A blossoming countertop business
SSC Countertops in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, focuses on garnering industry relationships to strengthen and maintain its market position
A little more than 30 years ago, Chris and Giselle Prince founded SSC Countertops in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. When the Princes first opened their business in 1988, they focused primarily on solid surface countertops. However, as technology advanced and trends began to evolve, the couple shifted their focus to accommodate the growing sector.
“Due to high customer demand, in the early 2000s, Chris bought a bridge saw and a CNC router and started cutting and installing marble and granite,” said operations manager, Ian Morris. “Having worked for his father since he was a teenager, in every position from shop helper to lead installer and project manager in 2012, Quinn Prince took over as the president of the company.
“In the last decade, the company has grown from 14 to 40 staff members while maintaining our values as a small company, which prides itself on customer service and the highest quality stone craftsmanship,” he went on to say. “Over the last five years, Quinn brought on three of his key staff members as partners in the business, including myself, Mark Fitzpatrick, our financial controller, and Barry Fitzpatrick, our install manager. We all bring vast experience to our respective roles and have helped build the company to where it is today alongside Quinn.”
Currently, SSC Countertops cuts and installs all kinds of natural stone and quartz, which accounts for around 80% of its business, while the latter 20% consists of work involving porcelain and ultra-compact surfaces.
With a monthly production capacity of approximately 8,000 to 10,000 square feet and an annual production capacity of between 100,000 and 120,000 square feet, the company’s principal market is high-end residential. However, they also complete a vast range of custom reception desks, wall panels and countertops for commercial projects. “We do all kinds of stonework in the houses we work in — from floors, walls and fireplaces to kitchens and vanities,” Morris said. “On average, we do about 10 to 15 kitchens a week.”
For the majority of the residential kitchens they complete, the team designs large islands with full-height backsplashes, which usually feature around 150 square feet of stone each.
The 15,000-square-foot shop is equipped with a handful of automated machinery, including a SX5 five-axis saw and two CX4 CNC machines from Scandinvent of Västerås, Sweden; a Quota CNC machine from Denver USA in Winston-Salem, NC; and the most recent addition, a Combicut DJ/NC 550 from Breton USA in Sarasota, FL.
“This machine has helped tremendously with our custom natural stone and porcelain projects,” Morris explained. “We do a lot of jobs that have marble door jambs, window sills and fireplaces, and being able to waterjet them and go straight to polishing instead of having to oversize each piece on a traditional bridge saw and then grind them to size manually has been a great help. We also work with some extremely expensive marble, so we ensure that our clients get to use most of the slab because we can get much better yield using the waterjet, since you can nest pieces much tighter than on a regular bridge saw. This year, we will be adding an edge polisher, which will help us with time-consuming small pieces, backsplashes, window sills, etc.”
For digital templating, the team has been using a Proliner from Prodim USA of Fort Pierce, FL, for several years. “We find this measuring device perfect for what we need,” said Morris. “Our clients are always impressed by how tight of a fit we can get our counters to their walls, which are rarely straight.”
Additionally, the team utilizes ADI CNC tooling, König marble saw blades, Zenesis quartz saw blades and Italdiamant blades for porcelain and Dekton, which are all supplied from GranQuartz of Norcross, GA; White Lion quartzite saw blades from Tenax USA in Charlotte, NC; as well as CNC tooling from Marmoelettromeccanica, which is supplied by Kristech Services Ltd. in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
The company runs two shifts each day. The first shift — 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. — serves as the main shift, when about 90% of the staff is present. “From 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., we run our second shift,” Morris said. “We introduced the second shift last year and it has been a huge help to our production. We use this shift for helping to get jobs fully completed and ready for our installers the next morning. We also run our Breton Combicut on the night shift, as this machine is our busiest.”
The company also has five of its own installation crews. “We do not sub-contract any of our installs,” Morris said. “We believe that we have a good reputation because all of our installers have been trained in-house and understand the high-quality standards that we expect on every job we do.”
Recently, there were two projects that the company completed, which stood out to Morris. “We have completed a lot of nice residential jobs lately,” he said. One was a two-story fireplace in natural stone that we had to crane into the mountainside house and build a custom hoist to install the highest piece. We also completed a custom bathroom with 20 slabs of white marble, which was a nice project. The marble was used on the floors and walls. Both of these projects turned out really nice and the clients were very happy with the end results.”
As a company that prides itself on fusing the latest machinery with old craftsmanship, the staff at SSC Countertops also takes immense pride in their work, which makes all the difference. “Our staff is easily our most valuable asset,” Morris said. “Without them, we would have never been able to build a successful company with a strong reputation.”
The current company leaders also contribute to the strong relationships they have made with manufacturers, distributors and customers all over the world. “With myself, Mark and Barry all being born and raised in Ireland, there is a strong European connection, which has helped us bring the European craftsmanship and eye for detail to what we are doing in Canada,” Morris said.
Looking toward the future, the team plans to focus on strengthening these integral relationships. “We would like to continue building on our reputation of doing the highest quality stonework and providing our clients with the highest level of service possible,” Morris said. “Over the last few years, we have been building relationships with our partners in Italy and have started bringing in our own top-quality marble. This is something we hope to build on in the next few years. This helps us get involved with the homeowners/designers earlier in the project and we can even recommend what material will work best for their project needs, e.g. what material will work well for bookmatching. We have also started taking on more projects that require larger dimensional stone. We are trying to offer our clients a full service when it comes to stone for their project.”
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Type of Work: High-end residential and commercial
Machinery: Proliner from Prodim of Fort Pierce, FL; SX5 five-axis saw and two CX4 CNC machines from Scandinvent in Västerås, Sweden; a Quota CNC machine from Denver USA of Winston-Salem, NC; Combicut DJ/NC 550 from Breton USA of Sarasota, FL; ADI CNC tooling, König marble saw blades, Zenesis quartz saw blades and Italdiamant blades for porcelain and Dekton, which are all supplied from GranQuartz of Norcross, GA; White Lion quartzite saw blades from Tenax USA of Charlotte, NC; CNC tooling from Marmoelettromeccanica, which is supplied by Kristech Services Ltd. in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Number of Employees: 40
Production Rate: 10 to 15 kitchens per week