One of the biggest lessons learned by fabricators from the 2008 recession was that a business must be adaptable. Some changed their target market; others changed the foundation of their business. For Stone Restoration of America, located in Charlotte, NC, the company changed entirely. “A small group of us originally started in 1993 just polishing marble floors,” said John Lambert, president of Stone Restoration of America. “As we started to build a reputation in the area, people would ask us to do more. We went from one employee, all the way up to 120 employees. We also went from fabricating kitchen countertops to now providing services for maintaining buildings and parking decks, as well as having the capacity to perform waterproofing and restoration for large capital projects.”
Right before the economic downturn, the Charlotte market was flooded with fabricators that it didn’t make sense for Stone Restoration of America to continue fabricating kitchens. While fabrication isn’t the focus of its business, it still has six workers on staff who can fabricate. “Recently we finished, and were nominated for a Trinity Waterproofing Award from SWRI for a 25,000-square-foot granite plaza at Two Wells Fargo Center,” said Lambert. “We had to de-clad and waterproof the existing plaza, planters and old water features of the center. All the granite, about 5,000 pieces, had to be removed in-tact, labeled for location and stored off-site due to limited jobsite space. Because some pieces broke and some other work had to be done, we still had to fabricate 6,000 square feet.” The granite used for the project was supplied by Coldspring of Cold Spring, MN.
The six fabricators that Stone Restoration of America has are cross trained so that the majority of their time is in the field as stone setters. The company has 11 restoration crews, all varying in size up to 30 people large, as well as having six additional maintenance crews.
When fabrication is needed, the company does the majority of it by hand using its Denver bridge saw. “We have a lot of skilled guys that can do everything by hand,” said Lambert. “They can do rough cut, a lot of good router work, and grind and polish.” The company also does a significant amount of stone polishing work each month. Depending on how busy it is, it will polish 30 to 50 thousand square feet.
Stone Restoration of America does a great deal of work in the field and repair work. The company uses tooling and accessories from Stoneway Supply, located in Pineville, NC; sealers from Prosoco, located in Lawrence, KS; as well as Aqua Mix and Tenax, located in Charlotte, NC. Additionally, they rely on Daltile as a source of stone and tile, among other suppliers.
The Charlotte facility, where Stone Restoration of America is based, is a 25,000-square-foot area. The company also has a satellite office in Raleigh and one coming to Myrtle Beach, which is anticipated to be 3,000 square feet. “We are licensed in the two Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia,” said Lambert. “Our business grew 58% last year and a big part of that is the beach business which is starting to grow.” While the company has no real stone inventory, they do a lot of stone matching for their restoration projects. “We are fortunate to have a lot of resources for when it comes to matching stone on a restoration project,” said Lambert. “We have samples everywhere that are usually pretty close, and we have guys who have been in the business long enough to look at a stone and know what it is and where we can get it.” Because of the invaluable knowledge his employees have, Lambert has a strong employee retention rate and is fortunate to have people wanting to work for him. “You can see it all around, and I think all businesses see it, there is a shortage of skill workers out there, who can do what we can do,” said Lambert. “We have a retention rate of seven to 10 years for our employees. I believe a lot in giving our employees good benefits and a profit sharing program. As far as training new employees, our approach is to have a steady mix of inexperienced workers with experienced workers and giving them on-the-job training. We believe it’s the best way to train a new employee and to understand they may make mistakes, but you have to work with them. We have also been very fortunate that a lot of people want to work for us.”
According to Lambert, the company is looking to grow on its previous year’s success and keep adding new projects to work on. “For the next five years, we just want to keep adding more projects to have more stability and be poised for even more growth,” he said.
Stone Restoration of America
Type of Work: Stone restoration
Machinery: Denver Bridgesaw
Number of Employees: 120