Watermark Design Tech-nologies of Tampa, FL, is co-owned and operated by John-Paul Plazza, who grew up in the industry as his family ran a company called Tile World of Italy. Today, Plazza’s shop, which was established earlier this year with co-owner Joseph Kinsel is equipped with a variety of state-of-the-art equipment, enabling the company to produce an average of 10 kitchens a week. With the addition of new machinery in the near future, the company hopes to substantially increase its current production rate.
As a small child in elementary school, Plazza would help out around his parents’ shop, and after high school he signed on as a full-time employee. Then, from 1990 to 2006, he served as shop manager for the company before setting out on his own. In January of 2007, he and Kinsel, who also worked at Tile World of Italy, decided to begin their own company, and thus, Watermark Design Technologies was born.
Currently, the company operates two separate departments - a waterjet division for producing medallions and inlays, and a fabrication division for countertops. The 3,000-square-foot waterjet division is equipped with a HammerHead™ waterjet from Calypso Waterjet Systems, Inc. of Dallas, TX, as well as a Luciano Biacchi radial arm polisher, which was purchased from Eastern Marble and Granite Supply Inc. of Scotch Plains, NJ.
“Joseph and I were used to working with the HammerHead because that is what we used at Tile World of Italy,” said the fabricator. “We also liked the idea that it was American made, and that Calypso had a local office right in Tampa to help us if the machine went down. Joseph and another employee, Carmine Caporazo, were trained and certified by Calypso to fix the machines as well.”
Currently, the 3,000-square-foot fabrication facility houses an Emmedue Astra bridge saw as well as hand polishers and grinders from GranQuartz of Tucker, GA. “The bridge saw is what is getting the work done,” said Plazza, adding that his background was in the fabrication end. “We bought it as a necessity to get the shop going.”
Today, the company’s production comprises 75% cut-to-size work and 25% medallions, but Plazza hopes to be at 50/50 within the next few months. “We work with a lot of contractors, which we classify as interior designers, builders, architects and other fabricators,” he explained. “We work with mostly granite and marble to produce residential kitchen countertops and vanity tops, but we also do some commercial work like countertops for office complexes or restaurants. We have also done some exterior cladding for office buildings on occasion.” A recent example of commercial work can be found at the Peppin Distributing facility, which is a Budweiser distributor in the U.S. For hHthis project, the waterjet division completed medallion work.
The company currently employs a staff of 20, including both the waterjet and fabrication divisions, as well as office personnel and outside sales people. “We do have a training program, but we haven’t implemented it yet,” said Plazza. “Right now, how we hire is basically from people that are moving on from other shops and looking for a better working environment and more money. We hire people with experience, and actually, the two waterjet operators we have in place are people I had brought with me from Tile World of Italy when I left - one of which was co-owner Joseph Kinsel.”
Plazza finds that the competition is a common problem in the Tampa area, considering the amount of fabrication shops in operation. “We really have to be perfect and maintain strong quality to stand out in this area,” he said, adding that there are approximately 60 other stone fabrication shops nearby. “Promptness is also a key issue. You have to set a timeframe and deliver within that. In Tampa, the standard turnaround time is two weeks.”
The company is now purchasing slabs from several local suppliers, but hopes to begin buying overseas once the company is more established. Within the next six months to a year, the company plans to invest in a Park Industries edge polisher and an inline edge polisher as well as a second bridge saw.