Taking a failed business and turning it into a successful fabrication shop
Michael Amendola’s family started in the stone business 27 years ago in White Plains, NY, and he started working in the shop at the age of 12. As the business started to grow, they expanded their operation and opened a facility in 2002 in Wolcott, CT. Then as the 2008 recession hit, Amendola’s family made the decision to close the Wolcott location. As the economy slowly started to improve, Amendola decided to give the Wolcott location one last look. “I started coming back up here around 2010 to check things out,” said Amendola. “We had this really great place, space, facility, but with no clients left since it was closed. It was a tough decision to make; we could either auction off all the equipment, take assets of the company or we could sell it, or someone from the family would have to go and take responsibility and do something with it.”
In the fall of 2010, while he was a sales manager at the White Plains location, Amendola would go to the Wolcott location once a week, where he talked to existing and surrounding businesses and clients, working on understanding more about the area and the market. “When a company closes, a lot of times there are a lot of unpaid things,” said Amendola. “One of the biggest hurdles I had in this venture was getting business back. It’s one thing to start as a new entity but it’s another to say, ‘I am going to reopen the plant and it’s going to be mine and I am going to take care of it. If you trust me, I am going to take care of your work and everything will be fine and we will grow together.’ Sounds awesome, but it doesn’t work that easily.”
Amendola opened the Wolcott location once again in 2010, and over the next five years he slowly grew the business — working with the local community. In the summer of 2014, the company started to change rapidly and began to see serious growth. At this time, the name transitioned to Infinity Stone. “That’s when Ellen (LaBriola) came on board,” said Amendola. “She had a lot of clients that she worked with in the past and had developed them. We started to move in the direction of custom work. I have always believed and enjoyed doing that work, but I knew you also need to do more than that since there isn’t enough custom work out there. So what we did was go into a contract with a home center to basically anchor us and become our ‘bread and butter’ business of basic work every day. The basic work allows us to perform a lot of different custom projects each week.”
For non-custom work, Amendola decided to invest in automated machinery for his 20,000-square-foot facility. Infinity Stone’s current lineup of equipment includes a CNC stoneworking center from Intermac in Pesaro, Italy; a manual bridge saw from GMM S.p.A. in Gravellona Toce, Italy; a Speedycut CNC bridge saw from Breton USA in Sarasota, FL; and a Comandulli Synthesis polishing machine from Comandulli in Castelleone, Italy. Additionally, a LT-55 Laser Templator from Laser Products Industries in Romeoville, IL, is used for digital templating and Infinity Stone’s hand tools are provided by Stone Boss, located in Fair Lawn, NJ. The shop also features a water treatment system.
“Our shop is unique because I learned how to do everything my whole life by hand,” said Amendola. “With small hand tools and finishes, different things like that. Incorporating all this automated equipment really brought us to another level. We said, ‘Okay, hand custom work is something we are going to focus on and what we want to grow. But all this automated equipment we can use to do all of our basic work.’ I believe strongly that you can do both if you know how to do both. One other thing that makes us unique is that Ellen and I have always wanted to do the impossible. We wanted to do the jobs that no one else does. I still have a lot of those clients today because people told them, ‘You can’t do it,’ but I did.”
Currently, Infinity Stone’s product line consists of natural stone, engineered quartz, porcelain, glass and exterior and interior dimensional stone, with their average capacity being 1,500 to 1,800 square feet a week. The company has grown from five employees to 21, running one shift. Infinity Stone also has three install crews, comprised of two people each.
Amendola attributed his company’s growth because they were able to diversify themselves. “A lot of companies in the past were not able to diversify themselves, and that’s where they got hurt,” said Amendola. “So one segment we have may be slow, and one client may put you in a bad position, but that’s why you need to have different revenue streams.” Amendola currently does private label custom manufacturer architectural wash stands for an international plumbing supply company; services regionally to home centers; and works with the local kitchen and bath design community, local contractors, commercial developers and multi-unit residential.
Currently, the shop does 40% non-custom work and 60% custom work, but according to LaBriola, it wasn’t always like that. “Whatever your passion is, that’s what is going to organically grow,” she said. “Then, as you grow it, you can say, ‘Okay, let’s do the fun stuff.’ I don’t think we ever made a conscious decision that we were going to grow the custom section, it just naturally evolved. A couple of years ago, our business was the other way, 60% basic work and 40% custom. Then in the past two years, we grew and it went in the opposite direction.”
Infinity Stone’s principal markets have grown to the Northeast region, a lot in New England and in the New York metropolitan area, but according to Amendola, it’s their clientele that dictates their market — completing jobs up in Vermont and all the way down the New Jersey shore. In the future, Amendola said Infinity Stone’s goal is to continually strive to perfect the process of manufacturing all of the new materials. “We work every day and every week trying to perfect the porcelain and glass process,” he said. “To do this, you need a good team. We are fortunate enough to have an amazing team. I know a lot of people say that, but this team here is second to none. We have a lot of experience behind us, a lot of years. Being able to support one another and being able to pick up where one is down is a key element if you want to continue to diversify and grow the company from the ground up.”
Type of Work: Commercial and residential
Machinery: a CNC stoneworking center from Intermac in Pesaro, Italy; a manual bridge saw from GMM S.p.A. in Gravellona Toce, Italy; a Speedycut CNC bridge saw from Breton USA in Sarasota, FL; a Comandulli Synthesis polishing machine from Comanduuli in Castelleone, Italy; a LT-55 Laser Templator from Laser Products Industries in Romeoville, IL; hand tools from Stone Boss of Fair Lawn, NJ
Number of Employees: 21