When Suburban Marble & Granite of Ivyland, PA, was acquired by current owner John Menarde in 1992, it was a very small operation - processing stonework with a single saw. Today, its line of stoneworking machinery includes the latest technology for sawing and edging as well as three CNC stoneworking centers, and the company has become a leading supplier of high-end work to the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area and beyond.
Suburban’s manufacturing facilities have 57,000 square feet of space. One of the primary pieces of cutting machinery is a Lexta 36 bridge saw from GMM of Italy, supplied through Bergman-Blair/Salem Stone. This automatic bridge saw/profiler has a tilting head and can accommodate blades up to 825 mm (32.5 inches) in diameter. All operations can be carried out automatically or manually as needed, and the machine features a “Multicut” program that is capable of executing parallel cuts with fixed dimensions, repeatable up to 99 times.
The company also has a GMM Tecna 36 bridge saw for cutting. This bridge saw accommodates blades up to 725 mm (28.5 inches), and it is suited for smaller and medium-sized jobs.
One of the latest investments by Suburban has been a Breton Contourbreton NC 400 CNC stoneworking center. This machine can process a broad range of finished work, and it offers extensive travel of its axes (X=2210 mm, Y=3500 mm, Z=400 mm). The machine is equipped with wide sliding doors which can be opened manually and have large plexiglas inspection windows. These doors provide safety and also help deaden sound.
The Breton CNC stoneworking center is Suburban’s third investment in CNC stoneworking technology. It also operates two CNC stoneworking centers from Z. Bavelloni of Italy. One of the Z. Bavelloni CNC units was purchased five years ago, while the other was purchased eight years ago, making Suburban one of the first CNC operators in the market, explained Kevin Bliss, Executive Vice President of Operations.
Edgework is also processed on a Comandulli Synthesis multi-head edge profiler/polisher. The unit, which comes equipped with a calibrating wheel, two pre-forming wheels, seven wheels in the oscillation group and four beveling spindles. This results in production speeds of at least 1 linear foot per minute for 3-cm granite bullnose profiles. The machine can process slabs up to a thickness of 100 mm.
Material is stored and transported on racks from Groves, Inc., and Elephant boom cranes and forklifts are used to maneuver slabs around the shop.
Suburban has over 100 workers, and it works hard to retain its employees. Bliss explained that all water used during the fabrication process is heated during the winter months, and the company has built amenities for the workers to make them more comfortable. This includes a new full-service breakroom with stone countertops and floors. “We spend a lot of time with training, and we really want people to feel like they are at home here,” said Bliss.
By retaining employees over the long term, the company is able to reduce call-backs and mistakes, and it ensures high-quality production for the future.
The company fabricates 60 to 80 jobs per week, according to James Morris, Vice President of Product Development for Suburban. While the majority of work being processed is kitchen countertops, the company also fabricates custom stonework such as slab walls and floors, as well as fireplaces and other architectural elements.
The typical kitchen size processed by Suburban is 60 to 90 square feet, although some projects have been in the 160-square-foot range and larger. When measuring jobs, the company makes plywood templates, which are scanned on a digitizing board, and the data is transferred to the machinery. The company has also purchased a Faro Arm for digital templating, which it is looking to incorporate into its operations.
Suburban’s client base is a mix of one-third national large-scale builders, one-third localized custom builders and kitchen & bath dealers and one-third retail.
It completes projects primarily in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, but it has also done work outside of the region. Since many people living in the Philadelphia area have second homes in places such as the New Jersey Shore, the beaches of Delaware and the Hamptons in New York, Suburban is often called upon to supply stonework in these areas. And since the homeowners live in close proximity to Suburban, they are able to work closely with the company on these projects. The company has a fleet of 14 vehicles for delivering jobs, including trucks as well as vans.
Suburban’s showroom facilities are 30,000 square feet in size, and they include a broad range of finished vignettes to inspire clients. It has also developed an open, well-lit area for customers to view slabs - with separate viewing areas for granite and marble/onyx varieties. And since the company also distributes sinks to its clients, Suburban has also developed a showroom of sinks.
Of course, given the increasing competition in the region, Suburban does not simply rely on its machinery or extensive showroom facilities. It has made a point to stress customer service throughout each step of the process. Visitors to the showroom are quickly greeted by an experienced staff member, with an eye on making the process as smooth as possible.