Strategically choosing locations to process stone
Twenty-five years ago, Guy Baptiste, president of Tabernacle Granite & Marble, Inc., ventured into the stone fabrication business with only $300. Although production was slow at first, today his company has grown to not only include a facility in Tabernacle, NJ, where he initially opened a shop, but also a second location in Harbinger, NC.
“I was a tile setter before this,” said Baptiste. “A guy asked me to do a slab bathroom. I got through the job, and the guy loved it.” After that experience, Baptiste decided to pursue a new avenue in his career.
“When we started out, we were using wet sandpaper for the edges,” said Baptiste. “It would take us a week to get through 150 feet.”
Today, the shop in southern New Jersey is equipped with a GMM Tecna 36 bridge saw from Salem Stone of Winston-Salem, NC, a Marmoelettromeccanica Master 3500 router from Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA, and a Thibaut T108 multi-purpose machine. Hand tools are purchased from companies such as Braxton Bragg and VIC International, both of Knoxville, TN, as well as Regent Stone Products. Also, slabs are maneuvered around the shop with a Wood’s Powr-Grip vacuum lifter.
“The [Thibaut] T108 is six years old, but it runs great,” said Baptiste. “I love it. We use it for splash polishing, sink cutouts and straight-line polishing too.”
Additionally, the New Jersey shop houses a 511 C bridge saw from Sawing Systems, Inc. of Knoxville, TN, which according to Baptiste was purchased 18 years ago. “This is an oldie but goodie,” he said.
In New Jersey, material is purchased from OHM International, Inc. Tabernacle Granite & Marble also imports slabs from Brazil and India, according to Baptiste. “We bring in about two containers every three months,” he said. “[Additionally], we’ve been doing a phenomenal amount of quartz. I love it.” Dupont Zodiaq®, Avanza and Cambria comprise about 30 to 40% of the company’s business.
Approximately 70% of Tabernacle Granite & Marble’s work is for private homeowners and custom builders, while the other 30% is commercial, said Baptiste. The New Jersey shop produces between 10 to 12 countertops per week. Its market spans to Cape May and Avalon in New Jersey as well as to parts of Delaware.
The company’s staff includes an install crew of two to three workers. “My installers will do two kitchens a day because [the pieces have been fabricated] right,” said Baptiste, adding that they use vinyl for templating. “It’s really nice to physically drop it on. We do have digital [templating devices as well].”
Building a second shopIn 2005, Baptiste saw the opportunity to expand Tabernacle Granite & Marble with a second shop in Harbinger, NC. “I had a house down there, and then I saw the market,” he said.
The North Carolina location is under the direction of the fabricator’s son, Ryan Baptiste. With a site minutes from a thriving beach community and not many fabricators in the area, it was an ideal spot to set up shop.
The 4,200-square-foot shop includes a Prussiani Oceania Elite CNC machine, which was purchased from IGE Solutions, Inc. of Jupiter, FL, a Marmoelettromeccanica Master 3500 portable router and a Splash edge polisher - both from Regent Stone Products - and a Wood’s Powr-Grip vacuum lifter.
“It’s a small shop, but we have pretty good equipment,” said Baptiste, adding that the North Carolina facility produces about 15 countertops per week. Its market covers a large radius, including Washington, DC, as well as the Outer Banks, Edenton and Elizabeth City in North Carolina.
For the most part, the North Carolina shop’s work is new construction for large beachfront real estate. It also does remodeling in rental properties.
As in New Jersey, this shop also imports two containers of slabs from Brazil and India every three months. Additionally, it purchases material from Avanza, South Stone, U.S. Stone and Silestone.
Because Harbinger, NC, is still a developing market for stone fabricators, it is not as easy finding competent workers like it is in New Jersey, explained Baptiste. “It’s a nightmare because they are not into that industry yet,” he said.
But overall, business is flourishing in both locations for Tabernacle Granite & Marble. The company employs a total of 30 workers, and the fabricator’s daughter, Kelly Baptiste, handles sales in the New Jersey office. Currently, it is in the process of renovating its showroom in New Jersey. Also, it is always planning ahead to expand production.
“We are always updating our equipment,” said Baptiste. “As soon as something gets paid off, we buy something else.”