A genuine passion for stone and its fabrication for one’s home is what started Portugal native John Antunes (President) on his path to provide the highest quality materials available with the best craftsmanship possible. He entered into the stone business on Long Island, NY, in 1981, when he opened his first fabrication shop known as Distinctive Granite and Marble. This family-owned and operated fabrication plant was built from the ground up by him and his wife Alice (Vice President). After 13 years in New York, John had a desire to expand the business.

Recognizing the growth and quality of homes in the Carolina area (more specifically the Low Country region) he decided to pick up and move his family to South Carolina, where he opened his second fabrication shop on Hilton Head Island in 1994. Additional Distinctive showrooms soon followed: Hilton Head Island (managed by John’s daughter, Andrea Antunes-McGilton); Ridgeland, SC; where the expanded shop currently resides, Beaufort, SC; and Pooler, GA. Additionally, John Antunes remains a 51% owner of Distinctive Granite and Marble in New York.

Ultimately, Antunes decided to expand his distribution of stone as a wholesaler while maintaining the fabrication as well. In 1996, AGM Imports (which stands for Antunes Granite & Marble), opened on Hilton Head Island. Over the past decades, he has built many international connections, maintaining a vast knowledge of stone. He has traveled to over a dozen countries for purchases each year, enabling him to have purchasing power and selection of premium first-quality stone.

Fast delivery and quick service to fabricators all over the Southeastern U.S. made it necessary for expansion, maintaining a large inventory closer to those fabricators that are located outside its initial location. AGM added three additional warehouses by the end of 2005 in Norcross, GA; Charlotte, NC; and Charleston, SC (where his son, John J. Antunes is the location manager as well as Inventory Purchasing Manager for all of AGM and Distinctive).

Logistics to process and deliver inbound containers — coupled with continued growth — presented AGM Imports the opportunity to build a 100,000-square-foot warehouse in Hardeeville, SC (just off Hilton Head Island and near the Georgia port). Today, AGM is the largest wholesaler of imported granite and related products in the Southeast U.S.,  offering over 20,000 slabs in more than 250 varieties.

Texturing stone slabs

When the trend turned in heavy favor of textured stones, Antunes saw a chance to become the industry’s leader for delivering customers this unique style. AGM Imports invested in a state-of-the art, Italian-made Breton line polisher for is Hardeeville, SC, location. It weighs in at a massive 20,000 pounds and uses 15,000 gallons of water per slab to create the leather finish. The Breton not only creates a leathered finish on a slab of granite, it can also hone, polish and even repair material.

On the environmental side, the machine uses six individual filtration tanks to recycle 100% of the water used in the eco-friendly leathering process. The water starts in a 10,000-gallon underground tank located outside of the AGM warehouse. It then passes through three individual tanks before it goes into the filter press. The filter press is where the water becomes cleaner than standard drinking water. The water then goes into the Breton slab line, where it is used along with 13 motors with six brushes to continually grind and wash every slab sent through to create the leather texture. When it filters out of the machine, the water runs back into the underground tank and cycles again.

The entire leathering process takes about 15 minutes from start to finish, as compared to one to two days when done by hand.

The process features an optimum level of automation, as each slab is placed on an automated ramp at the start of the process. This ramp lowers the slab onto a conveyor belt, which in turn takes it into the body of the machine, where it is grinded with the motors and water.

After the finish is applied, the slab is dried by a fan that is similar to a car wash dryer, and once it is dried, it is placed on another automatic ramp to be inspected by the craftsmen at AGM before being removed from the machine.

Antunes acquired the Breton for the purpose of creating the leather and honed texture on slabs for Distinctive and other local fabricators around the AGM warehouses. However, with rising popularity of the textured finish, AGM’s Hardeeville facility offers their fellow wholesalers the opportunity to leather or hone their inventory. The company will service any company in the Southeast area of the U.S. — from Charlotte, NC, to Jacksonville, FL. For more information, visit agmimports.com.