Virginia fabricator continues to thrive
May 1, 2006
Superior Marble & Stone Inc. of Portsmouth, VA, is one of the oldest established stone and marble companies in its region. The company's 26,000-square-foot facility and 11 acres of land enables it to handle an average of 20 kitchens per week, and approximately 1,500 square feet of other production work, including marble, Bluestone, fireplaces, vanity tops and furniture tops.
Owner Buddy Sims has been involved in the stone industry for his entire life. As a child, he worked with his father in the terrazzo business at a company in Orlando, FL, and in 1960, Sims moved to Virginia and began working as a stonemason. As of 1965, he had successfully completed a three-year apprenticeship as a marble mason, and in 1972, Sims decided to start his own business - Stone Installation Contactor. He launched Superior Marble & Stone Inc. in 1985, as a fabrication shop and installation contractor.
The company's large facility houses a vast amount of high-end machinery from a variety of manufacturers. The shop is equipped with six bridge saws from Sawing Systems Inc. of Knoxville, TN, including three 111-C models, a 541-C, and the company's newest addition to the shop, a 511-C profiler. A sixth bridge saw was manufactured in 1958 and restored in 2000, and according to Mary Thompson, the company's Vice President, it is still going strong today. â€œWe decided to buy domestic equipment for speedy parts and services,â€ she added.
In addition to the company's bridge saws, the facility is also equipped with a radial arm polishing machine from Sawing Systems, an Integrated Flying Bridge waterjet system from Flow International Corp. of Kent, WA, a vacuum lifer from Wood's Powr-Grip Co. Inc. of Mt. Laurel, MT, a Pro Edge III and a Wizard radial arm polisher from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN, an LCV 711M backsplash edge polishing machine from Marmo Meccanica and three Master 3500 routers from Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA.
Two of the company's saws, as well as the waterjet, are computer controlled, and the company uses FastTrack 144-60 digitizing software from Outline Technologies, Inc. of Jacksonville, FL, to operate them. â€œWe have six shop employees that can operate any of the computer-controlled equipment,â€ said Thompson, adding that training was provided by the manufacturers of the machines.
The company also utilizes two 5-ton overhead cranes, six forklifts, two crane trucks, two Bobcats, seven box vans, a flat-bed, 18-wheel delivery truck and a John Deere tractor with a backhoe attachment.
In addition to the 10,000-square-foot fabrication shop, Superior Marble & Stone Inc.'s vast facility includes 6,000 square feet of office/showroom space and 10,000 square feet of warehouse space. Outside, the company has 11 acres for slab storage, and its retail stone yard, from which the company sells a variety of natural building stone, landscape stone, boulders, sand and gravel.
Superior Marble & Stone Inc. fabricates and installs all types of natural stone, including slate, limestone, onyx, travertine, soapstone and quartzite, according to Thompson. The company generally fabricates countertops, bar and vanity tops, furniture tops and fireplaces. It handles mostly cut-to-size work, and about 25% of business comes from other products such as tile, stone patios and pool decks.
Thompson feels that the market has really evolved over the past 20 years. â€œIn 1985, we did approximately 60% commercial work and 40% residential,â€ she said. â€œNow, we do 75% residential and 25% commercial work.â€
The company recently completed stonework for the Monument to Naval Aviation at the oceanfront in Virginia Beach, VA. The memorial features Mesabi Black granite from Cold Spring Granite Co. of Cold Spring, MN.
Superior Marble & Stone Inc. employs a staff of 75, which includes 40 fabrication shop workers, 10 installation crews, 10 salesmen, two bookkeepers and a receptionist. Thompson said that all employees are specialized in certain aspects of fabrication, and all of them are trained on site. â€œWe have a shop foreman who trains new employees in the shop, and we have installation mechanics who train new installers,â€ Thompson explained, adding that the company also has a safety administrator to train and enforce safety policies. She finds hiring new employees to be extremely challenging, as â€œit's hard to find people who are willing to work hard.â€
The company purchases some of its slabs from wholesale distributors, and it also imports slabs directly from overseas, including India, Brazil, Italy and Spain.
â€œWe work closely with our clients, whether they are individual homeowners or our larger commercial clients, to ensure their experience with natural stone is positive,â€ said Thompson. â€œEvery satisfied customer is not only our best form of advertising, but more importantly, reflects the individual pride each of our employees and owners feels.â€