Expanding from Corian to natural stone

March 3, 2003
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After working in other shops for several years, Andrew MacLaren opened his own shop, MacLaren Fabrication of West Chester, PA, 16 years ago. The shop is a full-service fabricator and installer of natural stone and solid surface for kitchen countertops, bath and vanity tops, shower and tub surrounds and bar tops and desktops.

MacLaren started out working for a custom kitchen dealer straight out of high school, where he became the chief installer. He then moved into owning his own kitchen remodeling business, which became a DuPont Corian specialty shop. "I got into the kitchen business in 1979," said MacLaren. "I am a real hands-on guy and learned quickly. I opened this shop in 1986."

Eventually, MacLaren decided to add natural stone to his product selection because of the large consumer want for granite in the high-end countertop market. "We are totally unique in that we are the only shop in the area that has a Corian facility and stone facility under one roof," said MacLaren. "I was introduced to Corian from the very beginning in countertops and in sheet form. Natural stone sells more, though."

MacLaren now works with two large granite distributors to obtain his raw material and keeps slabs inside and outside of his shop for consumers to view.

Because the shop has two different aspects, many of the operations remain separate. For the fabrication of stone, automated machinery was needed to keep up with the rapid growth of the business.

"For the stone portion of the shop, we have two Marmo Meccanica line polishers -- a LCT 522 and a LCV 711M; a CNC stoneworking center, seven [portable] routers, an AGM Intermac CNC machine; a GMM Lexa 36 bridge saw, and a Matrix bridge saw," said MacLaren. "For Corian, we have two V-grooving machines, a multitude of hand tools and panel saws."

MacLaren's operation attests how a business can thrive with the addition of CNC machines. "The biggest advance for our shop has been investing in CNC technology," said MacLaren. "We got the first one 2 1/2 years ago, and business has increased since we got it."

With the increase in business came the need for employees for both the stone and Corian facilities in the shop. "Two years ago we only had 25 employees; now we have 69 workers," said MacLaren. "The challenge is managing the growth of the company and keeping business stable."

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