Since opening La Pietra Tile & Stone in 2002, Fabio Figueiredo has immersed himself in the stone industry. The family run company started out as a small warehouse in Danbury, CT, and today operates out of a 10,000-square-foot facility in Brookfield, CT — specializing in upscale, custom, residential projects. Through the years, La Pietra Tile & Stone has kept an emphasis on high quality and customer service, which has proven to be the key to a successful business.
Stone World visited La Pietra back in 2011. At the time, Figueiredo explained an assignment in his high school marketing class initially sparked his interest in the stone industry. “I did a whole project about bringing in slabs and wholesaling them,” he said. “I have some family that is in the granite quarrying business down in Brazil.”
With the assistance of his father and sister, Figueiredo began importing small containers of stone slabs and then in 2007 expanded to fabrication. In addition to him, his father and sister, there was only a cutter and polisher at the onset — quite a difference from the staff of 48 that is currently in place.
“We have grown a lot,” said Figueiredo. “It’s a completely different shop. We doubled in size. We took a different approach. We closed a showroom that wasn’t performing and opened a new one in a more high-end area. We completely shifted our company goal.
“We tried to diversify our customer base,” the fabricator went on to say. “We work with some national builders that provide high volume, but they don’t have the same possibilities of working with designers and architects. We have become known for our quality.” Figueiredo explained while the shop concentrates on higher-end jobs, it throws the builder projects into the mix to keep busy.
“I belong to a group of fabricators through Park [Industries] that meets every year,” said Figueiredo. “We find too much of one thing isn’t always the greatest. It’s a mix.”
Investing in the shop
Once La Pietra Tile & Stone was set on the path of fabrication, it purchased a CMS/Brembana Maxima 5 CNC stoneworking center. This past April, the company invested in a Titan CNC stoneworking center from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN.
“The Titan is a great machine,” said Figueiredo. “It’s easy to operate. Park has great training if you have the right person. I can’t say enough about them. When it came down to talking to people who have machinery, hands down it is Park. Through them I have met a group of fabricators. We meet and talk. We benchmark. It is good to sit down and tackle problems and see how they handle them.”
Additionally, the shop houses a Park Fusion 4045 saw/waterjet with Slabsmith technology from Northwood Designs of Antwerp, NY. “I’m very into technology,” said Figueiredo. “As soon as Slabsmith came out it was my number one goal to get it, but I didn’t want to do it with a regular bridge saw. It can’t be as accurate. So I decided to do it when we bought the Fusion.
“It was really a game changer,” Figueiredo went on to say. “We can accurately show a customer how a kitchen would work. It took out the stress. Sometimes you have a client who forgets how it looks. Now you have it to show them. I think it is a great tool. It adds a little more work, but can deliver better quality. Not so many fabricators by us have it. Customers are surprised to see it.”
Along the lines of technology, the company also made the switch to digital templating in recent years. “The Proliner has made the biggest difference,” said Figueiredo. “We took demos with other machines and found it worked the best for us.” According to Figueiredo, La Pietra Tile & Stone uses two Proliners and has two templators.
The company primarily purchases its tools and accessories from GranQuartz, based in Tucker, GA. “The guys from GranQuartz are always here. They are very easy to work with. They set up tooling and even trouble shoot.”
Following the trend
Figueiredo explained the company sees a high demand for quartz products and marble. “We are working a lot with quartzite and marble,” he said. “I feel bad for some Brazilian suppliers. They used to sell so much yellow granites, but we don’t do it as much anymore. It’s a lot of whites and grays, and they are some pretty difficult stones to fabricate. We have been able to master them, and we miter everything and anything. Back in 2011, we had about 10 mitering jobs the whole year. This month alone we had 30.”
The fabricator said he is finding his customers are very design oriented. “Everything now is clean lines,” he said.
To maintain a successful business, Figueiredo believes it is important to stay on top of things. “During the recession, all of us were just trying to get by — turning things over at a low profit just to keep the lights on. Now the economy is better. Everyone should know their numbers. Our number one goal is to be a profitable company. We want to have better employees and better pay, and to focus on quality.
“White marble has jumped in price,” continued the fabricator. “We recently did a Calacatta Borghini in New York City for a beautiful penthouse apartment. It was a tricky stone. If we don’t price it correctly, we can be in trouble if a slab breaks. You have got to cover yourself. We are willing to walkway from a job. We are busy. We don’t need any headaches.”
According to Figueiredo, the company’s inventory has doubled since Stone World last visited. “We still do a lot of natural stone, but we also work with Dekton and Neolith,” he said, adding 60% of its stock is natural stone while the other 40% is quartz. “Neolith is fairly easy to work with. We had some rough patches with Dekton. It’s a very hard material. You also have to take into account it probably takes four times the time than to do the same project in natural stone. We have to make sure we price it correctly.”
According to Figueiredo, La Pietra Tile & Stone recently did a rooftop of a residential building with Dekton. “No other product could take the UV light,” he said. “More A&D community is asking for it.”
La Pietra Tile & Stone takes time to educate its customers. “As we know, stone is very fragile and things happen,” said Figueiredo. “We have seen everything. We try to prepare ourselves for the worst. Educating customers is important. We find suppliers are calling everything a quartzite. Customers come in with the idea they are strong and don’t etch. As a fabricator, you better test the stone and know about the stone you are going to work with. Once it is cut, customers will be calling you and not the supplier. Customers can have selective hearing. You better have a contract. People don’t like paperwork, but it is everything you need to save your company’s reputation.
Figueiredo went on to explain that his company tries to provide product knowledge for its own sales staff. “The MIA+BSI has a great program for CEU. It’s a great way to interact with the A&D community. You can also educate your own people with those presentations.”
La Pietra Tile & Stone
Type of Work: Primarily high-end residential, some home building
Machinery: a CMS/Brembana Maxima 5 CNC stoneworking center; a Titan CNC stoneworking center and a Fusion 4045 saw/waterjet — both from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN; Slabsmith technology from Northwood Designs of Antwerp, NY; two Proliners from Prodim USA of Ft. Pierce, FL; tools and accessories from GranQuartz, based in Tucker, GA, and Braxton-Bragg of Knoxville, TN
Number of Employees: 48