Stone World

Re-emerging U.S. Stone Industry<br>Fulfilling an ambition

August 16, 2001
The 57,000-square-foot Marble Shop was established by the Rubin family in North Hollywood, CA, in 1997.
When Shuki Rubin first migrated to the U.S. from Israel, he didn't have any knowledge of the stone industry. In fact, upon arriving in the States, he first lived in New York and worked as a mechanic. After only a few months, the cold East Coast winters drove Rubin to Los Angeles where he stumbled into the tile business. Today, he owns and operates The Marble Shop, a 57,000-square-foot fabricating facility in North Hollywood, CA.

"I lived in New York for five months," said Rubin. "It was too cold there. I only knew one guy in L.A., but I went there. This guy said that he knows somebody in Beverly Hills who needed someone to install tile. He said that there are three nice condos, but [the installers] did a terrible job. He could pay $100 a day. I said that's a good thing for me, because I was only making $50 [a day] back then."

Rubin explained that he called the owner of the condos, and made an appointment to take a look at the job. "I didn't know much about it really, but I had the guts," he said. "I really had no idea how to even estimate the job. So I walked through the three units and measured and acted like I knew everything, when I really knew nothing."

In the end, the owner accepted Rubin's bid. "I was so excited that I got the job, but I didn't know how to do it," he said. "But, I knew how to break - that was easy. So, I took my two roommates with me to the job site, and we started breaking the whole thing. I had about two or three days, so I went to the Israeli magazine and put an ad in the paper [recruiting] tile people who knew what they were doing. I got two tile guys who did a good job, and I was managing like I knew what I was doing. The job came out perfect. The guy was so happy that he gave me another job after that, and that's how I started."

After nine months in the tile business, Rubin had 30 guys working for him. "It was unreal," he said. "It was in 1989. The time was really good. There was a lot of construction, and not too many people that did this kind of trade. So the market needed it, and I supplied a good job - honest, no games. And that's how I built my name."

The idea to open his own fabricating facility for natural stone came to Rubin after about seven years of working in the tile and marble industry. With the combined effort of his brother Ofer and sister Keren, The Marble Shop was established in 1997 with the soul purpose of duplicating an Italian factory, according to Rubin.

The operation

The Marble Shop is capable of producing any cut-to-size job, countertops, flooring, waterjet designs and any type of edge detail in mass production. The company motto is: "Fax us over your dimensions, and we will get a full shop drawing made in AutoCAD for your approval."

"Our facility is equipped with three cast iron, fully automatic bridge saws [from GMM]," said Rubin. "We are capable of cutting 3,500 square feet in an 8-hour shift. We house a waterjet made by Flow [International] with a large computer file of medallion designs, borders, sinks and bathtubs."

Additional machinery includes three edge detailing machines - a Comandulli, which is capable of making a traditional bullnose and any other type of curved detail for mass production; a Marmo Meccanica LCV 711M edge polisher, which can produce up to 1 foot of flat polished edges per minute; and a machine designed by Rubin and his brother, Ofer Rubin.

"Our third [edging] machine was invented four years ago when building our companies," said Rubin. "We needed a faster and more efficient way to create multi-edge detailing. After much careful thinking, we realized that the best way would be to build our own machine. The 'Shukimatic,' was designed and built in 1999, and is a fully automatic CNC inline-profiling machine. The Shukimatic can produce any type of edge detail from rough to finish."

Currently, The Marble Shop's annual production capacity is approximately 200,000 square feet, according to Rubin. "Long term, my goal is to make the most sophisticated shop in the U.S., or maybe in California for now," he said. "I really like what I do. I create nice things for people."

The Marble Shop has two sister companies - The Marble Yard, which imports material directly from all around the world, and Rubin Marble & Granite, Inc., a local installation company primarily working on large, upscale homes. Between all the companies, the Rubins employ about 104 workers. "Thanks to our combined operation, we are capable of importing, fabricating and installing with the help of our distributors in almost every city in California," said Rubin. "After four years of monitoring our facility, we reached the most accurate pricing system available. We utilize our computerized job cost system, enabling us to provide our customers with the most cost-efficient finished product."