Chester A. Smith: A Long-Time Player in the Stone Industry
With a history dating back to 1928, the family-run business of Chester A. Smith, Inc. is steeped in history. The company, along with eight others, was a founding member of the Marble Institute of America (MIA) when it was formed in 1944 and today is listed as “Member #7” in the MIA Directory. The fabrication business, which is based in Columbus, OH, has transitioned through the decades and today it primarily caters to the residential market.
“Chester A. Smith started out as a draftsman in 1912 working at a couple marble companies until 1928 when he started Chester A. Smith, Inc. doing ceramic tile and marble installations for mostly commercial projects like schools and banks,” explained current company president, Jeff Johnston. “In 1939, Mr. Smith bought Detroit Marble so he could fabricate marble pieces and hauled them back to Columbus, OH, for the commercial projects his company was installing. In 1946, Mr. Smith then opened a shop at our current location in Columbus, OH, and shortly thereafter sold the shop in Detroit. After moving the shop to Columbus, he continued doing commercial projects and also many residential projects. In 1959, Mr. Smith’s son, Paul Smith, became president of the company. The company slowly got away from commercial installations and the focus became more on custom fabrication for primarily residential projects. I am Paul Smith’s son-in-law and I’ve worked at the company nearly 30 years and in 2011 became president.”
While Chester A. Smith is currently run by Johnston, Paul Smith remains a principal owner along with Leslie Smith and Stephanie Smith Johnston. The company operates out of an 8,000-square-foot office and fabrication shop, which includes an additional 4,000 square feet of warehouse space and outdoor slab yard. Fabrication focuses on marble, granite, slate and engineered quartz products. In total, the company staff includes 10 to 11 employees — four in the office and six to seven in the shop, along with one installation crew.
The fabrication shop is equipped with a GMM Brio bridge saw, a Gregori bridge saw and a Tysaman bridge saw; two radial arm face polishers for honing and repolishing pieces; a Hercules router and wet polishers; and Makita grinders. When it comes to templating, Chester A. Smith relies on plywood strips and currently has no plans to purchase any digital templating equipment.
The bulk of the company’s market is high-end custom residential — primarily kitchen and bath countertops – for local custom builders and remodelers. On average, the fabrication shop produces three to five kitchens per week, as well as other counters such as vanity tops, bar tops, etc. A typical kitchen size requires two to three slabs with a finished square footage of 65 to 100 square feet, according to Johnston. “Many kitchens we fabricate have specialty edging such as mitered 2- to 2 ½-inch-thick edges, or
6 cm molded edging” he said. “We also fabricate numerous honed marble and honed and leathered granite tops.” In addition to the residential market, Chester A. Smith also fabricates custom commercial projects such as lobby reception counters. “Our goal is to always provide a high-quality product — giving high customer service to all our customers while specializing in the high-end custom market,” explained Johnston.
As an added convenience for its customers, Chester A. Smith offers several lines of sinks. “Most of our customers purchase their own sinks through their plumbing contractor, but about six to seven years ago we started to offer sinks we purchase through a local distributor and also imported ceramic bathroom sinks we purchase through another local distributor,” said Johnston. “We started to sell these sinks since we are able to resell them at a small profit, and it also provides a convenience to some of our customers. We do not typically offer free sinks and have not had people get upset that we are charging for the sinks we supply.”
Johnston continued to explain stainless steel under mount sinks are the most popular for kitchens and Blanco Silgranit under mount sinks are also popular. “I am a big fan of Blanco sinks since they are a consistent quality sink and Blanco always provides a quality cutout template,” he said.
Chester A. Smith, Inc.
Type of Work: primarily high-end custom residential