Creating a market for stone fabrication
April 1, 2010
In 2000, Peter Akel moved from Texas to Las Cruces, NM, and took a chance opening a stone fabrication business in what was predominately a solid surface market. Ultimately, his endeavor proved successful, and in the 10 years since its conception, The Design Center Carpet One has grown to become a profitable one-stop shop for stone fabrication and home remodeling.
“I had a custom homebuilding business for almost 30 years,” said Akel. “When I got into the carpet/tile business, I didn’t want to be a typical floor covering business. I moved to Las Cruces from Texas - finding good quality products was difficult. Nobody was doing granite in Las Cruces. It was all solid surface. Granite was being done in Albuquerque, but that was three hours away.”
Akel went on to explain that those familiar with the Las Cruces area discouraged him from starting a stone shop due to the area’s relatively low income. “The average income is pretty low in Las Cruces because it is near the border [of Mexico],” he said. “Everyone was telling me that I shouldn’t do granite because nobody could afford it.”
Despite what seemed like a difficult obstacle, Akel and his wife, Marlene, proceeded to open The Design Center Carpet One, a stone fabrication business that also offers products such as tile and carpet. “We started off with three employees, and we grew up to 28 in 2007,” said Akel. “Now we have 18.”
Akel explained that he and his wife were pleasantly surprised to see their business venture take flight. “There was such a huge demand,” he said. “We couldn’t keep up with it. We were doing 10 to 12 kitchens a week.”
At the start, The Design Center Carpet One worked out of a 600-square-foot warehouse, which has since been converted to a storage area for the company’s carpet inventory. “It was a tiny place with one JMM bridge saw,” said Akel. “In 2004, we built a 5,000-square-foot shop. It’s not real big, but we try to make it real efficient. We have an overhead crane that runs the full length of the shop, and we have jib cranes. Now we have two JMM saws, including the original one. It still works.”
In addition to the two bridge saws, the fabrication facility is also equipped with a Pro-Edge IV edge polisher and a Wizard radial arm workstation - both from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN, a Z. Bavelloni 450 CNC stoneworking center from Glaston North America (USA) Inc. of Greensboro, NC, a Marmo Meccanica LCV Magnum backsplash machine from Marmo Meccanica of Italy and several Edgemarc Stinger routers. The company also uses Manzelli vacuum lifters from GranQuartz of Tucker, GA, and it purchases the majority of its hand tools and accessories from GranQuartz and Braxton-Bragg of Knoxville, TN.
Although the economic downturn in 2009 caused business to slow down quite a bit, orders had begun to pick up by the end of the year. “We had slowed down to about two to three kitchens a week, but now we are back up to six or seven,” said Akel, adding that kitchens run as large as 250 square feet. “We try to do about 200 square feet a day.”
The fabrication shop consists of 10 workers and there are two install crews, each with two men. A Prodim Proliner from Blick Industries of Laguna Beach, CA, is used in the templating process. “We do outside stick templates and then our templator digitizes it all and loads it in the CNC,” explained Akel.
According to Akel, The Design Center Carpet One maintains an inventory of between 1,200 to 1,400 slabs. “Some come directly from overseas - about a third from Brazil,” he said. “I was doing a lot more when things were better. Now we rely on distributors such as Arizona Tile and IMG.”
In addition to marble and granite, the company also carries CaesarStone and DuPont Zodiaq®. “A lot of hotels specify quartz,” said Akel, explaining that the company does a small amount of commercial work. “It is very consistent in color.”
Additionally, The Design Center Carpet One is starting to do soapstone, according to Akel. “We had stayed away from it, but because of the requests we have been getting from our clients, we started working with it. We just put in a whole new soapstone kitchen in our showroom,” he said.
Marketing its product
According to Akel, The Design Center Carpet One’s market spans across a 120-mile radius. “The bulk of our work is residential - remodel and new construction,” he said. “We do Silver City and a lot of little retirement communities in the mountains. We even go into El Paso.”
And as a way to diversify and survive in the building industry slowdown, The Design Center Carpet One added an entirely new remodeling division to its list of product services in the past several months. “In this economy, we are trying to be mean and lean,” said Akel. “People really love the turnkey operation. We can design and build. We don’t do new construction though, just remodels. It really has been a benefit.”
In addition to its stone fabrication shop and remodeling division, the company also runs a full-scale showroom that displays its array of home building products, including Viking appliances. The showroom includes three working kitchens where cooking demonstrations are often given.
Sidebar: The Design Center Carpet OneLas Cruces, NM
Type of work: primarily residential - both new construction and remodels, some commercial work
Machinery: two JMM bridge saws; a Pro-Edge IV edge polisher and a Wizard radial arm workstation - both from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN; a Z. Bavelloni 450 CNC stoneworking center from Glaston North America (USA) Inc. of Greensboro, NC; a Marmo Meccanica LCV Magnum backsplash machine from Marmo Meccanica of Italy; several Edgemarc Stinger routers; Manzelli vacuum lifters from GranQuartz of Tucker, GA; hand tools and accessories from GranQuartz and Braxton-Bragg of Knoxville, TN; a Prodim Proliner from Blick Industries of Laguna Beach, CA; and 12 Seam Savers from Omni-Cubed Inc. of Placerville, CA
Number of Employees: 18 (nine in the stone shop)
Production Rate: six to seven kitchens a week