Investments Pay off in the Pacific Northwest
April 1, 2009
For Josh and Anne Lavine, the owners of Johnson Stone Countertop in Tacoma, WA, the experience of their employees - coupled with a collection of advanced machinery - has allowed the company to become an elite fabricator, especially in the quartz surfacing arena. And since their purchase of the company in September of 2007, the Lavines have witnessed continued growth in the shop as well as an expansion in product offerings and client types.
According to Josh Lavine, the company was started by Mark Johnson in 1985, a time when a bulk of the business was geared toward tile installation. “It moved into slabs in the mid-90s,” said Lavine.
In 2005, production was upgraded to a bigger 6,000-square-foot facility at its current location, and two years later, Lavine - having prior experience with owning a business - purchased the firm. The space also includes a 6,000-square-foot covered side yard. Since he and his wife’s ownership, Lavine has observed several changes within the company’s operations.
From 2005 to 2007, quartz surfacing (also referred to as engineered stone) made up about 10% of the revenue, according to Lavine. And from 2008 through today, quartz surfacing is 30% of the business. “This is due to internally shifting more focus on commercial jobs,” said Lavine. “Currently we’re doing a lot of commercial, which tends to be engineered, but we typically do more natural stone.”
Lavine has especially made an effort to create relations with quartz surfacing from CaesarStone U.S. “They opened a warehouse in Kent, which is about 15 minutes away,” he said. “CaesarStone is pretty stringent on who they sell their material to.”
According to Lavine, when dealing with engineered stone, shops must have the right knowledge and experience on how to use its machinery with the product. “There’s quite a few shops that won’t even touch engineered stone because it can be problematic and doesn’t [always] act like natural stone,”he said. “If you don’t have the proper pressure setting or enough water, you can end up burning the resin in the quartz. Once you burn it, there’s no way of repairing it.”
An example of the shop’s work with premium material is its processing of the Concetto Collection from CaesarStone. Lavine explained that his is one of the only shops in the area able to work with it. “The Concetto Collection is [slabs made from] large pieces of natural stone that are bound with resin to form a slab,” he said. “It’s very expensive and can be used for such applications as back-lit designs. There are parts where it has resin and harder parts [with the actual stone materials]. You have to have the knowledge in your staff to make it happen.”
Aiding in the success of Johnson Stone Countertop’s performance with premium materials is a state-of-the-art lineup of equipment. Some of the advanced stoneworking machinery in place includes a Denver Quota CNC stoneworking center and a Denver Quasar C-Line polisher, both of which were supplied by VIC International of Knoxville, TN.
To enhance the performance of the CNC stoneworking center, Johnson Stone Countertop recently added a vacuum pod system from Blick Industries of Laguna Beach, CA. “This has helped us with how we hold down our materials on our CNC,” said Lavine. “There’s better coverage on our pieces, less breakage and it’s more efficient on the CNC.”
Cutting of slabs is done with the help of a B300 bridge saw from Johnson Marble Machinery of North Hollywood, CA.
In terms of air and water treatment, the shop is also equipped with a Denver Ydrator Sludge Dehydrator and a VIC VeriDRY Automatic self-cleaning dust collector - both from VIC International.
For templating, the company uses precut strips of 1/8-inch-thick Luan plywood that are assembled with 3M industrial hot glue. After hard templates are made, they are scanned on a DigiCoder 612 digitizer from NEMI of Zimmerman, MN, and the data is then fed to the CNC machinery.
Johnson Stone Countertop runs one shift and employs eight people in the shop, four in the field and five in its office. It has two installation crews with two members in each. Principal markets are in a 20-mile radius of the facility’s location, including North Tacoma, Gig Harbor and the entire “South Sound” area of the Puget Sound. The company relies on much of its marketing efforts through its Web site: http://www.johnsonstone.com
Sidebar: Johnson Stone CountertopTacoma, WA
Type of Work: commercial and residential projects
Machinery: a Denver Quota CNC stoneworking center and a Denver Quasar C-Line polisher - both supplied by VIC International of Knoxville, TN; a vacuum pod system from Blick Industries of Laguna Beach, CA; a B300 bridge saw from Johnson Marble Machinery of North Hollywood, CA; a Denver Ydrator Sludge Dehydrator and a VIC VeriDRY Automatic self-cleaning dust collector - both from VIC International; a DigiCoder 612 digitizer from NEMI of Zimmerman, MN
Number of Employees: 17, including eight people in the shop, four in the field and five in its office
Production Breakdown: 70% natural stone, 30% quartz surfacing