Recently, Stone World stopped by Front Range Stone Countertops fabrication shop in Englewood, CO, and spoke with several members of its leadership team. Owner Brad Pearce (BP), Manufacturing Operations Manager Brian Tekulve (BT) and Scott Wood (SW), who oversees the templating and install crews, shared the company’s history, some growing pains, and procedures and processes the company has in place to put it on a path success. Front Range Stone Countertops is an active member of the Natural Stone Institute (NSI), Artisan Group, Rockheads and the International Surface Fabricators Association (ISFA). In addition to its 32,000-square-foot stone and quartz cutting facility, the company runs a 20,000-square-foot laminate and solid surface shop down the street.
SW: Tell us a little about Front Range Stone Countertops and how it got its start.
BP: We began operations on June 1, 2001. So we just celebrated our 20th anniversary. Part of me looks back and says, “Wow, how did we get here?” and another part thinks, “It’s been 20 years.”
We are NSI accredited -- the first in Colorado and still one of three or five in the state. Originally, that was driven by the Artisan Group, which we are in. It was part of the requirement. We felt it was important to support, at the time it was the Marble Institute of America. We always try to operate a business in the correct way, and do things the correct way, so that was a part of that.
SW: How is business now compared to when you started 20 years ago?
BP: In the first year, we were hoping to do two to three installations a week, and we were only doing stone at that point in time. We started in the production builder market primarily. Then in 2002, we partnered with Home Depot, and in 2007 we partnered with Lowes. It is a little different now from when we started.
SW: Explain your transition to digital templating.
SW: We have about 88 employees, and then we have subcontract and install crews and templators, as well. We are currently running seven to eight different routes and measuring upwards of 60 to 70 jobs a day between the two buildings. Between templating and installs, we have roughly 130 stops a day.
BP: We started using all stick templates, and we went through a few different laser templating systems. We have been with Laser Products since about 2008. It was really the advent of adapting to Laser Products -- having the ability to template that way. Originally, we were just projecting the laser template onto the slab and marking it. We were still cutting with a bridge saw. It was really that which helped propel us to the mechanization we have in the shop, and seeing the value of the Fusion and the Titan and all that equipment. We got our first Fusion in 2010, and it was very quickly there after that we brought in the Titans and started doing all of the programming in the office and not on the floor. Tying everything together with Park’s systems and the digital templating systems is when the light bulb finally went on and we could see the benefit of having a digital process all the way through – from start to finish.
BT: We can now do visual layouts. We get customers that come in with custom layouts and we can take pictures of the slabs and sit there with them and show them in real time exactly how it will look.
SW: How was it working during the pandemic?
BP: The first six weeks we were trying to figure out what was happening, and even some of our customers weren’t sure how they were going to operate and what they were going to go forward with. We were down slightly in revenue for 2020, but a lot of other changes we made allowed us to be more profitable. We have tried to carry that logic through to 2021. 2021 has actually been more challenging with supply chain issues, freight and trucking.
It has really stretched out the construction schedule for everyone and getting things to align. Both our retail customers and production builders are all battling that. By the time they get to countertops, for some reason, they don’t think they should be delayed – even though everything else is and we have to have the material. It seems like it is stabilizing a little bit, but my guess is that it won’t be until the second quarter of next year until it gets back.
Last year, we started doing calls in virtual slab layout. We were making appointments with customers that chose to do that, and prefer it that way rather than coming down here. That is something we are continuing to do. It’s pretty streamlined. It takes less time and the customer can give their input. You can steer the conversation around the layout, while you show them in real time what you are doing.