FABRICATOR CASE STUDIES: Shifting gears to capitalize on a growing market
March 13, 2006
Under new ownership, B&B Cut Stone Co. of Shreveport, LA, has gone from a hand-working limestone operation to a full-scale countertop fabrication business
B&B Cut Stone Co.'s operation has certainly transformed since it was first opened in 1928. The Shreveport, LA-based business was initially a limestone fabrication facility, and expanded into granite processing during the 1940s. The production process was kept simple, with the majority being handwork. This all changed, however, in 2000, when Quintin Hardtner purchased the company and invested in state-of-the-art technology to develop a more profitable firm.
â€œWhen I bought the company, our production was very antiquated and most of our work was done by hand, especially the countertop side,â€ said Hardtner, current president of B&B Cut Stone Co. â€œLast year, we closed down our in-house limestone production in order to focus our time and money on the stone countertop side of the business. I felt that area had the greatest growth potential and opportunities.â€
Within the last five years, the company has not only moved to a larger facility that is equipped with a range of advanced machinery, but it has also increased its number of employees and customer base. â€œThere was a Pro Edge III [edge shaping and finishing machine from Park Industries] and an old bridge saw from 1964, which ran until a year ago,â€ said Hardtner. â€œAt that time, our volume was pretty low - about three to four kitchens a week, at the most. Now we are doing over 30 a week, and will probably double that this year.â€
A growing businessIn September of 2004, B&B Cut Stone Co. expanded from a 2,500-square-foot building to a 20,000-square-foot operation. â€œAbout a year and a half ago, we decided that we were ready to step it up and make a significant investment and buy new equipment,â€ said the fabricator. â€œWe bought a CNC and new bridge saw, and moved to a larger facility. At the end of 2005, we came to the conclusion that we reached capacity again, so we bought additional equipment, which doubled our production capacity.â€
The new fabricating shop houses a CMS/Brembana Concept 1700 CNC machine, a GMM Eura 35 bridge saw and a Montresor Luna 740 straight line polishing machine - both purchased from Salem Stone - a Calypso Waterjet and a Stinger router from Hard Rock Tool. â€œOne of our biggest challenges when upgrading the machinery was getting our workers to use the new equipment,â€ said Hardtner. â€œMost of the workers have been here 10 years or more, and they were used to doing everything by hand. Getting them to use the machines and to understand the importance of them running all the time was a challenge.â€
Today, the company includes 23 workers. â€œThe granite division only had six workers, when I bought the company,â€ said the fabricator.
Developing a marketThree years ago, B&B Cut Stone Co. began supplying countertops to a couple of local home centers. â€œNow we have over 50 home centers,â€ said Hardtner. The company's market includes East Texas, Arkansas, Western Mississippi and all of Louisiana.
â€œWe intentionally tried to restrain our growth,â€ said the fabricator. â€œWe concentrated on customer service - especially with the home centers - and quality. We intentionally didn't go out and 'beat the streets.' We were growing enough naturally.â€
Primarily, B&B Cut Stone Co. is a wholesale business, according to Hardtner, adding that about 10% is retail. â€œWe also sell dimensional cut limestone, but we no longer produce it in-house,â€ he said. â€œ[Additionally], we have a stone yard where we sell flagstone and Bluestone - mostly boulders and rock for landscaping.â€
Due to its expansion, the company recently started carrying an inventory of granite. It maintains a stock of approximately 500 granite slabs. The company recently signed a deal with Louisiana Stone in Monroe, LA, to supply the majority of its products. Additionally, B&B Cut Stone Co. is a certified Zodiaq manufacturer, and keeps about 700 slabs of the material in stock.
According to Hardtner, B&B Cut Stone Co. provides an installation service for its home centers as well as commercial and retail work, but not its wholesale business. â€œWe don't have our own installation crew,â€ he said. â€œWe sub the work out. We have worked out an arrangement with a local company for North Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas, and in South Louisiana we use other sub-contractors Moreover, the company is a supplier of Granite Shield, a sealing process that provides a lifetime warranty against staining for granite. â€œWe can set up other applicators so that they can offer [the product],â€ said Hardtner. â€œWe are the exclusive distributor for Arkansas, East Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.â€
Overall, Hardtner said he is pleased with the direction B&B Cut Stone Co. has taken in recent years. â€œWe will continue to focus on capturing as much market share as possible in our current service area, and then maybe open another shop in another market if we see an opportunity,â€ he said. â€œRight now, there is a huge demand in South Louisiana for fabricated and installed countertops, so we are concentrating a lot of our efforts on positioning ourselves to be a major supplier to that area.â€
B&B Cut Stone Co.Shreveport, LA
Type of work: countertop production for home centers as well as some retail and commercial work
Machinery: CMS/Brembana Concept 1700 CNC machine supplied by CMS North America/Brembana of Caledonia, MI; GMM Eura 35 bridge saw and Montresor Luna 740 straight line polishing machine, supplied by Salem Stone of Winston-Salem, NC; Calypso Hammerhead waterjet from Calypso Waterjet of Dallas, TX; and a Stinger router supplied by Hard Rock Tool of Anaheim, CA
Number of Employees: 23
Production Rate: over 30 kitchens a week