While living in Bagdad, Iraq, Hikmet Pauls owned a factory that specialized in manufacturing terrazzo tile. When he moved to California, he used his experience and knowledge to start a career in the stone industry. After several years of working for a stone fabricator, Pauls opened his own fabrication shop, Marjan Stone, in San Diego, CA.

When I came to the U.S. in 1998, my family, my wife’s family and a lot of my community were already in San Diego,” said Pauls. “It made sense to be close to them. I applied for work at a stone fabrication company in San Diego, and they hired me the same day because of my previous experience. I worked there as an estimator, sales person and quality controller for about three to four years, and then I started my own business.”

Since first opening the doors at Marjan Stone, the business has grown tremendously over the years. Five years ago, the company purchased an 18,000-square-foot building to house its operation. John Grossaint, general manager of Marjan Stone, explained they took their time to move in. “We didn’t rush,” he said. “We researched how to set up. We put in an overhead crane. It took longer, but we evolved since then. Hikmet and I decided certain things depending on the way the industry was going.”

According to Pauls, one of the biggest differences from when Marjan Stone was first established to now is the conversion to a digital shop. “That was a big change — starting from digital templating to the first waterjet and then the CNC, and then the Robotic Jet Saw, including the Slabsmith,” he said. “You feel in control of your time and quality.”

Investing in a Robotic Saw Jet

The newest addition to the machinery line-up is a six-axis Robotic Saw Jet from Northwood of Louisville, KY. Marjan Stone is the first fabrication shop on the West Coast to have the machine installed.

“When I decided to purchase a jet saw, I wanted to get something new and powerful,” said Pauls. “I found myself attracted to the robotic technology that gives me what I wanted. Since we do a lot of mitering edges in our California 2 cm market, I could not find a robot machine that miters in addition to standard cut other than the Northwood one. Northwood has been in business for a long enough time and has the experience to get my trust to purchase their new machine, which was the first one to be installed in California and in the West Coast area. By having this machine with two tables, it enables us to cut an average of 15 slabs in one eight-hour day. That is huge in terms of speed that we are looking for.”

Grossaint explained that purchasing the Robotic Jet Saw has been an experiment, but they have been satisfied with the results. “Northwood has been very good working with us,” he said. “We are in a relationship with them to make it work. We also love Slabsmith, which Northwood included it in our package.”

According to Grossaint, Marjan Stone has been heavily promoting its new Robotic Jet Saw to builders. “We are slowing getting rid of our other machines,” he said.

Additional machinery is needed in the production process, so the shop is also equipped with a Titan CNC stoneworking center and Fastback edge polisher — both from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN, two EnviroSystems for recycling water from Water Treatment Solutions of Hampton, NH, and an air compressor from KMT of Baxter Springs, KS.

“With the EnviroSystems, we filter water down to almost clean,” said Grossaint. “We use minimal street water.”

The company has also been using Moraware for almost five years. “I love how it works,” said Grossaint. “I would love to have everything on Moraware. Right now we have about 75%.”

Branching out into new areas

Grossaint explained that as of seven years ago 75% of Marjan Stone’s business was retail and the other 25% was builders. “Now we do commercial and work for kitchen and bath dealers,” he said, adding the company’s market is primarily on the West Coast. “We believe in creating bigger slices of the pie. Diversification is important to survive. During the recession, we got real price conscious and that kept us going.

“The commercial side is extremely competitive,” Grossaint went on to say. “I never say no. We pride ourselves on a seven- to 10-day working turn.” He explained the company also has formed a partnership with JG Edelen Company Inc. out of Baltimore, MD, doing all their domestic hotel renovation work in the U.S. Another transition Marjan Stone has undergone is its social media strategies. “We used to do seven home shows a year,” said Grossaint, adding it has proven successful for the company. “Now, we put that money into social media instead,” Being conscious of design trends has also led Marjan Stone to become a certified fabricator of Dekton by Cosentino, Lapitc and Neolith by TheSize. “It is becoming very popular and you cannot not do it,” said Grossaint, who added 75% of the company’s business is now quartz, while the other 25% is natural stone. “I believe quartz is going to be a trend for a longtime.” Marjan Stone purchases its material primarily from Arizona Tile and M S International.

Valuing employees

When Marjan Stone first started it had a staff of 15. Today it has grown to include approximately 35 employees. “No matter what you do, business is about people,” said Grossaint.

“At Marjan Stone, we trust our employees and treat them with respect, as if they are family members,” said Hikmet. “Building a healthy work environment is a key issue in finding and keeping good employees. We strive to keep this environment as high as possible.”

To attract dedicated and loyal employees, the company offers health insurance, 401K and a vacation program. “We believe that the best employees are the one who started from scratch and learned their way up over the years,” said Hikmet. “As far as training goes, each new employee gets enough training from his manager during the first three months. I personally train any new measurer for at least three weeks to make sure he understands the new system at Marjan Stone and gets enough training from me for such an important job in our trade.”

When looking to the future, Marjan Stone continues to plan ways to expand and evolve. “After establishing the best machines and having a good size space in the shop to produce more, I have plans to double our sales and production in the next 12 months, and reach a goal of $12 million in sales by the end of 2019,” said Hikmet. “I’m basing these short- and long-term goals on one important fact — giving great customer service, becoming a great company to work for and to buy from. It is not based on mere numbers of sales.”