For Andy Kamaratos, the path to the foundation of Akropolis Marble and Granite Imports in Southeastern Pennsylvania was somewhat of a circular route. Born in Greece, he literally grew up around the stone trade, as his father owned a marble mine. However, upon coming to the U.S., Kamaratos went into the restaurant business, and it was this line of work that ultimately led him “back” into the stone industry.
“We needed stone tabletops for our restaurant, and I really wasn’t happy with the people in our area who were selling them at the time,” Kamaratos said. “Either they were raising their prices, or they couldn’t do what they said they could do. So in 1996, I got out of the restaurant business with a plan to sell tabletops to the restaurant industry. I saw a building for rent in Norristown, PA, and decided to lease it. Then I purchased a track saw and started making tables. From there, we moved into countertops for restaurants and then kitchens.
The commercial work has kept the shop busy during the recession, and today Akropolis Marble and Granite Imports is based in Colmar, PA, where it opened a new facility in July of 2008. The building has a 10,000-square-foot fabrication shop and 20,000 square feet of space in all, which affords the company some room to grow over time.
Technology investmentsOne of the latest investments for Akropolis has been a RoboCut twin-table robotic saw/waterjet combination from USG Robotics of Crystal Lake, IL, which revolutionized the company’s production. “We started running it in January of 2009, and if we branched out, we would buy another,” said Tom Shannon, who joined Akropolis six years ago. “Three different people here can run the machine. One of our employees went to USG Robotics’ facility in Chicago for training, but it’s not tough to learn.”
The RoboCut utilizes a pump and cutting nozzle from KMT Waterjet Systems of Baxter Springs, KS, and it also includes USG Robotics’ Vein-Match system. This program allows workers and customers to see the design of a kitchen on PC and see how the pieces will line up according to the veining of the material.
Slabs and finished pieces are maneuvered around the shop using a Gorbel crane system, which is equipped with vacuum lifters from Wood’s Powr-Grip of Laurel, MT.
The vast majority of the company’s projects (90%) are templated using the Prodim Proliner system from Prodim USA of Vero Beach, FL. The company has two templaters on staff, one of whom also completes other tasks as needed.
Jobs are tracked using a Web-based program from Aegis Logistics, which allows customers to check the status of a project online. The program tracks templating, fabrication, installation and all service calls.
Structure and marketingThe company has averaged 1,900 square feet of production per week in recent times, an improvement over earlier this year. There are currently 30 people working for the company, which is down from its pre-recession peak. “New construction was one-third of our business, and it just evaporated,” Shannon said. “It is just coming back now. We were able to get through on large commercial jobs. We did hotels in Manhattan, and the large casino job at Dover Downs. At the time we got those jobs, we thought they would be gravy, but that’s what helped us get through.”
In addition to kitchen countertops, the company supplies vanities, tilework, thresholds and mosaics, among other architectural features. It also supplies large-scale waterjet-cut patterns, such as the one found at Dover Downs.
A total of 80% of the company’s projects come within 20 miles of its location in Southeastern Pennsylvania. This includes the Allentown and Bethelem regions as well as Bucks County.
Prior to the recession, Akropolis imported 75% of its material directly in containers. “But since the recession hit, the distributors lowered their prices,” Shannon said. “That has stabilized a bit, and now we have more containers on the water. We also send our customers out to local slab yards when they are looking for certain exotics. I would say that 15% of our work right now is in exotics.”
Among its marketing tools, Akropolis Marble & Granite Imports has implemented an interactive Web site - www.akropolismarble.com - which has led to a consistent amount of work.
Sidebar: Akropolis Marble & Granite ImportsColmar, PA
Type of work: kitchen countertops and commercial work, including intricate medallions
Machinery: a RoboCut twin-table robotic saw/waterjet combination from USG Robotics of Crystal Lake, IL, which utilizes a pump and cutting nozzle from KMT Waterjet Systems of Baxter Springs, KS; a GMM Lexta 36 bridge saw and a Montresor Lola 40S straight edge-polishing machine, both of which are serviced by Salem Stone of Winston-Salem, NC; Marmoelettromeccanica Master 3500 hand routers; Gorbel overhead crane system with vacuum lifters from Wood’s Powr-Grip of Laurel, MT; Prodim Proliner templating systems from Prodim USA of Vero Beach, FL
Number of Employees: 30