Home » Alpha Granite & Tile Diversifies to Capitalize on Growing Market
In the beginning, Alpha Granite and Tile’s original intent wasn’t to become a countertop fabrication business. Originally, Denis Phocas, the president of the company, wanted to be a slab distributor in a partnership with a quarry owner in South Africa. “After several months researching the stone business in North America and going back and forth with our intended South African partners, the entire partnership never materialized,” said Phocas. “During this period of market research, I stumbled across the fabrication and installation portion of the industry that caught my interest.” Phocas, who was raised on a tobacco farm in Zimbabwe, studied electrical engineering. After working in the IT business for a few years in South Africa, he returned to Zimbabwe and joined the family business of growing tobacco, corn, paprika and raising cattle. Phocas considers the farming business a place where you become a jack of all trades and this had turned out to be a great asset for him in the stone industry.
Alpha Granite and Tile started in April 2003 and Phocas fabricated his first kitchen for a friend in his backyard, out of a 2-cm Tobacco Brown that was laminated into a 4-cm bullnose. “This kitchen took me a whole month to fabricate and install,” said Phocas. “My first tools were purchased from Moe Fried in Austin, TX, where I got a glimpse of what fabrication was all about. After getting my feet wet with the first countertop project, I decided that I was going to take this business seriously and take it up a notch.” Phocas came up with a business plan and a budget. After visiting Coverings and talking to many machine manufacturers and attending seminars at the tradeshow, he realized that a bridge saw, a forklift, a boom with a clamp, a hand- operated router, a large compressor, pneumatic polishers and some hand tools were the bare minimum needed to operate his shop. With a limited budget, he invested in a used Johnson B300 bridge saw that needed to be rebuilt, an old 5,000-pound forklift and all the other tools listed above. “Keeping the cost of entry low, I found a 1,500-square-foot warehouse office and got to work setting up a small fabrication shop,” said Phocas. “With two employees, we hustled to find some business, and before we realized it, we were doing one to two jobs every week. We then employed a full-time sales person, and this changed the dynamics of the business, and the work load grew to the point where we were doing a job per day. Then one day, the sales person walked in with a stack of purchase order forms from a national builder, and this changed the trajectory of the business.”
For this issue of Contemporary Stone & Tile Design decorative porcelain and marble tile modernize an outdated living space in New York. We also see how Italian Porcelain tile contributes to a multi-purpose residential building. Finally we feature our Mosaic and decorative tile roundup.