For cousins John Fornino and Gim Gallo, starting a new stone-working operation in the midst of an economic recession was a bit of a "gamble," as Fornino describes it. But since it opened its doors in Haledon, NJ, last year, Stone N Counters has found a comfortable niche in the custom stone fabrication market.

The company specializes in fabricating natural stone countertops, primarily for residential applications and light commercial projects. The operation cuts and installs an average of 10 to 12 kitchens per week, with a typical project size of 60 to 70 square feet. Most of the company's client base comes from the upscale communities of Northern New Jersey, although many middle class homes have been clients as well.

For Fornino, the opening of his own business has been part of a steady progression that started 10 years ago, when he began installing granite kitchens for a fabricator in New Jersey. Eventually, he became the shop foreman, and he ultimately decided to open his own operation in mid-2002.

The first piece of equipment purchased for the shop was a bridge saw from International Machine Corp. of Holbrook, NY. The one-piece machine is used continually throughout the day, and it is able to effectively execute basic cutting operations.

Although the saw is working well for Stone N Counters, the company is expanding its cutting operation with the installation of a new Zonato FPZ 500 bridge saw, which it ordered from International Machine Corp. This single-blade bridge saw accommodates blades from 400 to 500 mm in diameter, and it can handle slabs with a maximum size of 3,500 mm x 2,000 mm. It can cut marble pieces as thick as 80 mm and granite as thick as 40 mm.

The machine features a rotary table and a hydraulic brake that can lock in any position from 0 to 360 degrees. Standard features include a 15-hp, direct-drive main motor, a 12- x 7-foot cutting table, and a variable speed gantry and cross travel. The machine also has a digital display for precise bridge movement.

The edging at Stone N Counters is done by hand with a Ghines Sector portable edging machine, which can process a wide variety of edges, such as beveled, quarter-round, half bullnose and ogee. The diamond tooling at Stone N Counters is purchased from Stone Boss Industries of Woodside, NY.

During the process of completing a kitchen design, Stone N Counters takes measurements at the site, and the templates are then created by hand in the shop before the stone is cut.

Stone N Counters currently has a total of seven employees, including Fornino and Gallo. Fornino explained that new workers are trained as they go along. "It takes about two weeks before they can work on their own and are really contributing," he said, adding that the goal is to have every worker in the shop well versed in all phases of the process, from cutting through fabrication.

The company primarily sells wholesale to kitchen and bath dealers and builders, but it also works directly with homeowners on occasion. In its short existence, Stone N Counters has quickly become a hub of activity, continually receiving deliveries of slabs from area distributors throughout the day. It has two trucks for transporting finished materials to the various job sites, and these are constantly out on installations.

But despite the hectic pace of the workday at Stone N Counters, its employees are still able to reflect on the work they do with pride. At the time of Stone World's visit to the facility, the company had just shipped a 160-foot bartop with an ogee laminated edge for the Westmont Country Club in West Paterson, NJ. This was fabricated in Venetino marble.