Marketing to an elite beach community

November 18, 2006
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Artisan Marble and Tile, Inc. operates out of a newly equipped fabrication shop in Kill Devil Hills, NC.

Among the recently purchased machinery is a Tecno Storm Plus bridge saw supplied by Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA.
Nestled between sand dunes and the Atlantic Ocean on North Carolina's Outer Banks, Artisan Marble and Tile, Inc. primarily caters to a high-end residential market. With expansive homes being built on prime oceanfront real estate as well as growing communities of condominium complexes, the company's expertise in producing top-quality granite countertops is in high demand.

Francis Elbers, founder and owner of Artisan Marble and Tile, has more than 20 years of experience working in the tile business. While the majority of his early work was installation jobs, he went on to sell stone products, and later opened his own fabrication shop.

Five workers in the shop maintain quality control during the production process to ensure that the highest quality products are furnished.
“Around 1995 I started selling [stone], and then I started doing granite on boats,” said Elbers. “There are a lot of boat builders in this area. They are all custom - ranging from 35 to 75 feet.”

At the time, Elbers would have the countertops cut by other nearby fabricators. “The turnaround time took too long,” he explained. “It would take five to six weeks.”

For this reason, Elbers established Artisan Marble and Tile. “I built the shop around 2001, and it's been in operation about three years. I first bought a used saw and edging machine, but [recently] swapped them out [for new equipment]. This is to keep.”

Choosing equipment

Among the new machinery in the fabrication shop, which was all bought this year, is a Tecno Storm Plus bridge saw and a Splash edge polisher - both supplied by Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA - and a Northwood CNC machine from Northwood Machine Manufacturing Co. of Louisville, KY.

“I went to [Coverings in] Orlando,” said Elbers, explaining that he attended the stone and tile exhibition with the intent of purchasing new equipment. “Basically, my criteria was that I needed a saw in two weeks.” Regent Stone Products was able to meet the fabricator's deadline. Also, the company's Virginia Beach location is not too far from Artisan Marble and Tile's shop. “I can get service quickly,” said Elbers.

At the time of Stone World's visit, the Splash machine, which performs automatic flat and bevel edge polishing, had just arrived at the fabrication shop. “I went up to [Regent's facilities] to look at it, and it did a perfect polish,” said the fabricator.

Additional equipment used in the fabrication process includes a Marmoelettromeccanica Master 3500 router - from Regent Stone Products - and a Wood's Powr-Grip vacuum lifter. Tools and accessories are purchased from Braxton Bragg Corp., GranQuartz, Regent and Vic International.

Artisan Marble and Tile's staff includes five workers in the shop, two installers and two regular tile crews, according to Elbers. The company also recently started using a LT 55 laser unit from Laser Products of Romeoville, IL, for templating, and it produces seamless countertops, said the fabricator.

The shop also includes a Splash machine from Regent, which performs automatic flat and bevel edge polishing.

Increasing production

Elbers explained that with the newly equipped shop, he plans to boost production. “We used to do two kitchens a week,” he said. “We're gearing up for two kitchens a day.”

At the present time, the company primarily fabricates residential kitchens, although Elbers does see a shift in the market. “Last year it was all big oceanfronts, but the housing market is [now] going towards condos,” he said.

Anticipating a growth in production, the fabricator would like to expand his shop and build a large showroom and warehouse in the future. “We try to maintain a stock of three to four bundles of nice material - not too pricey - but I'd like to have more,” said Elbers. “I'm bursting at the seams.”

Another recent investment was a Northwood CNC machine from Northwood Machine Manufacturing Co. of Louisville, KY.
Ultimately, Elbers would like Artisan Marble and Tile to be a one-stop shop for his customers. Currently, the company purchases many of its exotic slabs from Marva Granite & Marble Inc. and additional material from distributors in the Virginia Beach area. “I would like our customers to be able to pick everything here,” he said. Also on the horizon is the development and production of lightweight countertops for custom yachts and RVs, said Elbers.

The company caters to a high-end residential market on North Carolina's Outer Banks.
Artisan Marble and Tile, Inc.
Kill Devil Hills, NC

Type of work: high-end residential kitchens

Machinery: a Tecno Storm Plus bridge saw, a Splash automatic flat and bevel edge polishing machine and Marmoelettromeccanica Master 3500 router - all supplied by Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA; a Northwood CNC machine from Northwood Machine Manufacturing Co. of Louisville, KY; vacuum lifter from Wood's Powr-Grip Co. Inc. of Laurel, MT; and tools and accessories supplied by Braxton Bragg Corp. of Knoxville, TN, GranQuartz of Tucker, GA, Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA, and VIC International Corp. of Knoxville, TN

Number of Employees: includes five workers in the shop, two installers and two regular tile crews

Production: gearing towards two kitchens per day

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