Stone Column

Re-Emerging: Thriving with high-end technology

February 1, 2005
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Eric Richardson first joined the stone and tile industry in 1979. Now, 26 years later, his company, Performance Tile & Stone of Rocklin, CA, is off and running above and beyond his highest expectations. Due to additions such as three times the amount of factory space, twice the number of employees and three CNC machines, the company is now at its prime, producing an average of 25 to 35 jobs a week.

In 1994, Richardson and his wife, Judy, launched Performance Tile & Marble, with the focus and mission to be one of the largest and most recommended stone fabrication and installation facilities in Northern California. “From the begining we had a pretty clear objective on how the company was going to run,” said Judy Richardson. The husband-wife team wanted to provide customers with an exceptional degree of customer service, and to pass that same philosophy on to their team in order to create a one of a kind experience for their customers. “We leased a garage space from a friend,” Judy Richardson added. “We built up some capitol and then leased a 1,500-square-foot shop in Loomis, CA. Over the nine years we grew to the 6,000-square-feet of shop space by taking over units as tenants would leave.”

In 2003, business grew to the point where the Richardson decided it was time to expand. They revamped the existing company by purchasing a 20,000-square-foot facility in Rocklin, CA, redesigning the company logo, and changing the company name to Performance Tile & Stone.

Originally, employees used a modified panel saw to cut granite, and in 1995, the company purchased a Marmoelettromeccanica Master 3000 portable router, which was used until the company added its first CNC machine in 1997. “I went to a trade show to look at straight edge polishers,” said Eric Richardson. “When I saw the CNCs there, I began investigating them for about a year before purchasing the first one with AGM.” That CNC machine, an Intermac MasterStone 4000 from AGM of Pineville, NC, has provided the company with unlimited capabilities as far as edging and processing straight or curved pieces. “The possibilities of what I can do with CNC are endless,” he said. “I can turn out a true and consistent edge polish.”

Since the company was so satisfied with the CNC's results, he decided to purchase a second Intermac CNC unit from AGM in 1999. “I was so happy with the first one that I decided to buy another,” he said. “The learning curve was basically zero. I didn't have to re-learn a new machine. Plus, I was able to update my first CNC in order to have the latest technology of the time.”

In 2003, he purchased another Intermac MasterStone 4000 from AGM. “The Intermacs are the most user-friendly, and have the latest technology on them,” he said. “With the purchase of the third one, I was able to update my first two. I am extremely happy with AGM's service and support, and with the machine itself.”

The factory is also equipped with two Campagnola e Fedeli numerically controlled bridge saws. The factory's most recent addition came about in late 2004 with the purchase of a Comandulli Speedy System from AGM. The Speedy System can process various edge types such as flat, bullnose, half bullnose, flat and mitered -- and can be worked at speeds up to 15 linear feet per hour. Set-up time for the machine is simplified, as the unit is programmed with pre-set profiles. The operator only has to load the slab and select the profile with the appropriate tooling.

Because of its ever-growing status, Performance Tile & Stone takes the hiring of its staff quite seriously. After potential employee candidates are interviewed, installation supervisors evaluate them to test how much each individual knows about the industry. Next, the candidates go through a training program, which “springboards off of knowledge they already have,” according to Eric Richardson.

The owner said that it is difficult to find new employees. “There is not a big pool of people out there with this kind of experience just looking for jobs,” he explained. “So a lot of our staff has been trained from scratch.”

Performance Tile & Stone works with natural stone, including marble and granite, as well as quartz surfacing such as DuPont Zodiac and CaesarStone. The company fabricates granite and marble for 15 Home Depots in Northern California, and its work involves a great deal of kitchen countertop installations for custom homes, production homes and remodels. Due to its increasing operation demands, the company now employs 60 people, who are divided into separate support staffs, one for granite slabs and another for tile installation -- which consists of eight crews.

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