Crafting stone for a high-end market
May 1, 2008
Focusing on what President Chris Sanzaro refers to as the “ultra high-end market,” Granite Tops, Inc. of Mount Vernon, NY, fabricates an average of 2,500 square feet of stone per week. The company was founded 11 years ago based on the attitude that “if the machine can cut it, we will make it, as long as we can have a high-quality product in the end,” Sanzaro explained.
Sanzaro joined the stone industry about 20 years ago when he began working for his father’s company, Granites of Italy. And then, in 1996, he and his father both chose to branch out from the business, and the men began doing separate things. Sanzaro opened his own business, Granite Tops, Inc., while his father began Tribeca Stoneworks.
Today, Granite Tops operates out of a 27,000-square-foot facility that is equipped with a range of sophisticated stoneworking machinery, which includes a GMM bridge saw supplied by Salem Stone of Winston-Salem, NC, a Park Accu-Cut saw from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN, a Denver line polisher from VIC International of Knoxville, TN, an Omag CNC stoneworking center and two Ingersoll-Rand compressors.
“The Park Accu-Cut is our best machine, and I say this because it has made us the most money and it cuts many many pieces,” said Sanzaro, adding that it has put out well over 100,000 man hours since the company began using it in 1999.
“Basically, I bought the CNC machine about eight years ago, so we could attack this ultra high-end market,” said the owner. “It brought us into a whole other dimension of abilities, such as inlaid floors and carvings, and made doing them relatively easy. All of our machinery is invaluable. I buy machinery based on what direction I think the company needs to go in.
“We then started dabbling with carvings and moldings, and I bought a three-dimensional and a two-dimensional scanner to create wall panels,” he continued. “Right now we are running 50% countertops and 50% highly decorative, ornate detail work accompanying the countertops in these super-expensive homes.”
The company handles 99% residential work and just a small percentage of commercial work, mostly for restaurants owned by friends. Typically, Granite Tops works with granite, marble, CaesarStone, DuPont™ Zodiaq® and Silestone. “The most common thickness is 3 cm, but we do often cut 2 cm as well,” Sanzaro said, adding that the company keeps some small blocks on hand for making sinks and base moldings.
All of Granite Tops 42 employees are cross-trained to handle multiple jobs from templating to installation, according to the owner. “Everybody here is integrated,” he said. “We don’t just have one person for each function. Instead, we have multiple machine operators and polishers, and we mix them in depending on where we need them.”
The company finds that it is best to train new workers in house, so that production is handled in a manner that is acceptable to the management team. “If someone brings something to the table, we will look at it and see how it fits into our problem,” said the owner. “We keep ourselves open-minded to new things.”
Recently, the company began advertising for new hires, but historically the company has hired mainly through other employees. “It’s almost a privilege to bring someone into the company, as it is based on seniority within the company,” Sanzaro explained. “The guys higher up have the first chance to bring someone on board. It has worked out well this way for us, as has our recent advertising strategy.”
The company’s facility also contains a 20,000-square-foot outdoor slab storage area, while highly sensitive materials are stored indoors. Granite Tops purchases its slabs and specialty pieces in bulk from local distributors.
“I am continually evaluating where the bottleneck is to see where we need to expand our growth,” the owner said. “When sales are strong, I focus on the accounting aspect or production aspect. When sales are down, I focus efforts on directing sales and evaluating markets. I basically go where the need is.”
One unique thing that characterizes the company is that they look for longevity and strong relationships with clients and vendors, according to Sanzaro. “Loyalty is key, and we offer a lifetime warranty on all of our granite countertops to sort of reinforce that,” he said.