Three short years later, The Stone Shop — located in Ankeny, IA — is quickly growing market share and has become one of the premier fabricators in the state of Iowa. “We have had to learn a lot of things the hard way, but we have been very blessed to be surrounded by a talented team and my family,” said Briles. “My grandfather and father-in-law came out of retirement to help me build what we have today. We are a family business built on the core values that my grandfather taught me over 16 years ago. We do our best to treat every one of our customers and employees as just another member of the family.”
When Briles started his company, he needed a fuel-efficient car to drive to jobsites to template. “My shop manager, Dale, and I noticed that every other company used a white van with a logo on it,” explained Briles. “So we purchased a blue Chevy HHR and made our logo white. From that point forward, we have painted [our vans] navy blue and put white logos on everything to make them look like driving billboards everywhere they go. I ask people where they heard of me and they will say, ‘We see your advertising and billboards everywhere.’ I have one billboard. They see my trucks, and it sticks in their mind.
The Stone Shop
Type of work: residential, retail and high-end custom building
Machinery: a 5-axis Combicut, a CNC Counterbreton NC300 K40 Robocup router and a Easyedge vertical edge polisher — all from Breton of Italy; CNC tooling from Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA; a 2D3D and LT-55 digital templating systems from Laser Products of Romeoville, IL
Number of team members: 31
Production rate: 35 kitchens a week, with the minimum kitchen size being 30 to 40 square feet
“My competition spends their advertising dollars on print media and TV that shows kitchens they have done,” Briles went on to say. “Everyone knows what kitchen countertops can look like. We use social media to build relationships and relate to possible customers. In today’s market, clients are going to look at Facebook and see what their friends are saying. They are going to look at their Instagram. Currently, The Stone Shop has a Facebook following around 10,500.”
The Stone Shop manufactures granite, marble, quartz and dimensional limestone, and it controls all aspects of its business with a software program called “MyStoneShop.” It tracks everything from shop labor and install time to how many tubes of caulking go out. “We plan on releasing it to the public in the next couple months, and it will change the way granite companies do business,” said Briles.
Recently, the shop purchased all brand new Breton machinery, including the new 5-axis Combicut, the CNC Counterbreton NC300 K40 Robocup and the Easyedge vertical edge polisher. “Going from a complete hand shop to a complete digital shop in four months has had its challenges, but Breton’s customer service has been top notch,” said Briles, adding they buy all their CNC tooling from Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA. “We are very analytical, we analyze everything to see what gets the best production versus dollars versus life of the tool. When we started, we did a lot of straight polish edges. I would say 70% of our basic work is straight polish edge, aside from our custom work. We get about four weeks of life out of the Marmo Tool and around 7,000 to 8,000 linear feet running about 300 inches a minute. I was very doubtful, but Scott at Regent Products is very knowledgeable, and they stand behind their products.”
All of the shop’s water is run through a water treatment system from Beckart Environmental of Kenosha, WA. “It is one of the best investments we have made,” said Briles. “John Carter with Beckhart has really shown us the value in that machine.”
The company receives some of its material from Cereser. “We had looked long and hard to find a company that provides good material,” said Briles. “We were kind of new to importing, and when we did our first import, we were very leery for many reasons. We had never done it before. It’s a very scary process, and Beau [from Cereser] made it very easy, and literally when you unload those slabs, you can tell the difference, it almost puts the rest of my slabs to shame. Customers can walk up and see the difference; I won’t even point anything out.”
The Stone Shop has 23 employees, running one shift and four install crews. Workers utilize Laser Products 2D3D and the LT-55 digital templating systems, and they also do 3D layouts of all their slabs.
Primarily, The Stone Shop’s work comprises retail, residential and high-end custom builders all over Iowa. The company averages 35 kitchens per week, with the minimum kitchen size being 30 to 40 square feet.
Currently, the facility is 22,000 square feet, and Briles hopes to expand it soon. “Our short-term goal is to keep raising the bar with every piece of stone we produce,” he said. “Our long-term goal is to maintain our tradition of excellence that has been passed on through the generations.”