Up until the year 2008, Countertop Specialties in Tulsa, OK, had record-setting years financially. Then the financial crash hit, and they have slowly come back. Company owner Les Diven started his career working for Triangle Pacific, a large cabinet manufacturer at the time in Oklahoma. “At the end of the fiscal year one year, they decided to shut down 10 warehouses and we were one of them,” he said. “So I decided to open up a countertop business. I took the $20,000 we had in savings and incorporated the business in December of 1997, then opened the doors January 1, 1998.
“When the economy tanked, I kind of drew in a little bit and looked to recreate the will of the company,” Diven went onto say. “We were looking at businesses that were marginal and not making us a lot of money. I went to a skeleton crew and then grew the business from there.” Since the financial crash, the company has been back on track the past few years, rethinking its business strategy and investing in new equipment.
Diven’s son was the reason the decision was made to get automated equipment. “He really got us going with automated equipment,” said Diven. “We put in a Park Fusion Sawjet. Then a few years ago, we put in a water treatment system [from Water Treatment Solutions]. I just felt environmentally we needed to step up and do what is right for the environment because there are a lot of guys in Tulsa that don’t treat their water. So it was a major deal for us, and also, it basically was a no brainer. It paid for itself so it was a really easy decision. We were using over a million gallons of water a year, just by ourselves.”
The company also has a Park Titan CNC stoneworking center, a Marmo Meccanica LCV 711M edge polishing machine, a CNC machine for acrylics and uses a LT-55 Laser Templator from Laser Products Industries for its digital templating needs. Additionally, the CNC machines are equipped with vacuum pods from Blick Industries, and the company purchases supplies from Integra Adhesives and GranQuartz. “We like our LT-55, but don’t have the 3D one yet,” said Diven. “At some point, we may get that just because it could be nice for when we do showers, but we don’t need it for horizontal countertops.”
With the new equipment, the company produces 1,200 square feet a week, doing one shift with 16 employees and running two installation crews. The office space covers 2,400 square feet, while the warehouse, which houses an overhead crane, is 16,000 square feet. The business currently does six to eight residential kitchens a week -- averaging 75 square feet a kitchen.
Countertop Specialties is now 65% commercial business, which has been extremely beneficial to the company. “It’s a higher profit for us and we are well suited for that industry because of our equipment,” said Diven. “We understand that business as well, so it’s been really good for us. With the residential [sector], we try to cherry pick the business. We stay with our loyal customers.”
The company has also seen an uptick in the amount of quartz it fabricates and sells. “Natural stone is still probably king in the Tulsa market, but we are observing that more people are seeing the value in quartz,” said Diven. “What I try to do is educate people on the differences between natural stone and quartz. They each have their plusses and minuses. Then after they are educated, I let them decide on what’s best for them. But it appears to me that with natural stone, the color it produces is what draws people into getting it and with quartz it is the durability and maintenance-free [aspect].
“When you are cutting quartz out, you are not as worried about veining,” Diven went onto say. “You don’t have to worry about the grain, which makes it a little nicer to cut. The one thing I would like to see in the quartz industry though is uniformity in slab sizes.”
Countertop Specialties hopes to stay a solid partner in the market for the coming years and to increase its residential business. “What you find if you do all commercial work is that there are a lot of peaks and valleys,” said Diven. “Peaks in the summer months and valleys in the colder months. So trying to get more walk-in residential business would be nice.”
The company has also turned to social media to get walk-ins on the residential side. “Posting pictures on Instagram and Facebook has actually generated some walk-in business and that has actually been some of our nicer business,” said Diven. “Looking forward, we want to maintain our current population of business and customers and then try to grow from there. I like the market segments we are in right now, so we are just looking to increase that customer base in those segments.”
Type of Work: Commercial and residential in natural stone, quartz, solid surface and acrylic