Re-emerging U.S. Stone Industry
Inspired by the past
"My grandfather came here in the early 1920s - during the [Great] Depression," said John Congedo. "He came from a little town outside of Rome, and my other [grandfather] came from a little town outside of Naples. They took this gigantic leap of faith. They got on these steam ships and headed over here without speaking the language. Linda's family escaped from Russia. They came with only candles and pillowcases."
According to Congedo, he and his wife and himself were inspired by the courageous efforts of their ancestors. To serve as a constant reminder, the motto that they created is placed on the outside of the fabricating facility. "It's a remembrance of who those people were and what they did for us," said Congedo. "They provided entrepreneur experience for us. They planted the seed."
The husband-and-wife team first tried their hand at running their own business in 1988, working out of their house. "We were importing tile and doing light fabrication in the garage with a skill saw and bench grinder," said Congedo.
It was not until after a trip to Italy where John Congedo went to learn more about his family roots that the business started to grow. "I met [Lucio Porcella] in Italy, who owned a beautiful slate mine. He encouraged me to come visit. Three weeks before I was going to leave, his son, who was about my age, was killed in an automobile accident. When I went there, his heart went out to me as an American kid trying to discover his heritage."
Congedo explained that he soon learned that Porcella was a very distinguished figure in the community. His company, Montebalano, mines slate for the pool industry. "Because of his faith in me, he loaned me my first used equipment," the fabricator said. "I credit him with my success. Without him providing the tools for me, I would never have had the opportunity for this success. [Porcella] has been instrumental in making my business connect. It gave me an international connection very quickly. He took me to the Carrara and Verona fairs, and now people know me when I go."
Building a factoryToday, the size of Marble Source Unlimited has expanded tremendously from its beginnings in the Congedos' garage. The company now operates out of a 20,000-square-foot facility in Annapolis Junction, MD, and plans for a new 38,000-square-foot plant in a neighboring county are in the works.
At the present time, the company employees 75 workers, and it is equipped with multiples of Bisso saws, Comandulli edge machines and Intermac CNC machines. The facility is capable of outputting 25 to 35 kitchens per shift per day. Currently, the company runs two shifts daily, but intends to run three when it moves to its new facility.
In total, Marble Source Unlimited has the potential to produce $15 to $20 million in annual sales, according to Congedo. Besides making granite and marble countertops, the company also produces vanities and tub decks. Additionally, it manufactures custom-carved limestone fireplace surrounds and an exclusive line of conference room tables. According to Congedo, the company installed a 39-foot table in an exclusive office in Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. The tables are specially designed so that laptops can be installed, he said.
Other work of Marble Source Unlimited includes monuments. "We did a monument for Admiral McConnell," said Congedo, explaining that he is the director of NSA. "It honored 167 people who were killed in the line of duty between 1946 and 1997." The monument, entitled "They Served in Silence," honors some of the "secret" people in the country that lost their lives, according to the fabricator. "Every artist and carver involved received citations from Congress," he said. "Some names are so secret that we couldn't put them on the monument. We used symbols that their families could recognize." The monument sits behind security suites at the NSA headquarters in Annapolis Junction.
Another project included making a plaque in memory of literary writer Edgar Allan Poe -- a Maryland native -- to honor the fact that the Baltimore Ravens football team is named after one of his poems. "We get these very interesting artistic commissions because we have people here that can do it," said Congedo, adding that they service a number of home centers in four or five states, catering to upscale designers. Additionally, Marble Source Unlimited has fabricated pieces for numerous high-end residential homes, including some celebrities. Among these luminaries are writer Tom Clancy, Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell, congressman and astronaut John Glenn and singer Whitney Houston. "We do lots of exclusive work," said Congedo. "We do office buildings in large conference room facilities, and we are doing a 400-unit hotel."
Planning for the future
In December 2002, Marble Source Unlimited has slated to open its new fabricating facility. "We are cooperating with both European and U.S. industrial engineers to design a floor that will provide for maximum support," said Congedo. "We're currently looking at [producing] manufactured stone at [the facility we have now]. It's a coming evil. We might as well deal with it."
Presently, the company's market includes five states - Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, eastern Pennsylvania and Washington, DC, as well as the tips of West Virginia - according to Congedo. "We are looking closely at expanding to markets south of here," he said. "Northern Virginia and North Carolina are areas where we are looking for joint-venture opportunities."