Working both sides of the Mexican border

After founding a small marble shop in Austin, TX, in 1982, Tom and Marwan Alkusari rapidly expanded their business over the next two decades, purchasing a limestone factory in Bertram, TX, and operating six quarries in the state. Most recently, the company's business has expanded south into Mexico, where the Alkusari Stone group runs two quarries for Mexican travertine.

The Mexican arm of the company, known as Piedra de Durango, is located in Durango, Torreon, Mexico. The quarry sites yield travertine in a variety of colors, with seven different shades of beige earth tones being extracted. Diamond wire saws are used to make cuts within the quarries, and the workers use drills to break large sections of stone into blocks of material that can be processed at the factory.

The company currently has a fabrication capacity of 40,000 square feet of tile per week, operating two shifts for six days each week. Additionally, the company fabricates one truck of architectural cut stone each week, and it does a full range of custom work.

Almost all of the fabricating equipment is manufactured under the Alkusari brand name. The group owns and operates two machine shops where it designs and builds its own fabricating machinery. Equipment working at the factory includes two complete tile production lines, four lathes, four blockcutters, six cut-off saws, three multi-blade saws, one diamond wire belt saw, four tumbling machines, six mosaic machines, two horizontal splitting machines, two profiling machines, two slabs polishers and two chamfering machines.

At the end of last year, the company added to its equipment roster with the purchase of a 40-blade open frame gangsaw from BM for slab production.

Corporate structure/products

The Alkusari Stone group is comprised of Piedra de Durango, along with its sister factory, Texas Limestone, and the U.S. sales and shipping headquarters, Cordova Stone, which is located in Austin, TX. The company currently employs 120 people at the Mexican travertine quarry and factory, 29 people at the Texas Limestone plant and 12 people at the Cordova Stone sales and distribution office. The company employs three full-time architects and four engineers to help architects and designers implement their designs in the most cost-effective, efficient manner possible.

The product line includes tiles in honed, "Ancient" (wire-brushed) and acid-washed finishes, and the factory also produces an extensive line of mosaics and moldings from simple to very elaborate designs. Standard tile sizes include 6 x 12, 12 x 12, 16 x 16, 18 x 18 and 24 x 24 inches as well as a 4-piece Versailles pattern. The company's machinery also has the flexibility to create any custom sizes that are required for individual projects. Standard smaller tumbled units are available in 1/2 x 1/2, 1 x 1, 2 x 2, 2 x 4, 3 x 6, 4 x 4, and 6 x 6 inches as well as meshed mosaics in many patterns and shapes.

Additionally, the factory produces all of its materials in architectural and hand-carved elements such as fireplaces, columns, sinks, window and door surrounds, fountains, veneers and pavers.

The Alkusari Stone group has an international distribution network that includes Canada, England, Germany and 15 states in the U.S. Through these distribution points, the company sells approximately 70% of its products -- including architectural work as well as tiles, slabs and mosaics -- for commercial and residential projects.

In the commercial market, the company has an extensive list of retailers who have utilized their stone products, including Banana Republic, Nine West Shoes, Coach Stores and J. Jill Clothing Stores. In the residential sector, the Alkusari Stone group has supplied tile and cut stone for homes throughout Texas as well as in Utah, Virginia, Florida, New York, California, Canada and as far away as Kuwait. Recently, the company completed stonework for a $5 million home in Austin, which includes $600,000 worth of tile, mosaics, pavers and cut stone. Custom work includes carved stone columns as well as the fireplace and other interior and exterior work.

In addition to its growth south of the border, Alkusari Stone has recently opened a new showroom and warehouse in Salt Lake City, UT, which will be operating under the name of "Alkusari Stone." This facility will be able to service the western region of the U.S. for orders that are less than a full truckload.

And even though the Alkusari Stone group has undergone continuous expansion over the past 20 years, it is planning even further growth in the near future. The next goal is to open a factory in Puebla, Mexico, where it can cost-effectively produce and provide its clients with five new travertine colors.

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