Four generations of stoneworking

September 10, 2004
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In 1898, in the shadow of the historic mountains for Carrara White marble, Frugoli was founded as a craftsman of natural stone products. Today, the company is in its fourth generation, and it uses pioneering technology to fabricate natural stone for an international market of consumers.

The company's offices and factory are in Avenza, Italy, overlooking the Apuan Alps of Carrara as a constant reminder of the region's rich history in stoneworking. Today, Frugoli is one of the oldest and most traditional companies in Carrara. Carolina Colvara Frugoli, daughter of Cesare Frugoli, represents the latest generation of the Frugoli family to work in the business, and she works alongside her father.

Although Frugoli's roots lie in the historic marble of Carrara, its product line has expanded tremendously over the years, and it is continually exploring new options in natural stone. The company processes stones such as granite, onyx and marble, and it has affiliations with quarries in Zimbabwe (for black granite) and Mexico (for onyx).

“The challenge is to remain updated with new materials without forgetting the traditional materials. Our niche materials are very successful, and we also want to address the requests of our customers,” explained Carolina Colvara Frugoli, who added that the company is continually in touch with its clients to see what the markets want in terms of color, patterning and texture. Additionally, suppliers often provide Frugoli a tip on a new stone, such as materials being explored in Brazil or India.

Of course, the company also conducts its own research in the field, as Alberto Colvara, Carolina's husband, has been working in Zimbabwe for years. Frugoli is also investigating opportunities in Zamibia and Mozambique for completely different materials in these emerging countries.

“Our main goal is to maintain what has been established over the years,” explained Carolina Colvara Frugoli. “We want to keep updating ourselves and stay with technology standards. We always work not just to keep up with technology, but to develop and pioneer new machinery.” Toward that end, the company's sister company, Effe Meccanica (T&F), is a manufacturer of stoneworking machinery, particularly large-scale equipment such as gangsaws.

The company's facilities in Avenza have a huge inventory of blocks, and the factory is equipped with four new gangsaws from Effe Meccanica, all of which were installed within the past year. The saws are 3.2 meters wide, which allow for optimum efficency during the process. After being processed into raw slabs, the stone is then processed on a polishing line with 20 working heads.

Production for the U.S. market includes both 3-cm slabs (sold mostly in the East and Midwest) and 2-cm material (primarily for the West Coast). There are a total of 15 people working in the stone division, which is small enough to give the company's leaders the ability to control production. In addition to polished, honed and textured finishes, the company also offers resin-treated slabs, fulfilling a popular trend in the industry.

Being an export-minded company, Frugoli participates in trade shows around the world, including events such as Coverings in the U.S. According to Alberto Fanchiotti of Frugoli, 75% of the company's exports are shipped to the American market. Other export targets include Northern and Eastern Europe as well as Australia, Israel and South Africa. Frugoli has a sister fabricating plant in Zimbabwe to fabricator stone for the local market there, including surrounding nations.

The company processes one to two containers per day, which represents 2,500 square feet of 3-cm material or 3,500 square feet of 2-cm material. In addition to overseas exports, several truckloads of material are shipped to the European market on a weekly basis.

Looking back on over 100 years in the business, Carolina Colvara Frugoli said the company is proud of its past accomplishments, but it is also looking well into the future. “We're not the largest company in the world, but we want to always be solid,” she said. “We're a traditional company that is old in terms of time, but we are updating ourselves every day.”

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