In this issue ofStone World, we are featuring three unique Fabricator Case Studies, covering shops in New Jersey, Minnesota and Ohio. All three of these shops are family-owned and operated, and while that fact is certainly not unique among North American stone fabricators, their individual stories each offer a lesson on rallying in the face of an adverse economy.

Our Fabricator Case Studies begin on page 46 of this issue, with an article on Stoneshop of Cherry Hill, NJ, which is owned by Linda and Steve Stelmaszyk. The couple had operated Westwood Tile & Stone for more than 25 years before selling the company in the mid-2000s with the intention of retiring. However, when the shop closed down in 2010, the Stelmaszyk got back into the game — purchasing much of the equipment and re-opening the facility under the name Stoneshop. They also brought back many of the original employees. Today, Stoneshop is a well-run fabrication facility, tile showroom and stone gallery.

“Little by little, we hired people back, and we started visiting our old clients,” Linda Stelmaszyk explained. “This year, business has been really good. We are right where we need to be. We have a different mindset now. It is a different kind of success we want. We’ve got our reputation back and good people to run the company, and we don’t have any debt. We haven’t changed our position or our premise; we still believe customers want a quality product from a company they can trust in the long run.”

In our next Fabricator Case Study (page 60), our coverage moves to Minnesota, where the Dale family recently opened a state-of-the art facility — Minnesota Tile & Stone (MTS) in Minnetonka, MN — under the Dale Tile Co. umbrella. Established in 1930, the company’s roots stem to the Great Depression, and the current generation of the Dale family is continuing its fighting spirit. “The most recent recession has taken away about half the business of the company and I thought ‘Oh, the heck with it, I’ve got to do something for this business and pursue the acquisition,’ “ explained company owner Alan Dale, adding he envisioned a facility that would house a tile and stone retailer along with a fabrication facility.

After being open for a few months, Dale is looking for steady, managed growth in the future. “With the new design studio and increased fabrication capacity, our challenge is to grow our business in a manner that is systematic, orderly and customer-friendly,” he said. “The economy is showing improvement, and our business is growing, so now we are positioned to take advantage of a growing economy and add market share.”

Our third case study focuses on The Countertop Shop in Holland, OH, a stone fabrication operation which caters to the residential market (page 74). For more than 20 years, company owners Mike and Karen Langenderfer operated their own business, and they moved into countertop fabrication a little more than a decade ago.

Since that time, the Langenderfers have fostered their business through steady investment in technology — including acquisitions made during the toughest times of the recession.

“In 2007, we added a Park Destiny CNC [equipped with ADI Ultra High Speed CNC tooling from GranQuartz and vacuum pods from Blick Industries],” said Mike Langenderfer. Three years later, the company switched to a LT-55 Laser Templator from Laser Products Industries of Romeoville, IL. More recently, the company replaced its bridge saw with a Park Fusion bridge saw/waterjet earlier this year.

“Each upgrade increased our capacity and allowed us to increase sales,” Langenderfer said. “The bridge saw/waterjet alone has increased our production by over 30%.”

As our industry continues to emerge from the recession, we look forward to sharing more of these success stories in the pages of Stone World.