A turnkey operation

August 4, 2004
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For nearly two decades, Stone-Tec Inc. of Garland, TX, has worked in virtually all sectors of the stone industry. Not only does it import and distribute natural stone, but it also fabricates and installs commercial and residential projects to ensure quality workmanship. And although the company began as an importer of Indian stone, it now offers a range of materials.

Stone-Tec is owned by Rupy Shah, who became involved in the stone industry after specifying material for her own house in Dallas, TX, 18 years ago. “Whenever I went to buy stone, people had very little knowledge,” she said. “I was looking at Black Galaxy in a warehouse that I wanted to buy for my kitchen. The gentleman quoted me the price, and I was surprised at how high it was. When I saw the quality, I was even more surprised, because the polish was off. He said it was from Italy, and I had to correct him and tell him it was from India. I explained that I knew stone because I was married to a man in construction, and many of the hard granites come from India. I got a funny look from him, but it made me think that I wanted to open one of my own shops some day.”

At that point, Shah began to set the wheels in motion to begin a granite importing/distribution company. “I came home and spoke with my husband, who always wanted to get into the granite business,” she said. “He had contacts with Gem Granite of India, who had a reputation for quality. He said he would do it, but only through Gem. He wanted to put his best foot forward. So he contacted them and went to India, and they agreed to give me Texas and five neighboring states [for distribution].”

Stone-Tec began importing stone and storing it in a warehouse owned by her husband's construction company, which was only half used at the time. “It was 85,000 square feet, and so there was space for materials,” Shah said. “Then the stone business began going well, and it was being used completely for stone.”

In the beginning, the company only brought in slabs and tiles from India from Gem Granites and Imperial, a sister company of Gem. “I started doing better and better, and I learned a lot about stone because I have a real interest in it,” Shah said. “I visited the quarries and spoke with the quarry men. I wanted to be a student of the trade.”

Over time, Shah's business progressed while she worked as a self-described “woman in a man's business,” and she visited with architects and designers throughout the greater Dallas area. “I would provide lunch for architects and designers, and I promoted Indian stone,” she said, adding that she catered these luncheons with Indian food to stand out from other suppliers. “After a while, they saw that I knew what I was talking about.”

With her connections in the architecture and design field in place, Stone-Tec began bidding commercial jobs, and the company's first project was a banking facility in the Dallas area. “I wanted to do more than just bid, but also to make sure it is the right stone for the job,” Shah said.

To bolster its architectural work, Stone-Tec made sure it covered all aspects of the business.” “From the beginning, I wanted to have a turnkey operation,” Shah said. “When I came to Dallas, there were companies where you could buy stone, but someone else had to fabricate it, and someone else also had to install it. And if you ended up with second quality stone, the buck was always being passed. So I decided that if I was going to do something, I wanted to have complete control over the product.”

The fabricating operation started with basic equipment, and Stone-Tec now operates more advanced machinery suited for commercial work. Included is an automated edging machine as well as two large saws -- one from GMM and another from Zambon -- as well as surface polishing equipment.

Most of the company's work is concentrated in the Southwest, but Stone-Tec also does jobs on the East Coast and West Coast. Currently, completed projects represent 70% of the firm's business, and it has expanded its product selection to include materials from around the world. “We are supplying Rocamat French limestone for projects and for wholesale,” Shah said. “French limestone is now 20% of our business, and Indian stone is 35 to 40%. We are also supplying a good bit of Jerusalem Stone as well as material from Italy.”

The expanded selection of imported stone gave Stone-Tec greater depth in serving the architecture and design community. “Sometimes [architects and designers] don't want Indian stones, so we would have to get involved with other importers, and quality was a problem,” Rupy Shah said, adding that by importing the stone themselves, they could control the quality.

But even though Stone-Tec is importing stone from around the world, Shah feels that the future is bright for Indian stone in the U.S. “Indian stone is here to stay, because if you look at the specs on most Indian stones, you will find that they are very hard, and the quality is right,” she said. “I am very fortunate and Gem and Imperial have backed me up all the way. I couldn't have done it without them.

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