The polls are now closed! Join the Stone World staff during The International Surface Event at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV on Wednesday, January 29th at 4:00pm to honor the person who has been voted the 2019 Fabricator of the Year.
Every year, Stone World honors a Fabricator of the Year. The person is nominated by industry members and goes to someone who has shown dedication to growing their own business, as well as a willingness to share their knowledge to help other industry members. The following candidates each possess these qualifications. Please take a minute to learn more about them and vote for the person you would like to see receive the 2019 Stone World’s Fabricator of the Year Award.
Company: Perfection Connection
The reason for my nomination:
James Donaire started his career in the trades at the age of twenty, apprenticing for a high-end custom home builder. During that time he learned all aspects of building a home; skills that would serve him well as he progressed into the stone and ceramic tile trades.
In 1997, James obtained a California contractor’s license and officially started Perfection Connection, a natural stone fabrication and installation company based in Oakland California, then later moving to Carson City Nevada in 2004. Starting with only modest handheld tools, James slowly but steadily grew his business, based on integrity and technical prowess.
The Perfection Connection of today barely resembles his humble beginnings. Now housed in a 16,000 sf facility and a staff of 12, the company is a showcase of digital fabrication equipment. James has been a pioneer of new technologies, being among the first to acquire and employ much of Sasso’s lineup of machinery, including their Nextjet™, of which the product launching and operational research was assisted by James in his shop.
A master of several channels of social media, you can often find James touting incredible custom applications of stone in high end residences and casinos, often including very elaborate and complex wall features. His use of social media in this regard is less about self-promotion, and more about a genuine desire to educate and advance the industry.
In addition, James has been a long time champion of the Stone Fabricators Alliance, opening his shop on multiple occasions, his last workshop in June hosting a record breaking attendance of over two hundred stone workers. You can also find James regularly running the curriculum of the Stone Fabricators Alliance’s “Cage” at TISE and Coverings trade shows.
His technical fabrication knowledge coupled with his outgoing personality always makes him a popular, informative and in-demand presenter, developing a strong following as one of the top fabrication minds in the industry. Many seek his advice and insight, fabricators and product vendors alike.
Speaking on behalf of the Stone Fabricators Alliance Board of Directors, I can think of no one more deserving than James Donaire to receive the prestigious Stone World’s Fabricator of the Year Award for 2019. Sincerely, Joey Marcella SFA Executive Director/President Mario & Son, Inc.
Company: The Countertop Factory Midwest
The reason for my nomination:
It is an honor to nominate Geoffrey Gran, owner of The Countertop Factory Midwest, for the “Fabricator of the Year.” Geoffrey Gran promotes sharing knowledge that will help advance the countertop industry. Geoffrey Gran strives to continually improve himself and his peers through educational seminars, technology advances, industry events and keeping The Countertop Factory Midwest’s door open to fellow fabricators to visit.
Geoffrey Gran is a leader in the stone industry. Geoffrey is dedicated to providing his customers with the best possible experience. The Countertop Factory (TCF) strives to exceed customer expectations with their world-class customer service, continuous process improvement, and utilization of the newest technologies.
In 2005, Geoffrey and his business partner Bill Heuer opened The Countertop Factory Midwest. TCF began in a 6,000 sq. ft. facility with a table saw, a case of Corian samples, and a relationship with a smaller fabricator who produced their quartz and granite. Geoffrey describes his company as a sales and marketing company that happens to fabricate and install countertops. Within a year and a half of opening, TCF brought all of their operations in-house. They had doubled in size to 12,000 square feet.
The Countertop Factory Midwest purchased some manual machinery as they began working on projects for large companies and production builders including Home Depot and Pulte Homes. Today, TCF is a technology pioneer and utilizes advanced software and machinery in their business. TCF operates a fully-automated, 65,000 sq. ft. facility with 140 employees and fully digital equipment. TCF is the only fabricator in Chicago that produces the four major countertop materials at their fabrication facility: natural stone, solid surface, laminate, and quartz. TCF works hard to reduce lead times, improve quality, and exceed customer expectations through the use of advanced technology.
Through their years of growth, TCF has been at the forefront of technology, techniques, and creating a rewarding environment for their employees. Geoffrey Gran focuses time and energy on hiring and retaining “superhero” employees because he strongly believes that with great employees, your company will reach greatness. TCF has implemented internal training programs for staff members throughout every step of the process. Using industry methods, they focus training their employees on all aspects of the business: field measure, project management, purchasing, machine operations, fabrication, assembly and installation.
Gran understands the current and future labor shortage and has battled it by infusing technology into all of their processes. As demand for their services has increased, TCF has made a commitment to not sacrifice on quality or customer service. Geoffrey Gran is passionate about sharing knowledge and has presented at Park Industries® Digital Stoneworking Expos, is an active member of the Rockhead Group, and is involved in the Stone Fabricator’s Alliance (SFA) and the International Surface Fabricators Association (ISFA).
Geoffrey Gran is active with material manufacturers such as Cambria, Dupont and Wilsonart and sits on the Home Depot Service Provider Advisory Council. TCF is Natural Stone Institute (NSI/MIA) Accredited. Participating in these activities and groups has shaped the growth of The Countertop Factory Midwest and given them the opportunity to share their knowledge of technology and best practices in the countertop market.
TCF hosts events for fabricators to learn new fabrication techniques, whether it is for new material technologies like Dekton or other materials like solid surface. In June of this year, The Countertop Factory was the host company for Park Industries’ DSE. Geoffrey knows that the stone industry is not an easy business, but he believes when fabricators share knowledge and information, the industry takes leaps forward, and events like these provide the perfect backdrop for this kind of networking.
Geoffrey is very open and welcomes fabricators to visit The Countertop Factory and they typically receive 2-3 visits per month. His philosophy is that if a fabricator can walk away from a visit at TCF with 3-4 things on how to improve their business, that is one step closer to making the industry better. During a recent tour, a fabricator was impressed with the CAD department creating 3 kitchens in 15 minutes instead of taking 1.5 hours per kitchen.
Geoffrey and his partners started a new software company, Fifth Gear Technologies, that is focused on developing software for countertop fabricators. The suites of software address aspects of the manufacturing process including CAD and machine programming (www.speeddraw.net) and labeling every countertop to improve quality control, shop organization and job completeness (www.speedlabel.net).
TCF also works closely with other software companies to integrate with ERP software like Moraware, as well as communication between all departments within a fab shop including purchasing, material handling, field measure and installation. These software programs have allowed TCF to go completely paperless within the company (field, office, shop), understand the status of every countertop in the shop, ensure all pieces are on the install vehicle, and know what pieces belong to each project.
Geoffrey makes sharing information a priority, with a dedication to enhancing the stone fabrication industry as a whole. The Countertop Factory provides a new learning experience for all involved when they incorporate new techniques. TCF uses technology to bring artistry, craftsmanship, and efficiency to each and every project they manufacture.
Gran’s care for others doesn’t stop with his industry fellows. TCF was recently recognized for their contribution of stone and fabrication services to the Gary Sinise Foundation in their support of the Watson family. The Foundation supports wounded military veterans and their families with the gift of accessible homes, accomplished through the generous gifts of time, materials, and talents by caring individuals like Geoffrey Gran.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit this nomination for the 2019 Fabricator of the Year Award. Geoffrey Gran is a fabricator with a strong initiative to instill open communication between fabricators and encourages conversations centered on new technology and innovative business strategies. Geoffrey Gran signs off from his emails with “Forward Progress” to set their company mentality of constant innovation and never becoming stagnant. Sincerely, Tony Herbst Director of Sales Park Industries
Company: Lakeside Surfaces
The reason for my nomination:
Rob Riegler and his team at Lakeside Surfaces are true professionals. He is on the leading edge for utilizing technology, automation, work processes and management techniques to further his business for the benefit of his clients and team. Rob is always open for conversations, guidance and visits to help with others. We need more people like Rob in the industry! Rob has an amazing shop second to none for its cleanliness and processes. You will not find a better run shop anywhere. He is dedicated to his employees and ensuring that they are well taken care of and have a safe working environment.
Rob has opened his shop to other fabricators and shown how he uses technology and best business practices to create a safe, clean and efficient operation. He runs one of the most organized and systems-driven fab shops in the country. Very high-level of accuracy, consistent quality, very engaged employee team with a positive and fun culture. He is a credit to the stone industry and needs to be recognized as such.
Every step of his operation is documented to produce a high-quality finished product with exceptional reliability. His company culture is remarkable and built on mutual trust and respect. His facilities are second to none in cleanliness and thoughtful intent. In addition, his leadership in the Artisan Group demonstrates an interest in leading the industry beyond the self-interest of his own company. Rob is a worthy candidate of this significant award.
Rob was one of the victims of a major U.S. quartz manufacturer changing their business model and leaving him without a product. Rob has weathered that storm and recently shared with the Artisan Group, the fabrication and management techniques he used to regain a leadership position in his marketplace. A very select few could survive those circumstances. Therefore, Rob Riegler deserves the nomination for Fabricator of the Year.
The reason for my nomination:
Karen is a member of the Women in Stone steering committee. Over the past few years I have gotten the opportunity to work closely with her through this organization. I have been so impressed with her willingness to provide mentorship to less experienced women.
She is also very involved with Rockheads and helping that organization to be innovative. She has spoken at many industry events and has become a well-known influencer within the stone industry.
She definitely checks all the boxes on your list of criteria for Fabricator of the Year!