Finding a personal niche

Eric Grindall had worked in the production and manufacturing industry since 1996, before deciding to recently open his own fabrication shop, All-Star Stone, Inc. in Mobile, AL. His new shop offers both natural stone and engineered stone and handles all aspects of residential and commercial applications, from sales to fabrication to installation.

"We do mostly countertops, vanities, kitchens and tub decks," said Grindall. "We have the ability to do about 10 kitchens a week, and hope to get that soon. The response has been fantastic so far."

Though the fabrication of natural stone is typically more popular than the engineered stone, Grindall saw a good opportunity and decided to take it. "We do a strategic partnership with a supplier out of New Orleans that supplies Technistone, an engineered stone," said Grindall. "We order in container loads from them, and get exclusive rights to that material. We give them a lower price, get templates from them and then fabricate the work. The situation is good for them and us."

Because the shop is newly opened, Grindall has decided to start out with a turnkey setup before moving into CNC machinery. "Our machinery is a Marmoelettromeccanica America 3600 bridge saw with tilting table, a Bristol 3600 profiling and polishing machine and a Master 3500 router," said Grindall. "We wanted to start smaller and then have the ability to expand to CNC and other machines. There is no question that we are moving towards a CNC machine, it is a question of reinvesting at the end of the year."

So far, All-Star Stone has 10 employees in the shop, all of whom followed Grindall into his new business after working with him previously. "We move them around a lot from machine to machine," said Grindall. "For example, we don't have a specific cut guy, in case he gets sick. It is better to be flexible."

The tooling the shop uses for edging is diamond tooling. They do some dry cut, so they have a self-contained dry grinding booth so it is less dangerous, according to Grindall. "I like the tools that make the job easier, like the Vacuum Seam Leveler," he added.

Though the shop has only been in operation for a short time, Grindall is very optimistic about the future of the business. "I think we will be successful because there are a lot of big companies around us who don't even return calls," said Grindall. "We want to focus more on customer service. Builders are more concerned about having good quality and reliable service than absolute rock bottom prices."

However, Grindall recognizes that before they become a success, the shop will bear some difficulties. "Our challenge is validating ourselves," said Grindall. "When people hear how long we have been in business, they sometimes turn away. And builders feel like they have leverage so they try to make you come down to rock bottom prices. We are still trying to get our feet wet, and show people we are in it for the long term."

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