Before granite kitchen countertops found their way into Home Depots and other consumer outlets, stone fabricators doing residential work in the U.S. were a relatively small group. But as consumer demand rose during the 1990s and 2000s, granite moved into the mainstream, and it was no longer a product enjoyed solely by the upper class. Stone Surfaces, Inc., of East Rutherford, NJ, is among the companies that have seen the industry boon over the past decade, and it has steadily grown over that time.

The company was established in 1990 by Mike Sakosits and Phil Cappuccio. Sakosits has a background that began in the Formica industry and eventually moved into the granite business. When it was first established, Sakosits pointed out that the residential stone sector was quite different. “We didn’t have the volume, but the pricing was higher,” he explained, adding that the company performed as a qualified subcontractor, relying on service and turning around projects in two or three days.

Today, the company completes an average of six to seven kitchens per day, including the countertops as well as a center island in most cases. The company also fabricates vanities, fireplaces and other architectural work, which is not included in this total.

But even with this growth, the company is still very relationship oriented, as the majority of its work is repeat business through kitchen/bath dealers, interior designers and builders. “You have to make sure you’re always in touch with them, and that they’re happy with the service,” Sakosits said.

To accommodate its large volume of production, Stone Surfaces moved into a new facility two years ago. The company now has 40,000 square feet of space, which houses the machinery, hand working area, showroom, offices and inventory.

Equipment in the shop includes two Zonato bridge saws -- a large one and a smaller model -- both purchased from International Machine Corp. of Holbrook, NY. The company also has two bridge saws purchased directly from Technomac of Italy. Two of the saws are fitted with 18-inch blades, and two are equipped with 16-inch blades.

The saws were chosen for their ease of maintenance and durability, according to Cappuccio. Also, the Zonato saws feature a computerized system for cut-to-size work. In the near future, cut-to-size work will also be processed on a CNC stoneworking machine. The company is currently researching different models and manufacturers in the marketplace.

Edges are done with a total of 15 portable edging machines, including the Marmoelettromeccanica Master and the Ghines Sector. Cappuccio explained that the customized work they do is more suited to the portable machines than an automated straight-line edging unit. Workers use a total of three shaping bits for edging processing, and the piece is then finished using hand tools. Machines are equipped with diamond tooling from Stone Boss Industries of Woodside, NY, which Cappuccio praised for its service and prompt delivery times.

The granite is processed wet, while marble is processed dry. Stone Surfaces has dust collection equipment in place for dry processing, although 90% of the stonework done is granite. In addition, the company also processes Caesarstone, a quartz product.

For each project, the templating is done using Luan plywood, which Cappuccio said is easy to cut and doesn’t deform over time. To ensure the longevity of completed work, Stone Surfaces uses metal rods on all kitchen counters. They also recommend that seams be located at the sink cutout so they are best hidden. The company uses a special procedure to guarantee that the seam remains tight over time. A pocket is drilled on both pieces directly at the seam, and this is then filled with glue, which acts as a shim once it dries.

Overall, Stone Surfaces has a staff of 45 people. Some workers are specialized in various aspects of the business, such as cutting, shaping or installing, while others can interchange as needed. Most workers come with limited experience, which is not a problem as long as they have a willingness to learn, Sakosits said. “Realistically, within a week or two, they get the feel of it, but you usually know within the first few days if they’re going to work out.”

Workers receive a bonus based on company profits, which maintains productivity levels while also helping employees feel that they are sharing in the success of the company. The positive effects of this policy were obvious while walking through the bustling shop, as workers were quickly but methodically carrying out their assigned tasks.

With the recent growth of the company, a second division, Stone Surfaces South, has opened in New Brunswick, NJ.