We are now in the final stretch of 2015, and looking back, it seems it was a pretty good year. Signs of recovery are evident. Fabricators are telling me they are busy, machinery manufacturers are selling equipment and the three major trade shows I attended this year had reported increased attendance over their 2014 edition. In fact, Marmomacc, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, received 3% more visitors than last year. (A full rundown on the international stone event begins on page 46 of this issue of Stone World.)

From talking with fabricators over the years, it seems that those who survived (or at least hung on) during the recession did so because they were open to diversification. They realized quickly that they couldn’t put all their eggs in one basket, so to speak. For some, this meant cutting more quartz surfacing, while for others it meant working with Big Box stores. And those who provide quality customer service definitely stand out from the rest. Word of mouth and customer referrals are key, so it is important to offer a client an environment where they feel comfortable and trust a high level of service will be provided.     

Finding a niche for their business was an important survival tool for many fabricators during the downturn. And some fabricators had to make tough decisions when it came to moving forward or closing up shop. This was the case for Michael Amendola of Infinity Stone, whose story begins on page 38.

Amendola started working at his family’s stone shop, Amendola Marble and Stone, Inc. in White Plains, NY, when he was 12 years old. I had actually visited there to write an article back in 2008. At that time, I also wrote about the family’s second business, Custom Counters, Inc. in Wolcott, CT. Back then, the Connecticut location was set-up for mass production.

As you will read in this issue’s Fabricator Case Study, Amendola’s family closed the Wolcott business in 2008 when the economy started to head south. But in 2010, he reopened the shop and slowly grew the business over the next five years. With a passion for custom work, he has gradually carved a niche for Infinity Stone -- the company’s current name. The staff has increased from five when it was initially reopened to 21, which was about the size of the original company.

“A lot of companies in the past were not able to diversify themselves, and that’s where they got hurt,” said Amendola. “So one segment we have may be slow, and one client may put you in a bad position, but that’s why you need to have different revenue streams.”

In the next edition, Stone World once again will kick the year off with its annual Fabricator Market Forecast. This report is always a good gauge as to how the coming year looks. Stay tuned to see how many shops are planning on expansion and how they feel their businesses did in 2015.

I hope everyone enjoys the holiday season with family and friends. And one last thing, in case you were wondering, there isn’t a new Stone World editor. I got married in October, which is the reason for the name change. You can now reach me at: richinellij@bnpmedia.com, with any news, projects or other information you would like to share.