Transitioning for global stone production industry success
With already three state-of-the-art facilities, Durango Stone has partnered with a leading Mexican stone producer and is adding another stone-processing plant to accommodate its 14 quarries
World Wide Stone Corporation has changed its name to Durango Stone LLC, its brand recognition for the past 30 years. And along with its new name, the company is also experiencing other adjustments, including expansion, which will further strengthen its place in the global stone industry.
Today, Durango Stone maintains 14 quarries, producing varieties such as Ashian, Autumn, Caldera, Classic, Cortez, Del Mar, Espresso, Gabanna, Ilano, Mocha, Omez, Perle Blanc, Picasso and Sienna. “Our new partner, who is a Mexican national and a long-time stone player in Mexico, is the source of our new quarry additions,” said Frank Cunningham, president of Durango Stone. “Using a team of geologists, as well as University connections, we were seeking the locations of all metamorphosed deposits in the country of Mexico. Next, was the long evaluation process of taking samples and cores to determine if a deposit is industrializable. Most deposits have no commercial value; quarries are a huge gamble until fully proven and operable.”
In the quarries, some sites are operated by contractors, while Durango Stone uses its own quarry team in others. “Many quarries are run for some time then closed until our block consumption causes us to return and take another large supply,” explained Cunningham. “This step allows us to operate more quarries. You see, each quarry requires about $50,000 per month to operate. This is for labor, diesel, diamond wires and tools, heavy machinery and hand tools. We employ about 170 people in our three state-of-the-art factories and quarries.”
The three existing factories have an installed capacity to produce 330,000 square feet per month. The new factory is expected to add substantially to those values. It will also be exclusively making slabs, three truckloads per day.
At Durango Stone, they have found that hiring open-minded individuals who want to learn a career, and then training them about the stone business, has worked best when it comes to maintaining employees. “We have tried hiring many from the industry in our past,” said Cunningham. “Those employees know habitual efforts, habits which do not bring world-class quality, so we no longer hire so-called industry professionals. We take the long approach. We hire willing individuals and teach them as they adopt and show competence. Our workers are all cross-trained and true natural stone professionals.”
Durango Stone has more than $10 million invested in Italian machinery and equipment, including brands such as Breton, Pedrini, Dazzini, Technema and others. The quarries also mostly use Caterpillar and Kawasaki equipment for transporting stone. Among the stone types produced by the company are marble, limestone and travertine, and occasionally it will quarry onyx. For the company, 97% of its finished production is sold inside the U.S., with the bulk in western states, such as Texas, Arizona, California and Nevada.
MARKETING ITS MATERIAL
Durango Stone sells blocks, tiles and cut-to-size pieces to many outlets, including, the trade, distributors, importers, architects and designers, stone retailers, wholesalers and builders. “We produce all of our stones in our existing three factories, and we are now constructing our fourth factory near Puebla, Mexico,” said Cunningham. “We also sell blocks to selected buyers around the world. Our sales reach includes other countries, yet our focus is commercial projects in the U.S. — particularly stone companies in the four western states of Texas, Arizona, California and Nevada. We produce any style or application of stone — from cladding to tiles and slabs to columns, carvings, and cut-to-size and commodity products.”
The company’s Scottsdale, AZ showroom is open to the trade, and often multiple buying groups visit the retail outlet. “We have been blessed to supply stone on many interesting projects,” said Cunningham. “Currently, we are producing orders for many well-known sports figures, business titans and many wonderful private clients who are not famous. Our cladding line includes several lower-priced solutions, which has made this high-end step available to middle-level homes.
“We make literally any stone application,” Cunningham went onto say. “We enjoy making the big complicated stone elements. In fact, we are famous for taking a napkin drawing and turning it into a fabulous high-end home, which allows the owner to live in the opulence of a six-star resort. Columns add drama to any space, as well as stair treads, coping, wall caps, carved stone fireplaces and dramatic stone entries and window applications — all are a huge statement, which only natural stone may make.”
“All of our stones are fully morphosed, this is important because fully morphosed stones are more cleanable, durable and consistent,” said Cunningham. “All our stones are tested by independent laboratories to insure proper specification and use. Our production is next. We make all our products from the best raw materials, so we may apply the highest standards in the natural stone industry, those of the Italian Masters, as we learned our production knowledge directly from those masters. Our largest advantage is Durango Stone, along with all our team in the factories, strive to do every single element at the highest standards in the world. We pass every item through our 27-point quality-control inspection process, insuring that you receive what we offered. Satisfaction is our top priority.”