Virginia company grows from installation to fabrication

August 1, 2007
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Since it was established in 1997, CogswellStone has shown steady growth. The company’s owners, John and Lisa Cogswell, initially operated a company that provided installation services for tile and natural stone. They relocated their business from New York to Virginia in 1993, and the increasing demand for natural stone countertops pushed them to open a fabrication shop. Today, they are still experiencing positive results.
“In 1997, we decided to open our own shop with the intent of fabricating countertops for our own clients that we had been servicing through other fabricators,” said John Cogswell. “Within two months, we were so busy fabricating and installing countertops and fireplace surrounds that we had to completely stop installing tile.”
Cogswell went on to say that the shop was started with only three workers doing fabrication and installation, and his wife Lisa was responsible for administration duties. “Our equipment was primitive; we did everything by hand,” he said. “We spent the next several years learning and purchasing equipment while adding new people.”
For the first two years that the shop was open, the company worked out of a rented space, which it quickly outgrew, according to Cogswell. “We then were able to purchase a building that was able to house our shop, showroom and offices,” said the fabricator. “Three years ago, we purchased an old general store and converted it into offices and a showroom. We built a warehouse on the property to house our inventory, which now includes over 1,000 slabs – with a selection of over 200 varieties. We feel our showroom is second to none.”

An Intermac Master Stone 4000 CNC machine, which was purchased from AGM of Pineville, NC, is also utilized in the fabrication process.

The facility

Currently, the company’s shop encompasses 6,000 square feet. Additionally, the facility includes a 4,000-square-foot warehouse, 3,000-square-foot showroom and 1,500 square feet of office space.
“Our primary business is countertops,” said Cogswell. “We also fabricate fireplace surrounds, shower stalls and furniture tops. We produce between 3,000 to 4,000 square feet per month. This year, we will be renovating our shop to increase efficiency, which will allow us to increase our production.”
The shop is equipped with an Intermac Master Stone 4000 CNC stoneworking center, which was purchased from AGM of Pineville, NC. Additional machinery in the shop includes two Marmoelettromeccanica bridge saws supplied by Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA, two multi-head Marmo Meccanica line polishers from Marmo Machinery USA of Southfield, MI, and an Olimar radial arm polisher from VIC International of Knoxville, TN. Hand tools from Alpha Professional Tools and Makita, among others, are used for handfinishing. Slabs are moved around the shop with Wood’s Powr-Grip vacuum lifters.
“The last piece of equipment that we purchased was a Marmo Meccanica line polisher,” said Cogswell. “This piece of equipment enables our fabricators to spend more time on the details of our jobs. With a very demanding schedule, our fabricators were stretched to be able to do the ‘grunt’ work as well as pay attention to the little things. We work with a lot of stones that require additional ‘tender love and care’ during fabrication. We are now able to run straight pieces with different profiles in an efficient way without using a lot of man-hours. Our guys really appreciate it.”
At the present time, CogswellStone runs one shift with six workers. “We have one CNC operator, one sawyer, three hand fabricators and one production leader/CNC programmer,” said Cogswell. “We do have other people at the shop that load and unload slabs and tile and stage material for production.”
For templating, workers use two different types of material. “Our main method is done with strips of luan plywood, but we also use corrugated plastic,” said Cogswell. “We do most of our countertops with Luan strips and use the plastic for odd shapes, arcs and free-form pieces.”
Cogswell explained that his company does not use any digital templating equipment in the field, although it does have a digitizing board in its shop. “We use this equipment for odd-sized pieces as well as to digitize sink cutouts,” he said.
The fabricator went on to say that he has three installation crews that work with him. While one crew is in-house, the additional two are subcontract crews -- one of which has been with CogswellStone for over six years.

Among the recent projects completed by CogswellStone is a residential remodel in Charlottesville, VA. “[The client] was looking for a fireplace surround with a lot of detail,” said Cogswell. “We sat down with them and created a design where we could utilize our CNC technology along with some hand carving to create this fireplace surround out of Rosalia marble.”

Serving a growing market

“Our principal market areas are within 75 to 100 miles from the Charlottesville, VA, area,” said Cogswell. “About 90% of our work is with slabs. We primarily template and install countertops, fireplace surrounds, shower surrounds and furniture tops. Our client base is 55% remodeling and 45% new construction. About 10% of our business is from the sale of stone and tile.”
Among the recent projects completed by CogswellStone is a residential remodel in Charlottesville, VA. “The client purchased the home and renovated the kitchen and living room,” explained Cogswell. “They were looking for a fireplace surround with a lot of detail. We sat down with them and created a design where we could utilize our CNC technology along with some hand carving to create this fireplace surround out of Rosalia marble.”
Another recent completion was a newly constructed home in Harrisonburg, VA. “These clients love natural stone,” said Cogswell. “They used Jerusalem limestone on the entire first floor of the home. We complemented the flooring by fabricating and installing the main staircase with the same Jerusalem limestone. The client selected beautiful slabs of Luise Blue granite for the kitchen, along with tumbled marble tiles for the backsplash in the kitchen.”

In the kitchen of the new residence, the homeowners selected slabs of Luise Blue granite for the countertops along with tumbled marble tiles for the backsplash.

Planning for the future

To build a long-lasting and successful business, Cogswell believes that investment in employees is just as important as financial stability. “We want to create an environment within our company where our employees enjoy coming to work every day and feel productive and appreciated, which will in turn create happier and healthier home environments,” he said. “We want to have the best business -- not be just the best fabricators, but the best in everything that we can do. We would like to see the same employees that are with us now still with us in 15 years. Our short-term goal is to develop an education program that will allow our people to become more successful.”
From a business standpoint, Cogswell also has plans to further develop his company. “We will be renovating our shop area to make ourselves more efficient and to allow us to expand,” he said. “We feel that by accomplishing this, we can meet any financial goals that we may project.”

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