Expanding from cabinets to granite
When approaching Metropolitan Cabinet & Countertops in Norwood, MA, the look of the facility is certainly different than the typical stone fabrication shop. As one of the largest cabinet manufacturers in New England, the company has a large-scale operation that has now expanded to include stone countertop fabrication.
The company has been in business for over 25 years, and in addition to manufacturing and selling cabinets, it also has a history in processing laminate countertops. “Four years ago, I made the decision that granite had to become part of the company,” said Stuart Elfland, President of Metropolitan. “The problem in the past was that I didn’t want to just re-sell granite. There wasn’t enough margin, so I just never sold it. I met John Fallon [currently of Water Treatment Technologies] at the national kitchen show, and I ended up purchasing an Intermac Master Stone 4000 [CNC stoneworking center] through AGM. I also bought a bridge saw and the Water Treatment Technologies EnviroSystem.”
Metropolitan now has a second Intermac CNC stoneworking center from AGM, as well a GMM Eura bridge saw, which it purchased through Salem Stone. Material is lifted onto the CNC units using an Elephant boom crane.
As the stone-processing area of the operation grew, Metropolitan also upgraded its water recycling with a new system from Water Treatment Technologies. (The old system was sold back to Water Treatment Technologies.)
Metropolitan now processes 12 to 15 stone kitchens per week, and a total of 16 employees are working in the stone division. In training new employees, all of the workers must learn the shop operations before they can begin installing.
Metropolitan’s facilities span across 81,000 square feet of space, of which stone processing is actually 10% of the operation (and growing). Cabinet manufacturing encompasses the largest area within the space, and there are also sections for laminate manufacturing and processing of DuPont Corian. In addition to manufacturing its own line of cabinets, Metropolitan also distributes cabinets from other manufacturers. Walking through the operation with Elfland, it is clear that he knows the intricacies of the trade, as he offers practical tips to the workers on the processing floor.
“We template, fabricate and install all of our stone and Corian projects,” Elfland said. “Templating is actually the biggest challenge. One of the things I learned the hard way is that having a good templater is beyond critical. It is the key to a successful job.”
When templating a job, stick templates are scanned on a digitizing board, and the resulting data is fed into the CNC machines.
After jobs are finished, they are loaded onto carts to await shipment to the jobsite. When delivering the finished countertops, Metropolitan relies on “sprinters” - vans that are specially equipped with Stone Carriers from F. Barkow. “They really work great,” said Brian Spellman of Metropolitan. “The racks go almost right to the ground, and all we have to do is lift them with a hand clamp and cart them to the door.”
Waste from the cut-offs are broken up and recycled for use in road construction. The remnants that can be sold are tagged and inventoried, and at the time of Stone World’s visit to the facility, Metropolitan had 300 cataloged pieces available.
With a total of 120 employees in the various company divisions, Metropolitan retains workers by offering a full benefit package that includes health and retirement plans. It also focuses on “comfort” details, such as making sure the facilities are climate controlled.
Sales and marketingElfland pointed out that natural stone countertops are particularly appropriate for his market. “In New England, people want stone to go with their wooden cabinets,” he said. The company sells mainly to contractors in the greater Boston area, and it processes countertops for both multi-unit housing as well as single-family residences.
“For almost all of our jobs, we are doing both the cabinetry and the stone,” he said. The company has three showroom locations where contractors can take their customers to see examples of finished stone applications. In addition to the showroom in Norwood, there are also branches in Watertown, MA, and Natick, MA.
Prior to the fabrication process, customers are offered the opportunity to view the slabs at a staging area, where they can see the layout of the pieces and preview exactly how the finished countertops will look. “We go over the templates, and work with the customer throughout the process,” Elfland said.
Metropolitan stocks nine different colors of granite, and it purchases other varieties as requested by its clients, bringing in material from local distributors such Boston Granite Exchange and Marble & Granite, Inc.