European fabricator finds success in U.S.

September 2, 2008
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Fernando’s Marble Shop, owned by Fernando Cantarilho, is a family owned and operated fabrication shop located in Rockville, MD.

Owner Fernando Cantarilho had his first stone-related experience in Portugal before immigrating to the U.S. and opening his own company, Fernando’s Marble Shop, Inc., a family owned and operated fabrication operation located in Rockville, MD. The company began in 1979 as strictly a marble shop and later incorporated granite production in order to meet customer demands.

“At the age of 14, I obtained my first position at a fabrication firm in Portugal, and began my career in the marble industry,” Cantarilho explained. “After working as a laborer, I slowly progressed from master carver to fabricator. In 1969, I immigrated to the U.S. with my wife and child in tow.”

When Fernando’s Marble Shop was first established in 1979, it supplied marble and slate vanities, thresholds and fireplaces for tile installers and builders. Operating out of a 1,200-square-foot shop, equipment included a Tysaman bridge saw and a radial arm polisher. “The two machines sat in my backyard until I had enough money to actually rent a place and set them up,” the owner explained. “As funds were lacking to hire employees, my wife would come in with me first thing in the morning to help me load a slab on the saw, and then go off to work herself. I was a one-man fabrication team.”

After achieving success during what the owner describes as a depressed economy, he was able to rent the neighboring bay, doubling his space to 2,400 square feet. And since then, the company has expanded even further as its current location encompasses 11,000 square feet. Today, the shop is equipped with a variety of state-of-the-art technology, including a Bideseimpianti Compact CNC stoneworking center, which is serviced by Regent Machine Corp. of Virginia Beach, VA.

The facility also houses three Construal bridge saws, one dedicated for marble, one for granite and another that alternates between material depending on the workload. Also, a Construal automatic slab polisher that is used for honing, brushed/leather finishing and polishing, as well as three water curtain dust collection systems by Construal are in place at the shop. Other machines include a Marmo Meccanica LCV 711 flat edge polishing machine and a Marmo Meccanica LCT 522 inline polisher; a StoneCrafter waterjet from Flow International Corp. of Kent, WA; a Mantello radial arm polisher; an automatic water reclamation and filtration system with a filter press from Tecnozanasi; three forklifts, a skid steer loader and two overhead cranes with vacuum lifters.

According to Cantarilho, there are two principal operators who will run the CNC and waterjet, and typically one operator runs both machines simultaneously. “There was about a five- to seven-day learning curve to learn to operate the machine comfortably,” he said. “There was a one- to three-day learning curve to learn programming, facilitated largely by the AutoCAD background of the programmers.”

The shop is equipped with a variety of state-of-the-art technology, including a Bideseimpianti Compact CNC stoneworking center, which is serviced by Regent Machine Corp. of Virginia Beach, VA.

Current production

Today, the company handles custom slab fabrication of marble, granite, limestone, soapstone and slate as well as the restoration/refinishing and repair of existing materials. “We are currently exploring the option of working with quartz materials,” the owner added. Fernando’s Marble Shop fabricates stone for kitchen countertops, vanity tops, shower enclosures, tables, fireplaces, fountains, outdoor kitchens, etc. “Essentially, if it can be designed with natural stone in mind, we can fabricate it,” Cantarilho said.

On average, Fernando’s Marble Shop produces 1,100 square feet of material per week, including 65% granite and 35% marble, limestone and slate. The company works with builders, home improvement contractors, architects/designers and a small percentage of homeowners in the residential sector. For the commercial sector, it deals solely with builders. Slabs are purchased direct from quarries in Europe as well as from local distributors.

Fernando’s Marble Shop currently employs four full-time installation employees who are specialized in terms of material type and who are continuously trained on all equipment, as well as three full-time office/sales employees and three management “floaters,” involved in field measuring, fabrication and installation.

Cantarilho’s wife Mariana runs the accounting aspect of the company, while his sons Mario and Richard coordinate fabrication and installation, and his daughter Nancy assists with marketing and sales.
The company recently completed a 10-story condominium project for which it provided 274 kitchens and 340 vanity tops.    

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