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Chattanooga: Countertop maker's efficiencies put cash on table

Updated:2008-07-10 11:25:54

By: Jason Reynolds
Technology, efficiency, a new building and customer service are helping a Chattanooga countertop manufacturer grow, the owners say.

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"This new space allow us to serve our customers faster and more efficiently," said Tony Allen, owner of Stone Services.

Mr. Allen and his partner, Keith Porter, opened the business in June 2004 with two workers, Mr. Allen said. Since then, the company has grown to 24 workers and outgrew its 6,400-square-foot building.

 
So, earlier this year, the partners renovated and moved to a 28,000-square-foot location at 2601 E. 34th St., a former boat building facility. Mr. Allen said his father-in-law, Bill Latham, owns the building and is in the process of selling it to him and Mr. Porter.

The company, building and equipment are a $2 million-plus investment, Mr. Allen said.

Stone Services is working more efficiently by using a new jet saw to fabricate custom-designed countertops, Mr. Allen said. The $300,000 saw is more efficient than older saws because Stone Services can download a countertop design into a computer that runs the saw, he said.

The saw creates 20 percent less waste, which saves a tremendous amount of money, Mr. Allen said, since leftover stone from a slab can't be used for any other project. Also, countertops cut by the jet saw don't have to be shaped by hand after the cutting, which saves labor costs, he said.

Stone Services has a showroom in Knoxville for finished products, Mr. Porter said, in addition to the fabrication shop and showroom in their new Chattanooga building. Mr. Porter said he and his partner encourage out-of-town customers to visit the Chattanooga site to pick out the exact slab of stone to use in their project.

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Clients can get an idea of what a new countertop will look like by visiting Stone Services' kitchen showroom. Slabs of various types of marble, granite, soapstone, travertine and other products are stacked in the warehouse for easy viewing in a climate-controlled atmosphere, Mr. Allen said.

Steve Jester of Bradley County, who visited Stone Services Friday, said he and his wife, Renee, wanted to remodel their home's kitchen and plan on spending $4,000 to $5,000, including buying new countertops and cabinets. They had granite countertops in their former Florida house and are looking for the same to replace the laminated plastic countertops in their current residence.

Mr. Jester said he had received the best customer service from Stone Services out of the several shops he had visited.

In addition to customer service and technology, Stone Services is growing by investing in efficiency, Mr. Allen said. He recently bought a cistern with a 5,500 gallon tank to capture rainwater which can be used with his jet saw. The company already reuses the majority of water in the manufacturing process, he said, which saves money and is environmentally friendly.

"It helps the environment and it helps our pocketbook," Mr. Allen said. "If you're not capturing that water, it's not smart business."

Source:stone service

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