Walking into Atlas Marble & Granite’s shop in Springfield, NJ, feels like entering a design studio. The 2,000-square-foot chic showroom is an open and inviting space with plenty of large tables — topped with the latest trending stone and quartz products — for architects, designers and homeowners to sit and discuss their projects. It is also stocked with an extensive palette of the latest stone and quartz materials as well as a selection of concrete, wood and recycled material. Owner Marco Duran explained his goal is to provide the ultimate professional stone experience to his customers — striving to introduce them to a range of new and unique products that will lead to inspiring designs.
Duran initially set up shop in 2001 in a 7,500-square-foot building in Newark, NJ. When Stone World visited the stone operation two and a half years ago, the space had doubled in size, and it housed a full line-up of state-of-the-art equipment. With the move to the Springfield location in April 2013, Duran increased the company’s work space again. The new facility encompasses 23,000 square feet with an additional 15,000 square feet of outdoor space.
At the time of Stone World’s recent visit, Duran was inspecting a slab of semi-precious stone, “Smokey Quartz” with silver leaf, which had just arrived. “I realized that this is going to be a new niche,” he said, adding that the slab will soon be the centerpiece of the showroom. “We are targeting the high-end residential market. We are after the luxury line.”
In addition to adding semi-precious stone to its product offering, Atlas Marble & Granite began cutting large porcelain pieces such as Neolith from TheSize. “I always want to be on the cutting edge,” said Duran, explaining that it was a trial and error process when learning to cut these materials. “I relied on my diamond tool suppliers.”
He went on to say that Stone Boss of Fair Lawn, NJ, and GranQuartz, based in Tucker, GA, both offered valuable advice when it came to finding the right blades. For cutting porcelain, the company relies on Alpha’s porcelain blade. “It gives a nice smooth cut,” said Duran. For quartz, the company uses Terminator blades.
Inside the shop
All of the equipment from Atlas Marble & Granite’s former location was transferred to the new shop. In fact, Duran explained that the shop continuously operated throughout the move. “There wasn’t a break in production,” he said.
The footprint of the shop hasn’t changed, according to Duran. The line-up of machinery includes a Fusion 4045 bridge saw/waterjet and a Titan 1800 CNC stoneworking center with an oversized table, which measures 16 x 18 feet — both from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN. The Titan uses Terminator CNC tooling from Continental DIA Products, Inc. of San Carlos, CA — supplied by Stone Boss — and vacuum pods from Blick Industries of Laguna Beach, CA.
Additional equipment utilized in the production process includes a GMM Euro 35 bridge saw from Salem Stone of Winston-Salem NC, as well as Gorbel cranes and Manzelli vacuum lifters supplied by GranQuartz. For water recycling, an ECS-EICH water recycling system from Fabricator’s Choice of St. Paul, MN, is in place, and a Kaeser air compressor is used for air filtration. A recent addition since the company’s move is a Velocity edge polisher from Park Industries.
Atlas Marble & Granite also still uses a Pathfinder Slab Photo Station from Park Industries along with a Slabsmith Software system. “One of our biggest attractions is our virtual layout,” said Duran. “Slabsmith provides a much more comfortable environment for our customers.”
The new showroom features a large flat screen television where clients can view their granite slabs and see specifically how they will be cut to create their custom designs. Duran explained that he believes that technology such as this plays a crucial role in developing a “professional stone experience.” To attract a high-end market, it is important to show customers that the company is using state-of-the-art technology and equipment to fabricate their products.
“People are coming in who are living in these high-end homes,” said Duran. “We want to show them our level of sophistication and dedication.”
Templating in the field is done with a LT-55 Laser Templator from Laser Products Industries of Romeoville, IL. Atlas Marble & Granite has two full-time templaters who each average four to six templates a day. The company also has four install teams — a total of eight installers and four laborers — that go out daily.
Duran explained that while the company uses digital templating systems, each installer has also been trained to do stick templating.
While Atlas Marble & Granite focuses on high-end custom stonework, it also has one high-volume “Big Box” account, which produces 20 to 25 kitchens a week, on average measuring 40 square feet. “We execute efficiently [in the shop],” said Duran. “You need disciplined guys. It is constant repetition.
“With the custom work, no one knows what is on the menu,” Duran went on to say. For the high-end jobs, Atlas Marble & Granite has four workers in place, who each average about seven years with the company.
Since moving to the Springfield location, Atlas Marble & Granite has added an extra shift to maintain the flow of production. The first shift works 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and the second shift runs from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. In total, the company employs 30 works.
Continuing to invest
At the beginning of this year, Atlas Marble & Granite invested in Moraware software. “It helped us tremendously with organization,” said Duran.
The company has a full-time person who tracks each job from sales through production. “Moraware has been a lifesaver,” said Elizabeth Gmyrek, Duran’s partner. “What’s nice is that six people can look at a screen and see what is going on.”
The company mostly caters to the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan area. “About 50% of our customers are walk-ins, and the other half is architects and designers,” said Gmyrek. “They are mostly third and fourth generation kitchens.”
Gmyrek explained that their customers are savvy and come with a specific idea in mind. “They are coming in with pictures and saying, ‘This is what I want; find it,’” she said.
And while most of Atlas Marble and Granite’s clientele are educated on stone, the company does try to present as many options as possible to introduce them to products that they might not realize were available. “[Our showroom] is meant to show every type of surface,” said Duran.
One trend that is hot right now is mitered edges, according to Duran. “We do a lot of mitering,” he said. “It is 50% of our work now. People come in thinking they want an ogee edge and then they see the mitered edges [on our tables in the showroom], and they like that contemporary look.”
As for inventory, the company maintains an average of 45 bundles of slabs onsite. “We make quarterly purchases with local importing partners,” said Duran. “I think like it is a boutique. I buy what is trending. Right now, white marble, quartz and semi-precious stone [is popular].”
Networking with the industry
With its new open showroom space, Atlas Marble and Granite holds networking events throughout the year. “We have participated in several ‘lunch and learns,’” said Duran. “It is a good way to attract architects and designers here. We are a CEU provider.”
Additionally the company has hosted the National Kitchen and Bath Association Christmas party, and it is part of a quartet that shares hosting MIA events. “It’s a forum between fabricators and distributors where they hash out issues,” said Duran.
By: Jennifer Adams
Article originally appear on StoneWorld.com