About 10 years ago, former Stone World editor, Michael Reis, traveled to Carson City, NV, to visit James Donaire of Perfection Connection Marble & Granite, Inc. At that time, Donaire faced a lot of competition in the market, as he specialized primarily in middle- to high-end residential fabrication, with a very small focus on the commercial market. Although he still specializes in high-end residential work, he has managed to incorporate a lot more commercial work over the years, which has aided his business and helped separate him from the competition.
“The last few years, we’ve been doing about 90% commercial work,” Donaire said. “And then on some years, we’re back to doing 90% residential. It flip-flops. During the economy bust around 2007, what kept me alive was doing commercial work — casinos and stuff like that.”
Perfection Connection Marble & Granite, Inc. was established in Carson City, NV, in 2005. Donaire opened the first location in Oakland, CA, around 1997, and after a few years, decided to open a second facility across state lines. “It’s actually a funny story,” Donaire said. “We were making a ton of money in the Bay Area and I could’ve went into building, but I didn’t have the time and didn’t want to do that. So, we decided to start another company in Carson City because I grew up in South Lake Tahoe, which is only 20 miles down the road.
“I had two companies going at the same time and I figured out that we couldn’t run both and maintain the quality we were looking for,” Donaire went on to explain. “So, we sold the business in Oakland to my employees. We said we’d stay on for a year to help with logistics — I gave them all of my clients, too — and then they didn’t want our help after that year and they ended up going under. We ultimately decided to come back to Carson City due to traffic and being in the city, and I’ve never looked back.”
The 16,000-square-foot facility in Carson City is currently equipped with a myriad of equipment, including a Proliner 7 from Prodim USA of Fort Pierce, FL; a Slabsmith from Northwood Designs, Inc. in Antwerp, NY; the Flying Flat, Sasso K600, K-Lux and NextJet from Sasso USA in Palatine, IL; the Northwood 138 EDS from Northwood Machine Corp. in Louisville, KY; and industrial lifters from Weha USA in Charlotte, NC, and Manzelli (supplied by GranQuartz in Norcross, GA). A dust collector and water filtration system from The Filter Project in San Bonifacio, Veneto, Italy, is also utilized, which is supplied through Weha USA.
Back in 2006, Donaire added his first piece of CNC machinery to the shop, the Northwood 138 EDS. When asked about the hefty investment in 2010, Donaire said “he never thought he would need a CNC machine,” which is something he couldn’t imagine life without today.
“I had known about it since 2003, but my mindset was, ‘Why would we spend a quarter-million dollars on a machine when my guys are just as talented?’ Donaire explained. “I started this company in my garage. I said, ‘My guys are just as good, why do I have to spend that much money?’ However, when I got more involved in the stone industry and after talking to others across the country, I started figuring out the values of automating. And once automated, you never go back.
“Here’s the problem for most fabricators — the sticker point/initial investment,” Donaire went on to say. “They’re always worried about payments. You have to get in the mindset of, ‘What if I don’t make the payments? At least I did it and took the chance.’ You can just take the machine back. But, 90% of the time, if you organize yourself correctly, it can double your capacity overnight.”
The Northwood CNC machine has certainly proved its worth, since it’s the only original piece of machinery that is still used today in the shop. “The main benefit is having the ornate edges and ripples in stone pieces that are perfectly machined,” Donaire said of the technology. “Perfectly machined parts. Humans can’t do that, no matter how hard you try.”
Last year, Perfection Connection was also the first U.S. company to purchase the Sasso NextJet to add to its roster of machinery since they “laminate almost everything,” according to Donaire. “We glue everything and do tons of mitering,” he said. “This makesw that process much more efficient.”
Miscellaneous tools and abrasives are used from Absolute Black Diamond in Boca Raton, FL; Defcon Supply in Portland, OR; DeFusco Industrial Supply in Tempe, AZ; Dekton USA in Coral Gables, FL; Easy Stone Care, Inc. in Thousand Palms, CA; Omni Cubed, Inc. in Shingle Springs, CA; Stone Pro in Anaheim, CA; Tenax USA in Charlotte, NC; and Weha USA in Charlotte, NC. Tenax and UltraTuf Adhesives in Tucson, AZ, also supply glues for the company.
The future of fabrication
While Donaire prides himself on having well-trained employees with a good work ethic, he mentioned how one of the main challenge nowadays is obtaining and maintaining these types of employees to ensure the future of the industry. “The reason why it’s so hard these days is because of the egos involved,” he said. “When you get somebody who has experience, to try and get them accustomed to your system and the way you want things done is frustrating. Sometimes, my new hires that are very experienced don’t last because of that — the ego factor.”
Despite all of the egos involved, Donaire is content with the 10 employees that he has on his team. He also has three tile installation crews in order to offer a complete service to his customers. “Because we now specialize in very high-end homes, our goal is to capture the whole contract,” Donaire said. “Contractors love that, too, because they only have to deal with one person.”
Looking toward the future, Donaire urges all fabricators to embrace advancements in technology and all of the new things that are happening. “The main thing in this industry is that we have to always keep our minds open and stay ahead with the technology and everything that’s going on, because if you don’t embrace it, the next thing you know, it’s rolling you over,” Donaire said. “We still have some reluctant guys in the stone industry. But, because of these machines and capabilities, if there’s ever an economy downturn, it becomes very hard to compete with someone like that.”
Perfection Connection Marble & Granite, Inc.
Carson City, NV
Type of Work: High-end fabrication for residential and commercial markets
More About James: A little past history of how I began my career. My first step was starting my construction career right after trade school. The first job I landed was working with a high-end builder, where I was taught all the aspects of building a house. At the age of 25, I worked with a high-end tile company, and after a year of working for them, I became the lead foreman. In mid-1997, I started my own company, Perfection Connection, which offers full tile and slab fabrication and installation, and here we are now. James was recently named Stone World 2019 Fabricator of the Year.