Four decades of transforming concrete to stone

Jeremiah Stettler, Stone Passion

Whatever Bret Reimann touches turns to stone.

Whether it’s a countertop, fireplace, shower stall or kitchen floor, this three-generation concrete pre-caster can make it all look like granite. Or polished marble. Or sandstone.

Truth is, Reimann has developed a first-of-its-kind casting-and-coloration system that can transform concrete into decorative stone applications that are elegant enough to grace cathedrals, yet versatile enough to appear on the countertops and tabletops of thousands of homes across the nation.

“If it can be built, we’ll build it,” remarked Reimann, the founder of Stone Passion, whose cavernous shop in the heart of Salt Lake City is scattered with concrete creations ranging from hewn-stone drinking fountains to roped-edge tabletops.

With nearly four decades of pre-casting experience under his belt, Reimann is about to revolutionize the concrete industry with an artificial stone product known as Bravura that has the appearance of high-quality stone, yet the durability and affordability of concrete.

Reimann has marketed the product privately for years. But the tradesman announced this month that he will share his secret sauce through a series of training seminars this summer that will change the way people look at concrete.

That’s what he did for Centennial Surface Technology, Inc., of Arizona. The company, which completes more than a million square feet of concrete flooring each year, sent a team to Utah to assess the Stone Passion system.

“I’ve learned that there is a mad scientist in Utah that everyone needs to come and see,” Vice President Rick Zingale mused. “He has created a system that is unparalleled in the industry. Bret has created a product that has not only has incredible aesthetic value but tremendous functional value as well.”

The Stone Passion product, known as Bravura Stone, has been generations in the making.

Reimann began his career in the concrete industry before he hit double-digits, sweeping the floors of his father’s shop. The beauty of his dad’s handiwork intrigued him. He remembers vividly the polished outcome of a project at Brigham Young University, in which his father combined concrete with a chocolate onyx stone to create a decorative wall slab. The finished product was life-changing.

Within a few years, the young Reimann was shoveling mud, breaking stone and handling nine-ton slabs that would eventually would appear on the face of a Logan, Utah, temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Among his crowning projects was a 14-piece clam-shaped fountain on Salt Lake City’s Temple Square, which he fashioned with his father over eight weeks. The lesson he learned:

“It is either exactly right or it is exactly wrong,” Reimann recalls.

But the architectural industry wasn’t kind to his father. The demand for pre-cast concrete panels waned in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to penniless times for the family.

Although Reimann had stepped away from the family business to serve a church mission in Germany for his faith, he returned early to help support his family. It was during those troubling years that necessity gave way to invention.

Reimann developed a unique casting-and-coloration system during those years that would allow his creations to become comparable to stone, yet still retain the robust attributes of concrete.

He jokes that his experimentation tested his wife’s patience at times. He recalls testing concrete mixtures on the kitchen stove to see how it would react to boiling  liquids such as Caro Syrup. And yet, this experimentation yielded a secret that has made Stone Passion what it is today.

Since then, his handiwork has spread. His work can be found at premier educational institutions such as the University of Utah. It can be found at the corporate offices of grocery giant Smith’s. It can be found on decorative face of the Cathedral of the Madeline. And it can be found in thousands of kitchens across America.

“These go beyond anything I’ve seen,” remarked Janette Adams, a customer who purchased countertops for her Salt Lake City home. “Not only do I love them because of what they look like, but they are easy to keep up and easy to clean. They have been the best thing for my family.”

Another homeowner, Julie Baxter, confessed that she bought her Rocky Mountain home in Salt Lake City because of concrete countertops Stone Passion had pre-installed, even though she wasn’t a fan of the home’s floor plan.

“People come in and can’t believe they are concrete,” she said.

But Reimann is ready to change the industry faster than a countertop at a time. An innovator by nature, an artisan by trade, Reimann will launch a series of exclusive training seminars in August.

Centennial Surface of Arizona completed the first session in May. Company leaders reported that the technology would have saved Centennial Surface $90,000 over a six-month period, had they known the techniques.

“What we’ve learned in just the last few days of training is really comparable to all that I have learned over the decades of owning and experiencing my own business,” Zingale said. “It’s worth every penny and the a lot more. No one will be able to reinvent the wheel here. That’s the key to it.”

Reimann offers a modest smile. The technology is so simple, he says, that anyone could figure it out. It just took three generations for his family to learn the secret. For the first time in three generations, he’s willing to share. It will change the way people look at concrete.

“What I do is more cost-effective than anyone else in the industry,” he said, “This is the first of its kind in America. I have the best look. And it’s cheaper than anything else. Tell me how that works.”

The next round of classes will begin in August. Sessions are limited in size. Registrations may be made by phone at 801-973-8847.