BardenStone: Taking a family approach to selling stone
BardenStone of Memphis, TN, is a longstanding family business that prides itself on taking time to know their customers and assist them in making the appropriate choices for their stone applications
When walking into BardenStone’s showroom on Cherry Road in Memphis, TN, there is an immediate sense of warmth and friendliness. As a family business in its third generation, it is evident the Barden family cares about its customers and devotes itself to producing quality stonework to meet their design needs.
While Bob and Brenda Barden are still very involved in the business, the couple’s three children, Darren, Billy and Nancy, are now immersed too. “We grew up in this,” said Nancy Barden, who studied interior design and uses her expertise to offer innovative solutions to BardenStone’s customers. She added Darren and Billy Barden provide their fabrication expertise.
Barden explained the company was originally founded by Bob Barden’s father, Erlewood Barden, as White Stone Co., a pre-cast stone enterprise. Their grandfather went on to represent large stone producers in the U.S., including Coldspring and Indiana Limestone Co. Barden continued to say their father, Bob Barden, joined the business in 1971 after returning from the Vietnam War. Their mother, Brenda, who was formerly in real estate, came on board in 1986.
“The company was always in Memphis, but originally downtown,” said Barden. “It has been in this location for almost 50 years. We bought a second location in Byhalia, MS, 21 years ago. We needed more room. Home building exploded in the early 1990s.”
From the start, BardenStone offered a selection of rubble and building stone to its customers. Its lineup includes Arkansas fieldstone, Oklahoma flagstone and Pennsylvania Bluestone, which is a favorite among clientele.
Eventually, the company expanded its product lines to include marble and granite.
The amount of rubble and building stone verses the amount of marble and granite that is sold is split evenly.
“Bob and I have been traveling to Verona, [Italy], for 20 years,” said Brenda Barden. “We also travel to Brazil. We have met a lot of people that we have maintained relationships with. Many are our friends.”
Becoming entrenched in the industry influences the entire staff at BardenStone — especially how each values every customer and job, and treats it as an upmost priority. “This is our life,” said Nancy Barden. “It’s all my parents know.”
To take their business to the next level, BardenStone opened its own fabrication shop at the Byhalia location. Having its own machinery has allowed the company to specialize in custom work. “We have done custom dining room tables and special pieces of furniture,” said Nancy Barden. “People seek us out. The Internet has been very helpful.
“It’s an experience,” Nancy Barden went on to explain. “In a house, we do everything for the inside and outside. We’re not a ‘turn and burn.’ People come to us when they need guidance and expertise to find the best stone for their home or commercial project. It means a lot to our customers that we are so invested. We are family oriented and people appreciate that.”
“Our clients have confidence we aren’t cookie cutter,” added Brenda Barden. “They are paying for something different with us.”
The fabrication operation
The majority of BardenStone’s business from September to January is countertops, according to Nancy Barden, adding her brothers for the most part produce everything in the shop. The entire facility in Byhalia totals 30,000 square feet, with 10,000 square feet devoted to the fabrication shop and 3,000 to the showroom. The rest of the space is for the warehouse, which holds between 100 to 125 different colors of exotic natural stone slabs. “Some are bundles and sometimes we have one-hit wonders,” said Brenda Barden. “We are known for carrying some unusual material, such as pink onyx. If we don’t have it in stock, we outsource through our partners located all over the U.S. We mostly have 3cm material, but also some 2cm.”
Additionally, BardenStone does offer quartz surfacing. “We try to be a purist, but we can’t ignore the requests for engineered stone options,” said Nancy Barden.
The fabrication shop houses a Brembana Maxima CNC stoneworking center and a GMM Axia bridge saw, as well as a Prodigy bridge saw, Pro Edge III edge polishing machine and a Wizard radial arm workstation — all from Park Industries. “When we got the CNC, it took over because it can do it all,” said Nancy Barden. “But you still need to know how to fabricate by hand because machines can breakdown. Fabricators still require critical skills and knowledge in the basics of stone fabrication.”
Billy Barden explained when BardenStone decided to take the leap to purchase a CNC, they did their research first. He credits the Stone Fabricator’s Alliance (SFA) as a great resource.
“We looked at several CNCs and then visited Stone Pro’s shop in Illinois to witness [the Maxima],” he said. “Like anything, it is intimidating at first. CMS seems like they care about helping you. Their techs are knowledgeable.”
The CNC is equipped with ADI tooling and Scorpion finger bits, which the company purchases from Braxton-Bragg of Knoxville, TN.
Initially, production began with the GMM Axia bridge saw. “The GMM is the workhouse of the shop,” said Billy Barden. “We purchased it in 1997. We found out if you take care of a machine, it will last a long time.”
The Wizard is used weekly for honing slabs. “Park is well built,” said Billy Barden.
Currently, BardenStone runs one shift. “It’s mostly done with me and my brother,” said Billy Barden. “We let the machines do 90% of the work.” The number of employees varies with the workload, but the company tries to keep the staff at 10 people or fewer.
He explained he assists on every install and that templating is done with Luan plywood. The templates are then placed on a digitizer to make a CAD drawing that is sent to the Brembana, as well as used for a shop drawing for client approval.
Marketing its products
BardenStone services the City of Memphis, Northern Mississippi, Arkansas and Middle Tennessee. “We go where the work is,” said Nancy Barden.
Recently, the company has devoted time to social media, hoping it will assist in stirring up new business. “We utilize technology as much as we can,” said Nancy Barden. “We’re getting our name out there on social media and trying to educate people through Facebook. We created ‘Stone Style,’ where I highlight natural stone use, ideas and colors to our BardenStone fans and friends. When I see something new, I post it to give our followers ideas.”
In 2015, BardenStone built a stunning showroom at its Byhalia location. The floor of the entry foyer is a custom design inspired by Versailles. “It was made with the Brembana CNC,” said Nancy Barden. “We were testing different techniques and wanted to highlight craftsmanship.”
The entry design is meant to inspire BardenStone’s customers. “When clients arrive, we want them to feel our confidence and know that BardenStone is the right choice,” said Nancy Barden.
The other areas of the showroom are set up as a gallery and are more modern in style. “We have highlighted the stones like artwork in a museum,” said Nancy Barden.
To view the Byhalia showroom, it is by appointment only. “We want to have a one-on-one experience with the customer,” explained Nancy Barden. “Sometimes they have their own designer and sometimes they need assistance. We are here to help them.”
Memphis, TN, and Byhalia, MS
Type of work: primarily custom residential