Optimizing on the kitchen countertop market

November 1, 2005
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A daily four-hour commute along the jammed freeways of Southern California eventually grew tiresome for Doug Lainson, who is now President and Chief Executive Officer of Kitchens & Stone Design Center in Upland, CA. Ultimately, it drove the former high-powered business professional to not only leave his job, but to switch careers altogether. After some careful research, Lainson decided to launch a fabrication facility and showroom with partner Kenny Seamen in late 2003. And in only two years, the business has shown significant growth, and plans for expansion are currently underway.

“In my previous life, I was in management consulting,” said Lainson. “I got tired of the four-hour commute. I wanted to find something that I could put my hobbies toward. I always had a passion for architecture, good design, remodel and construction. I found the kitchen nd granite [business] a strong-road industry with long-term growth.”

While Kitchens & Stone Design Center was founded in late 2003, it was officially incorporated in March of 2004, explained Lainson. “We started as a granite fabricating facility - a wholesale fabricator for retailers,” he said. “As that business grew, and we saw what they were making, it made sense for us to open our own showroom. So, in January 2005 we opened a showroom and built a marketing program to support our efforts. It took off, and basically, we never looked back.”

Lainson went on to say that Seamen has a general contractor's license, and together, the two company principals hold 90% of the firm's stock. “The rest is employee options, investors, etc.,” said Lainson, adding that the company currently has 22 employees. The showroom is located about three blocks away from the fabricating shop in Upland, which consists of approximately 12,000 square feet of combined space - including a yard for slab storage.

“We are currently buying material from Dal-Tile, Intertile and small importers,” said the owner. “We are now looking into importing our own stone. We've gotten to the size for that.”



Processing the stone

The shop is equipped with a Sebring gantry saw for cutting slabs and a Daytona computerized edging machine - both purchased from Matrix Stone Products of Rancho Cucamonga, CA. “The edger is relatively new,” said Lainson. “It was installed in March.”

At the present time, Kitchens & Stone Design Center produces between six to eight kitchens a week. “We can ramp up to 10 to 12 with the current shift we have, but we are very seriously looking into running a second shift. We want to do 20 to 25 kitchens a week.”

According to Lainson, the company initially had a staff of six in the factory before it purchased the Daytona edger. He explained that at this time, they were only using hand routers for edge finishing. Around the time that the edging machine was installed, the company lost two of its workers. “[The Daytona] was so productive, we didn't need to replace the two workers,” said Lainson.

In addition to fabricating and selling stone products, the company also does its own installation. There are two full-time installation crews. “Templating is done the old fashioned way right now,” said the owner. “We are looking at computerized systems, but we want to make sure that it will be a good return on investment.”



Marketing strategies

A total of 85% of Kitchens & Stone Design Center's business is remodeling work, according to Lainson. “We are [also] doing work with some key builders,” he said. “We haven't gotten into the mass market. That's not our niche.”

Primarily, California's Inland Empire stretch and southern California, including Rancho Cucamonga, is the main market for the company. “We've done jobs in Orange County by word of mouth,” said Lainson. “People start to tell friends and neighbors. We've gone as far south as San Diego and Newport and as far east as Pasadena.”

With business booming, Lainson and Seamen have plans to open a second showroom in the Azusa, CA, area by the end of 2005. Additionally, it intends to launch a third showroom in Chino Hills, CA, in January of 2006.

“We offer a vertically integrating remodeling experience,” said Lainson. “We do kitchens, cabinets, windows and flooring for our customers. Unlike big box stores, all the work is done by our employees. Our goal is to create a hassle-free remodeling experience.”

Kitchens & Stone Design Center
Upland, CA

Type of work: residential kitchen remodels, some custom home building
Machinery: Matrix Sebring gantry saw and Daytona edging machine
Number of Employees: 22
Production Rate: Six to eight kitchens per week

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