A creative niche in stoneworking
Realizing that the U.S. stone industry would grow in relation to the rest of the world, Italian couple Rosanna and JD Dixon, launched Casa Italiana, now Belmarmi, in 1987. Starting out by hand and expanding with high-end technology, the company now produces 40 projects a week, including countertops, vanities, fireplaces and more unique elements such as carvings, sculptures and engravings.
In 1992, the owners built a new state-of-the-art facility in Neptune Beach, FL, where they continued to fabricate stone by hand until purchasing a CMS/Brembana Maxima four years later. â€œWe purchased the CMS/Brembana Maxima in 1996 to maximize our production schedule and to provide more cubic work for specialty items, such as profiles for fireplace mantels, molding, etc.,â€ said Eric Williams of Belmarmi.
In August of 1999, the couple was forced to sell the company after Rosanna Dixon became ill. Casa Italiana was on the verge of collapse until they bought it back in September of 2003. According to Williams, the Dixon's missed the business, and since Rosanna had completely recovered, decided to return as Belmarmi, the only artistic company in the area.
The 42,000-square-foot shop is now equipped with a Park Accu-Cut saw, a GMM Axia 38 bridge saw, a Park Industries slab polisher, a CMS/Brembana Maxima CNC and a CMS/Brembana Speed 3 CNC. As far as learning the CNC technology is concerned, Williams said that the company was running countertops and cutting sinks after just a few weeks.
Over the years, Belmarmi has been trying to produce more complicated three-dimensional pieces, which the company finds a bit more challenging. â€œAs the market grows for more custom pieces, we feel this aspect of the CNC is worth the effort to know and master,â€ said Williams. â€œThis allows us to utilize the machine's capabilities to the fullest.â€
According to Williams, all of the tooling for the CNC is diamond, and is readily available to the company because the CNC market has expanded considerably. â€œThis allows us to have custom profiles made that are one of a kind for certain custom jobs, if needed,â€ he added.
The company's newest acquisition is a Sasso Te Experience, which it purchased from U.S. Granite Machinery. The machine provides multiple edges of various profiles for countertops, moldings and straight-line runs, allowing the company to produce kitchen and vanity tops at a much faster rate.
â€œI think in order to maintain the quality and our edge over the competition, it is important to explore new technology, and to constantly educate our employees on this new technology,â€ said Williams. â€œThis will increase our production rate, and also allows for a better quality product.â€
Belmarmi manufactures countertops, mirror surrounds, door surrounds, fireplaces, columns, furniture, decos, borders and inlays, using 2 cm, 3 cm and cubic materials. The company also specializes in creative aspects of stoneworking such as carvings, sculptures and engravings, and can carve thick, dimensional materials as well.
Covering all of Northeast Florida and Eastern Georgia as well as the southern parts of South Carolina, the company's market consists of architects, builders, designers and high-end residential homeowners. On a weekly basis, Belmarmi produces approximately 12 kitchens, 20 vanities, four mirror surrounds and two dimensional carved fireplaces, as well as a few fireplace surrounds and hearths. Working mainly with marble, granite and onyx as well as other stone materials, 60% of the company's production involves cut-to-size slabs, while 40% consists of other formats.
The company currently employs a staff of 29. â€œWe have found out that employees make the best referrals for new employees,â€ said Williams. â€œWe have a full training program for all new employees. We now have multiple operators and programmers that cross train to learn both programming and machine operations.â€
Slabs are purchased overseas, and Belmarmi's employees learn about new materials by visiting companies and attending trade shows.
Neptune Beach, FL
Type of work: kitchen countertops, vanities, fireplace surrounds, mirror surrounds, carvings, sculptures, engravings
Machinery: Park Accu-Cut saw, GMM Axia 38 bridge saw, Park Industries slab polisher, CMS/Brembana Maxima CNC, CMS/Brembana Speed 3 CNC, Sasso Te Experience
Number of Employees: 29
Production Rate: 40 projects a week