Creating specialty divisions within one enterprise

September 1, 2003
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In 1936, the Simonelli family opened a small fabricating company in the prosperous stoneworking region of Carrara, Italy. Over the years, this business has evolved into the Simonelli & Partners' Group, which includes a total of seven companies. Today, the firm is run by Giovanni and Michele Simonelli, the family's third generation, who are constantly looking for new ways to expand their company's presence in the stone industry.

According to the company, it became a pioneer in 1956, when it began producing tiles with a thickness of 3?inches for the U.S. market. A little more than a decade later, Simonelli opened a factory in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1969, and then two more new companies in Italy in 1975.

The company continued to carve a niche for itself, when it developed a 2-mm-thick (less than 1? inch) tile without back support for a project in Japan. Since that time, the production of 12 x 12 x 3? and 16 x 16 x 1?inches has become a standard thickness for all projects where a lightweight tile is required. Simonelli has named its light-weight line TinnyR.

Continuing with its expansion plan, the Simonelli & Partners' Group opened a third plant in Carrara in 1988, equipped with four gangsaws. Last year it created a new department to handle all other hard flooring material with the exception of stone. It also offered a wide range of finishing products such as sanitary and bath accessories.

Currently, some of the group's largest markets are the U.S., Japan, Australia and China, where the company had an office in Beijing for five years. It supplies material in the form of blocks, slabs, tiles and cut to size. In an 8-hour work shift, production capacity totals approximately 14,000 square feet of tiles in various materials, sizes and thicknesses; more than 19,000 square feet of slabs and strips; and about 6,500 square feet of cut-to-size products.

The group's facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art machinery. They include four F Meccanica gangsaws, three Pedrini block cutters, three Micheletti mono-blade block cutters, four Levi Tunisi automatic polishing lines, one edge polishing line, two lines for cement filling of travertine, one fully automatic epoxy-resin processing line, one automatic line for production of antiqued/tumbled marble and four laser-equipped bridge saws.

The most recent development for Simonelli was through Building Materials Supplies and Co. srl (B.M.S.) -- a division of the group started in 1981-- which launched an exclusive line of finishing called VenezianR in 2002. This line represents a future for granite kitchen countertops and various other applications that use granite, according to the company.

Forming an alliance

Venezian is a process that presents a flat surface with textured feel. It is said to represent the natural aging of granite through a multi-step mechanical process involving special tools that have been designed for this finish.

"About three years ago, I developed the concept, and BMS produced it," said G.K. Naquin of Stone Interiors in Loxley, AL. "I went to five companies, and BMS did the best. We modified it to stay with flat surfaces -- you can slide a wine glass across it. There's not too much texture."

Stone Interiors has been installing Venezian finished countertops for three years, according to Naquin. "We developed the process for domestic fabrication of the edges, and licensed GranQuartz to distribute these fabrication supplies," he said. "The brushes and Venezian sealers distributed by GranQuartz were tested in our fabrication facility, and used in our installations prior to distribution by GranQuartz. The sealer has an enhancing agent that allows for ultraviolet protection, and we have not had to reseal any installations to date."

According to Naquin, the Venezian finish restores color back to the stone. "You don't have to use as much enhancers as with other finishes," he said. "It's a satin type finish -- not a shiney one."

With the Venezian finish, there are several different edges that customers can choose from. "The most popular is the quarry edge, which has the effect of a chiseled edge, and the radius edge," said Naquin. "On the darker colors of the Venezian finish we are able to get the edge darker than the face, which accents the natural aging process by looking more worn on the edge. Some of the fabricators have mitered the edges to give a cubic look and others have laminated edges to give a thicker look."

Stone Interiors, which operates its own fabricating facilities in Alabama and Columbia, SC, is the National Director of the VenezianR product. As of now, there are about 15 to 20 distributors nationwide, with the list growing everyday, according to Naquin. Venezian just passed the ASTM test for Slippery and Water Absorption, and is now suitable for all those projects where strict requirements are mandatory, according to B.M.S.

In addition to offering the Venezian finished granite, B.M.S. also is a supplier of some of the most "classic" materials, including White Carrara and Botticino marble, and Absolute Black and Blue Pearl granite. The company also is a source of more exotic stones such as Red Levanto, Norwegian Rose, Portoro Black and Gold, Yellow and Red travertine, Aloha Green and Carnelia Brown. Just recently in May, the Simonelli & Partners' Group acquired a quarry in the Ukraine for Volga Blue granite.

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