Stone Fabrication Proves Prosperous for Vermont Company
January 26, 2009
Nearly 15 years ago, Donald Hinckley set out to open his own solid surface business - working out of a garage that he built on a 30-acre parcel of land in Chester, VT. Back then, Hinckley and his wife lived in an apartment above the company’s workspace, and he had one employee to assist him with jobs. NBC Solid Surfaces Inc., as the company is called, has experienced tremendous growth since its beginnings. Today, the operation, which includes both solid surface and stone fabrication, has a staff of 65 employees, and it is run out of a 50,000-square-foot facility in Springfield, VT.
Although the business was started in 1994, NBC Solid Surfaces Inc. did not begin stone fabrication until 2000, explained Hinckley. “We started doing some stone, and we had some Canadian stone companies fabricating for us,” he said. “The guys were great, but they just didn’t understand how critical seaming issues and customer service were. We were from the solid surface world. We had a certain reputation that we ingrained in our customers. They couldn’t meet our expectations; that’s when we moved into our new plant in Springfield and added stone machinery. It was quite an exciting time.”
Beginning Stone FabricationTo start, Hinckley purchased a bridge saw, a straight-line edger and some hand tools. “As we progressed, we bought new machinery, including two Park Yukon bridge saws and a Fastback edge polisher [also from Park Industries],” said the fabricator. “They are awesome machines. It’s much better equipment than we had to begin with.”
Additionally, Hinckley invested in a Brembana Concept 1700 CNC stoneworking center from CMS/Brembana of Caledonia, MI, a Denver Skema from Vic International of Knoxville, TN, and an EnviroSystem from Water Treatment Technologies of Hampton, NH. The company buys its tools and accessories from Braxton-Bragg of Knoxville, TN, and GranQuartz of Tucker, GA. Material is handled with the help of vacuum lifters from Wood’s Powr-Grip of Laurel, MT.
According to Hinckley, the stone fabrication area and slab storage occupies a little more than one-third of the shop. “We maintain an inventory of about 350 slabs,” he said. “We buy from a bunch of different places. We also are a member of the Artisan Group, [a network of North American fabricators], so we get a lot from them too.”
Natural stone and quartz comprises 50% of the business, and the stone fabrication division produces roughly 300 square feet of material per day. “Our market is many different segments,” said Hinckley, adding that NBC Solid Surfaces primarily serves the New England area. “We do a lot of commercial and university work, and we also do a lot of residential kitchens.”
NBC Solid Surfaces employs six installation crews to template and install jobs. “We are still using sticks [for templating] and digitize in the plant,” said Hinckley. “We are not fully automated in the shop, even though we are using a CNC.”
Broadening its MarketIn 2008, Hinckley made the decision to further expand his stone fabrication business by purchasing Connecticut Soapstone, which operates as a separate company. “We are from Vermont,” said Hinckley. “For us to increase our sales, I need to add geography at some point. There is only so much market share here. It became very difficult for residential work to reach down into the market.”
Connecticut Soapstone, which consists of eight employees, is a small shop that only fabricates natural stone and quartz. “We are doing about 100 feet a day,” said Hinckley. “We mostly serve north, east and central Connecticut. We don’t get down into Fairfield County.”
The second venture focuses only on residential work. “We have been doing really small jobs, but then we have been getting some big jobs too,” said the fabricator.
The Connecticut operation is equipped with an Omag CNC stoneworking center, a bridge saw and hand tools. “It’s a challenge, but we are introducing our systems.”
It appears that all of Hinckley’s dedication and hard work has not gone unnoticed, as he was named “2008 Fabricator of the Year” by the International Solid Surface Fabricators’ Association (ISSFA) in March of last year. But, Hinckley is quick to recognize his staff for the company’s success.
“The thing that has helped make NBC Solid Surfaces successful isn’t me,” he said. “It’s the people that work for the company. Assembling a good team of people was the best thing that I ever did.”
Sidebar: NBC Solid Surfaces, Inc.Springfield, VT
Type of work: commercial and residential
Machinery at NBC Solid Surfaces: two Yukon bridge saws and a Fastback edge polisher - all from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN, a Brembana Concept 1700 CNC stoneworking center from CMS/Brembana of Caledonia, MI, a Denver Skema from Vic International of Knoxville, TN, vacuum lifters from Wood’s Powr-Grip of Laurel, MT, an EnviroSystem from Water Treatment Technologies of Hampton, NH, and tools and accessories from Braxton-Bragg of Knoxville, TN, and GranQuartz of Tucker, GA
Machinery at Connecticut Soapstone: Omag CNC stoneworking center, a bridge saw and hand tools
Number of Employees: 65 (NBC Solid Surfaces); 8 (Connecticut Soapstone)
Production Rate: approximately 300 feet per day (NBC Solid Surfaces); 100 feet per day (Connecticut Soapstone)