the job special.
"We grew up in Southern Illinois, just southeast of St. Louis," Steve explains. "With us being such small-town guys, trying to give something back and having it at this magnitude, it brings a lot of passion to the project."
Plus, how many baseball fans would like the opportunity to go through their favorite team's historical records?
"During the design process, Gabe got to be in there firsthand with all of the Cardinal archives, all the way back from the beginning," says Steve. "It's been a neat process."
These hometown boys may have fought a battle to land the honors of working on their local stadium, but their artistry-marketing combination has created a domino effect this year long before signing the stadium contract. In February, WISHSTONE participated in the Masonry New Products Forum 2004 presented by the Masonry Institute of St. Louis, and in March they were invited to exhibit in the first annual St. Louis exhibition "Art & Architecture," featuring works of local artists using architecture as subjects, three-dimensional architectural models, architectural renderings and illustrations. This exhibition then led to an article about the company in St. Louis Design Magazine.
"The excitement we are creating with the Cardinals project is already generating a lot of interest in our business and helping get our name out there. The mileage we get from this project is going to be phenomenal," explains Steve.
"This is the excitement that I kept telling Gabe that we could generate and get people interested in stone carving and WISHSTONE."
For more information about WISHSTONE, visit www.wishstone.net.
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