About 12 years ago, fresh out of college, I answered an advertisement in a local newspaper seeking an assistant editor for an “architectural trade magazine.” That publication, as it would turn out, was Stone World. After shredding my initial surprise that such a magazine existed, I went to the interview and quickly learned that this was a highly respected publication that was considered to be the leading voice of the stone industry. Today, as the magazine celebrates 20 years of publishing, we are proud to be part of an industry that is enjoying unprecedented growth.

To gain a better understanding of what the industry was like in 1984, I recently spoke with the founder of Stone World, Mike Lench, who was the magazine's publisher when I first joined the staff. “I had the feeling that we were at the beginning of a boom in construction,” he said. “Stone had become the material of choice for cladding, and it was a very fortunate time to start Stone World. There had never been a magazine like it at the time. There were some association magazines, but not an all-industry magazine.”

But while Stone World filled a void in the industry, starting the magazine was not without its challenges. “The magazine itself was really an unknown quantity to anyone in the stone business,” Lench explained. “When we introduced it, we had a lot of work to do to show the value of an industry publication. It was a little slow to get started, but in less than a year, we were off pretty well. It's very gratifying now to see that it's become such an important part of the industry.”

Lench also noted that the industry was in a period of global expansion in 1984 -- a trend that is continuing today. “A lot of the countries that have become so important in the stone business were not developed,” he said. “China and India were just beginning [to export stone] at the time. The machinery suppliers had a lot of missionary work there as well, since so much was being done by hand at the time.” Today, in addition to China and India, which are among the leading exporters of natural stone to the U.S., we are seeing major quantities of stone coming from countries such as Brazil, Turkey, Spain and Israel, all of which have come to the forefront within the last 20 years. Of course, Italy has endured as the top exporter of natural stone to the U.S.

Just as the industry has changed, Stone World has also evolved quite a bit over the past 20 years. In 1994, our magazine was purchased by Business News Publishing (now BNP Media), and it has grown along with the industry that it covers. Following the growth areas of the industry, we are covering the stone fabrication sector more than ever before, while still also focusing on stone architecture, quarrying, installation, maintenance and distribution.

Of course, a trade magazine is useless without the cooperation of the industry it serves, and I have seen incredible cooperation from the stone industry professionals I have worked with over the years. At trade shows, seminars and in the field, a broad range of people have contributed to the magazine by sharing their knowledge with us -- and by extension, with the industry as a whole. On behalf of the entire staff at Stone World -- past and present -- I would like to say that it has been a gratifying experience to publish the industry's leading magazine.