Focusing on the details
For 14 years, Ed and Lynn Strobel have been successfully serving the stone industry by specializing in high-end construction. Their company, Coverall Interiors in Auburn, WA, is now a family-run business that includes their daughter, Katie, in its everyday operations.
Ed Strobel began his career as a tile setter, but later developed into a glass block distributor. After seeing a need for granite, though, he became involved with that aspect of the business, which is a venture he has continued with to this date. Lynn Strobel explained that she and her husband's company started off small, however, it is already on its third saw.
Due to the high-end work their business is engaged in, Ed Strobel spends a significant amount of time shopping around before investing in new equipment. "My husband does a lot of research before making a purchase to make sure he's getting what he wants," said Lynn Strobel.
The company's 16,400-square-foot facility is equipped with a Prussiani Energia Plus 3 axis CNC stoneworking center from IGE Solutions of Jupiter, FL, a Marmoelettromeccanica Master 3500 portable router from Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA, an overhead crane system with a Wood's Powr-Grip vacuum lifter, a Laser Products LT-55 laser templator and an Allen Datagraph I 30 vinyl cutter for making hard templates.
The company also recently purchased the first GMM Litox 5-axis CNC bridge saw in the U.S. from Rich Benedict of Salem Stone in Winston-Salem, NC, which Ed Strobel said was able to extensively boost production. "It could double it easily, or more," he said. "This machine has cut up to four to five kitchens in one day."
Despite the machine's ability to heavily increase production, Ed Strobel said that volume was not the reason for the purchase. "We're not out there trying to do the most kitchens," he said. "We focus more on higher end, detailed work." The owner further added that although the machinery can do more, the company averages about four to five kitchens a week.
"We're just more comfortable at that level," he said. "We enjoy doing everyday stuff, like basic kitchens, but when it comes to high-end projects, there's more satisfaction in being creative."
Ed Strobel further described some of his projects as having a variety of edges, for instance, a 7-inch ogee. The company often also uses a waterjet to do a variety of inlays, such as "alligator" cut-ins and ribbons.
Coverall Interiors runs one shift with five workers, including Ed Strobel, doing fabrication, two installation crews -- one in house and the other subcontracted out -- two to three men doing installation and three workers in the office. The owners' daughter, Katie, does all the templating, which they believe is unique for this business.
"I do think it's unusual," said Katie Strobel. "Other than sales, there are not many females in this industry. I was up for the challenge, but since I never had any formal training, it's still a learning process for me. Most of the equipment we bought has good technical assistance, though." Katie Strobel uses the LT55 laser templator from laser products, which she feels was a big help when working on a recent $6 million yacht. "Boats have different radii and angles, so we were able to capture that with the LT55," she said. Coverall Interiors also recently worked on NFL player Lawyer Malloy's home.
The company serves the entire state of Washington, with principal markets in the greater Seattle area, and the southern portion of the state as well as high-end homes in the north. Ed Strobel explained that in the more upscale areas, the company mainly installs travertine countertops and floors, marble in fireplaces and bathrooms, and has also seen a market for granite in outdoor barbecues.
"By making the switch, in the last year, to laser digitizing and CNC technology we are achieving our goal of being more efficient," he said.
Type of work: high-end kitchens and architectural stonework
Machinery: Prussiani Energia Plus 3 axis CNC stoneworking center from IGE Solutions of Jupiter, FL; GMM Litox 5 axis CNC bridge saw from Salem Stone of Winston, NC; Marmoelettromeccanica Master 3500 portable router from Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA; overhead crane system with a Wood's Powr-Grip vacuum lifter; Laser Products LT-55 laser templator and an Allen Datagraph i template maker 30 vinyl cutter for templates
Number of Employees: five fabricators; two installation crews (one in house, one subbed out); 11 total employees
Production Rate: four to fives kitchens a week, with capacity for four to five a day