Fueling a passion for stone
February 1, 2010
In 1985, John DeBlasiis began working with a marble and granite company, and he immediately developed a love for the trade. “I found I had a natural ability to work with stone, and I had a passion for it,” he said. Three years ago, he brought his commitment to a new level by opening his own shop, South Shore Marble & Granite, in Egg Harbor Township, NJ.
South Shore Marble & Granite is involved in the direct importing, fabricating and installation of natural or engineered stone. “The company’s primary ambition is to deal with the commercial sector of builders, architects and contractors who need our products and services,” explained DeBlasiis. “We warehouse the material, and all fabrication is handled on site.”
In selecting a location for the operation, DeBlasiis chose a site in the Atlantic City region of southern New Jersey. “Egg Harbor Township is the heart of Atlantic County,” he said. “We picked this area because we can equally access all major parkways and expressways to service the entire southern region of New Jersey, which is a growing market. We feel the company will be very successful with its business plan, and with the sufficient working capital, we can embark on larger and more profitable jobs.”
In addition to stressing quality workmanship, South Shore Marble & Granite has invested in a range of technology - in the shop as well as in the office and in the field. “We try to perfect our craft by continuing education and developing our individual skills through education, old world craftsmanship and advances in technology.”
New equipment in the shop includes a state-of-the-art Breton NC 260 CNC stoneworking center with a Robocup pod management system. “[The machine] will automatically shape, contour and polish the stone, giving us an advantage in completing jobs effectively and quickly,” he said.
The Robocup pod management system capitalizes on the 260K’s CNC technology to automate the suction cup placement procedure. The special machine table is configured with a network of suction “nodes,” which are patterned to align with suction cups. Meanwhile, the cup positions are automatically laid out using the standard CAD/CAM software. The spindle picks up a special tool stored in the normal tool changer, rapidly moves to a storage rack at the back of the machine, picks up the pod, rotates as necessary and places it precisely in its pre-programmed position. The Robocup is designed to perform a full change of 18 pods in less than six minutes.
“We purchased that machine in late 2008, and it really changed the output of our shop and made it more efficient. We found that we could do a lot more,” DeBlasiis said. “Everything is set up automatically. We don’t have to set up or attach hoses. I believe it is the only one in the U.S. It’s a workhorse; we use it all day long.”
Prior to processing stone on the CNC stoneworking center, a bridge saw is used to cut slabs into blanks of the appropriate size.
All of the water used in the shop is recycled using an Abaco Dehydrator, which traps the abrasive mud produced during the fabrication process. The system features four basic components: an electric pump, mud-holding tank, clean water tray and filter bags.
Tooling in the shop is supplied by Stone Boss, which is headquartered in Fair Lawn, NJ. “They have a truck that services this area,” DeBlasiis said.
For South Shore Marble & Granite, a typical kitchen size is 50 to 60 square feet, and the company is doing a lot of complex work. “We are not doing the same thing over and over again,” DeBlasiis said. “We are doing a lot of radius work and inverted corners to create a custom look.”
Jobs are templated using a Prodim Proliner, and the data is then manipulated as needed and fed to the CNC machine. “We’re very happy with it. The Proliner is easy to use and easy to train people on,” DeBlasiis said. “It also allows us to keep a file with all of the information on the jobs that we have done.”
The company processes a combination of natural stone and quartz surfacing, such as the “American Collection” of Silestone by Cosentino, which DeBlasiis said contains some of the most popular colors of Silestone in the U.S.
Approximately 65% of the material processed at the facility is natural stone. Among the natural stone products, South Shore Marble & Granite processes SenSa granite from Cosentino. The product is presealed with SenGuard at the factory to protect the material from staining while also allowing it to breathe, and DeBlasiis also cited the product’s 15-year warranty.
South Shore Marble & Granite currently has five employees, and it processes between three and five kitchens per week, with the capacity to increase that total. “We have seen an increase in business, and by spring, we are hoping for eight to 10 kitchens per week,” he said.
When overall output increases, DeBlasiis said he plans to increase investments in both personnel and technology. “As the customer base and regions increase, we will add a sales force of experienced stone salesmen, increasing our exposure and reinvesting in the company as we develop,” he said. “What’s important is that we maintain the highest standards in all levels of the company, and each employee is guided and trained for their specific role in the shop or field. Continued education is promoted and appreciated - along with high standards of health, safety and product quality. We are continuing to explore different avenues as our company takes shape, and as new technology becomes available, we will upgrade and advance to retain our innovative position.”
DeBlasiis also said that the goal is to become more of a one-stop shop for customers. “We will also carry accessories for the kitchen that are displayed in the showroom - faucets, stainless steel sinks and other crafted decor for the whole house or office.”
Sales and marketing
The shop and office operates Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with special appointments on Saturday if needed. “There is a computer in the shop with a schedule screen that everyone can view to keep production at the maximum,” DeBlasiis said. “Moraware [JobTracker] is the software we use, and this simple, user-friendly application controls inventory, scheduling, invoices and proposals. This software gives us the advantage to stay on schedule and complete all tasks, while tracking all jobs and service orders.
South Shore Marble & Granite’s business is a mix of homeowners, builders and kitchen and bath dealers as well as some Lowe’s retailers. “We sell all over the Atlantic City region and beyond, including central and southern New Jersey as well as Philadelphia and other areas of Pennsylvania,” he said. “We have to cover a large area; you can’t just work in your backyard.”
Speaking on today’s marketplace, DeBlasiis said that consumers are not only shopping on the basis of price, but also on service and craftsmanship. “People have changed; they shop more, and they take their time,” he said. “They want a good deal, but they also want service. They are looking for a rounded company with a good deal and good service - not just one or the other. We have a good reputation, and word of mouth is important to us. We have a healthy, loyal following of successful companies who appreciate the dedication in service.”
Sidebar: South Shore Marble & GraniteEgg Harbor Township, NJ
Type of work: kitchen countertops in natural stone and quartz surfacing
Machinery: NC 260 CNC stoneworking center with Robocup pod management system from Breton of Italy; Abaco Dehydrator from Abaco Machines USA; a bridge saw and various hand tools; tooling from Stone Boss of Fair Lawn, NJ; Proliner digital templator from Prodim USA of Vero Beach, FL; JobTracker management software from Moraware of Reno, NV
Number of Employees: five
Production Rate: three to five kitchens per week, with the capacity for eight to 10