Virginia fabricator continues to thrive

May 1, 2006
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Superior Marble & Stone Inc. of Portsmouth, VA, operates out of a 26,000-square-foot facility. Of this space, 10,000 square feet is dedicated to the fabrication shop, which is equipped with a variety of state-of-the-art machinery, enabling the company to fabricate an average of 20 kitchens a week plus about 1,500 square feet of other material.

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.

The company has a total of six bridge saws from Sawing Systems Inc. of Knoxville, TN, one of which is a 541-C model.

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.

Superior Marble & Stone Inc.'s most recent purchase was a 511-C automatic profiling bridge saw from Sawing Systems.

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. “We decided to buy domestic equipment for speedy parts and services,” she added.

The shop also houses a radial arm polishing machine from Sawing Systems.

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.

A Pro-Edge III from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN, is also in place at the shop.

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. “We have six shop employees that can operate any of the computer-controlled equipment,” said Thompson, adding that training was provided by the manufacturers of the machines.

For more complex stone cutting, the company utilizes an Integrated Flying Bridge waterjet system from Flow International Corp. of Kent, WA.

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.

A vacuum slab lifter from Wood's Powr-Grip Co. Inc. of Mt. Laurel, MT, helps workers move slabs around the facility.

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.

Superior Marble & Stone Inc. employs a staff of 75, which includes 40 fabrication shop workers, who are specialized in certain aspects of fabrication, and all of them are trained on site.

Thompson feels that the market has really evolved over the past 20 years. “In 1985, we did approximately 60% commercial work and 40% residential,” she said. “Now, we do 75% residential and 25% commercial work.”

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.

For this private residence, employees fabricated a countertop and island out of granite, and installed a flagstone surround to complement the stone tops.

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. “We have a shop foreman who trains new employees in the shop, and we have installation mechanics who train new installers,” 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 “it's hard to find people who are willing to work hard.”

The company also produces furniture tops, such as this tabletop which features bookmatched Honey onyx.

The company purchases some of its slabs from wholesale distributors, and it also imports slabs directly from overseas, including India, Brazil, Italy and Spain.

“We work closely with our clients, whether they are individual homeowners or our larger commercial clients, to ensure their experience with natural stone is positive,” said Thompson. “Every satisfied customer is not only our best form of advertising, but more importantly, reflects the individual pride each of our employees and owners feels.”

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