Taking a different strategy with 2-cm counters
Marc Beaudet of Old World Marble & Granite, Inc. in Naples, FL, has taken a different approach than his local competitors to selling stone countertops in the area. While Naples is typically a 3-cm market, Beaudet’s company primarily works with 2-cm slabs. His previous experience in the industry allows him to explain to his upscale clients the benefits of using a slightly thinner material with a laminated edge. And in the nine years that Old World Marble & Granite has been in business, his efforts have proven successful.
“I kind of have a different strategy down here, and I made it work for me,” said Beaudet. “Naples is a very high-end market. There are so many millionaires here. I always felt that 2-cm laminated [slabs] are a better product, and I have been able to sell that. They require more skill.”
Beaudet worked for a stone fabrication operation locally before starting his company in 1998. “I had actually been working as a vice president at another company in town,” he said. “I have a business degree, and I always had dreams of having my own business. After five years, the time had come to venture out on my own.”
According to Beaudet, his previous company specialized in 2-cm countertops. “I learned in a 2-cm market, because the company I worked for had a sister shop in the Miami area,” he said. “The Miami market is 2 cm, and even though we are right across the state in Naples, it’s exclusively 3 cm.”
Old World Marble & Granite is a fabricator of natural stone and Silestone. “I’m exclusively a fabricator,” said Beaudet. “I used to bring in tile, but it just got to be so competitive.”
The shopOld World Marble & Granite operates out of a 6,000-square-foot space in a building owned by Beaudet. “A friend of mine had a piece of property, and he wanted to put a building on it and have a tenant,” he said. “He built it for me. After a year, I bought the building from him. We’ve used up the space quickly. We also lease about 3,000 square feet across the street for storage.”
Beaudet explained that when the company first started, workers only used a Ghines Sector portable router and a bridge saw. “I didn’t start out by borrowing a bunch of money,” he said. “It was only me, and I took one of the guys who managed my warehouse and one fabricator from the company where I used to work. We were doing everything by hand. Over the course of the last nine years, we went from a small operation to what we are now.”
Among the machinery in Old World Marble & Granite’s shop is a Marmo Meccanica bridge saw and Marmo Meccanica LCV 711M backsplash polishing machine, which were both supplied by Marmo Machinery USA of Southfield, MI; a Sebring gantry saw from Matrix Stone Products of Rancho Cucamonga, CA; a Comandulli single-head edging machine; and a CMPI multi-head edging machine. Additionally, an EnviroSystem from Water Treatment Technologies of Hampton, NH, is used to recycle water.
“It’s great,” said Beaudet, when speaking about the EnviroSystem. “When I started with Water Treatment Technologies, they were just starting out. They are a class act.”
The majority of hand tools and supplies are purchased from GranQuartz of Tucker, GA, while others are bought through companies such as Braxton Bragg of Knoxville, TN.
On average, Old World Marble & Granite produces about 10 to 12 kitchens per week. “They are not everyday small kitchens,” said Beaudet, explaining that the average size is between 100 to 150 square feet. “They are a pretty good size.”
At the present time, the company runs one shift. “There was a time when we were really busy and running two shifts, but right now we are 40 hours a week,” said Beaudet, adding that the company consists of 14 employees, including the office staff.
For templating, Luan plywood strips are used. “I know that there are all kinds of new digital templating systems out there, but there are some things that you just don’t change,” said Beaudet. “I guess you can say that I am from the ‘old school.’ It works for us. Maybe someday someone can change my mind.”
Beaudet explained that his father works one day a week for him and does a fair share of the templating. “He used to work full time as an installer, but transitioned to part-time templating a few years ago,” he said.
Educating customersTo sell 2-cm slabs in a 3-cm market, Beaudet and his staff try to educate their customers on the benefits of a thinner piece. “I sell it that it is a better product,” said Beaudet. “It requires skill. If I go into a builder and bid 3 cm with 10 others, it’s going to be about price. But 2 cm gives me a chance to prove my case. Yes, it’s a little more expensive, but I show them why. I think that where it has really helped me is in the very high-end market.”
Beaudet explained that 2-cm slabs allow him to offer more options to his customers. “When you start laminating, you can open the doors,” he said. “For example, you can do a [different type of] waterfall edge.”
Additionally, Beaudet said that using 2-cm slabs can also simplify remodel projects. “If you think about all the other products like Corian and Formica, they are 1 ½ inch,” he said. “It makes it so much easier in a remodel because you are ripping 1 ½ inch [material] out and putting a 1 ½-inch slab back in.
“The other thing is that it makes the product more versatile,” he continued. “You’d be amazed how many projects I have done where they want to keep cost down. I can give them 2 cm, and I don’t have to laminate so it’s less expensive.”
Overall, Beaudet says that the result is a thicker edge that looks better. “Also, I think that undermount sinks look so much better with a thinner edge, and 2 cm works better for backsplashes too.”
According to Beaudet, he relies on the talent of his workers to produce high-quality laminate edges. “I pay my guys well,” he said. “They are skilled. I have such a low turnover. Some have been with me since I opened, and some even longer than that from my old company.”
If he does need to hire new workers, he prefers training unexperienced employees rather than those who are already in the stone industry, said Beaudet. “I have three people that are working for me now who came in here and didn’t even know the business,” he said. “We taught them a trade. It costs money up front, but in the long run, it is worth it.”
Marketing philosophyBeaudet attributes Old World Marble & Granite’s success to the fact that it has remained diverse over the nine years it has been in operation. “In Florida, which really has been booming for many years, we have really hit our first challenge,” he said. “There are a lot of companies that are really struggling right now. I think that we have stayed diverse. We have not put all our eggs in one basket. I do work for little guys and big guys. I’ve always had that mentality. It works for us. If a person walks in and asks us to do a window sill, we’ll do it. You never know; that person’s neighbor could ask them where they had it done, and they are looking for a new kitchen.”
Old World Marble & Granite’s market encompasses about a 60-mile radius - from Marco Island, which is at the southern tip of Florida, to as far north as Punta Gorda. A total of 60% of the company’s business is new construction and remodels, 25% is comprised of work with Silestone through three Home Depots and one Expo Design Center in South Florida, and the other 15% is retail and miscellaneous work.
With diversity in mind, Beaudet is always looking for new ways to service his market and increase company revenue. “Every day, I was looking at the scrap in the back of our shop,” he said. “I actually went out and put together a plan for pool companies for their spillways to be made out of natural granite. Customers can pick any color that they want. We ended up doing about $100,000 extra a year.”
And although Old World Marble & Granite specializes in 2-cm slabs, it does work with 3-cm pieces when requested. “There are some people that come in and only know 3 cm and don’t want to hear about 2 cm,” said Beaudet. “I don’t turn them away. Word of mouth goes a long way. We aren’t the lowest guy by any means, but we aren’t the highest either. It has always been about service and quality.”