With several locations, The Granite & Marble Depot serves the Greater Chicago area, Northwest Indiana and the Wisconsin border. The Aurora, IL-based company specializes in fabrication and installation of residential and commercial countertops, tabletops, outdoor kitchens, fireplaces and more.
“I was in construction and noticed the demand for countertops,” said Tarek Merhebi, owner/operator of The Granite & Marble Depot. “The business started in 2005 with five employees and a bridge saw. Today, we have multiple locations, over 60 employees, multiple waterjets, CNC machines, water recycling systems, and it feels like we’re only just getting started.”
Recently, the company devised a generous plan to give back to its community. The “Nominate A Hero” initiative, which began in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, asked residents from Aurora, Naperville and nearby areas to nominate a person they considered to be a hero. The Granite & Marble Depot accepted any and all nominees who had been on the front lines battling the 2020 pandemic. The nominees included a variety of local heroes, including, first responders, teachers, grocery store workers and others. Five of those heroes received new countertops. One of the winners was Larry Lasky, a front-end assistant at Costco in St. Charles, IL. In her nomination form, Larry’s wife, Angela, described her husband as “an essential worker with unbelievable work ethic.”
The Laskys were ecstatic to receive new countertops. They described how they hardly ever win anything and admit to having had a relatively gloomy outlook on the world due to the pandemic. “Since being awarded the countertops, we can hardly believe it,” said Angela Lasky. “It feels like our luck and our lives have changed. We’re more positive, we feel revitalized and we’re just so grateful for Cambria and The Granite & Marble Depot.”
Stone World had the opportunity to ask Merhebi more about the “Nominate A Hero” initiative.
SW: How did the idea of the “Nominate A Hero” initiative come about?
TM: You become obsessed with a single question: “How can you help to keep spirits high?” Some time passes and it hits you…It feels great, but you’re honest with yourself and you know that it’s not enough. This was early in the pandemic. No one knew how long this was going to last or what was going to happen. You realize how much of a negative impact COVID is having on the morale at both the individual and the community level. You realize that as a business owner you need to stand up and be an example, a leader in your community. You decide it’s time to give back.
It starts small … you buy coffee for the first 40 patrons at a local coffee shop. Then, you leverage social media to get the community involved. You ask them to nominate a local teacher that you can buy dinner for. You meet the teacher, the family who nominated him and you're excited and happy to buy dinner for him and his family.
On your way to the office, you get the idea to go bigger. You decide to install the kitchen countertops for a local hero at no charge. You bounce the idea around the office and think, “Why stop at one? Let’s do three.” Now you’re excited. You reach out to your colleagues who supply countertop material to share your plan. They welcome the idea and offer to supply the material you’ll be installing.
By late afternoon on the day the idea came to mind, three kitchens turn into five. You have suppliers who are happy to offer material, a team who is excited to share the initiative, community members who begin to spread the word and a deep sense of pride for what you’ve started.
Spirits are high. A special “thank you” to our friends at Cosentino, LG Viatera, Cambria, Caesarstone and MSI. This has been one of the richest experiences of my life.
What kind of response did you receive when you first made the announcement about the initiative?
TM: People were thrilled! We got nothing but excitement and support from the community.
I understand you selected five winners. How many entries did you receive?
TM: We did select five winners. We received around 25 nominations.
How did it make you feel when you told the winners that they will be receiving new countertops?
TM: Amazed. Wowed. Humbled by their excitement and happiness. The feeling I received from giving back is ineffable. We were honored to share the news with these people. They all truly deserved something special and we were happy to offer something unheard of.
What advice would you give other fabricators who are thinking of ways to give back to their community?
TM: Smiles are more contagious than COVID. Don’t wait for permission. Ask yourself, “How can I give back?” Whatever comes to mind, just do it. The impact you’ll have is truly immeasurable.
Do you have any future plans for holding another contest such as this?
TM: COVID taught us a lot. We are thankful for what we have and all the support our clients have given us over the years. We will always be thinking of ways to share, give back and continue to make a difference.