As the saying goes, a rolling stone gathers no moss, and for Gus and Dottie Blume of Blume's Solid Surface Products in Freeport, Pa., there is not a tuft of moss anywhere to be seen.
The story of their shop really goes back to 1971, when the Blumes started their laminate business called Top Craft. The business was going well for 17 years, fabricating laminate countertops wholesale to kitchen dealers, when something came into the Blumes' lives that forever changed them—solid surface.
Our Formica distributor came in one day with the Corian product and we both just couldn't believe what it could do," recalled Gus. "So I bought some and took it home and I made some window sills and I did some work around our shower. I just couldn't believe the capability of it. I thought this was the greatest product that was ever invented."
And from there, things were never the same.
"Our laminate business was such that home centers were selling laminates very cheap and really cutting into our profit, so we were ready for a change," continued Gus. "We said let's get involved in this stuff. We contacted our distributor, did some Corian training, sold our laminate business and started the solid surface business."
Like most, the Blumes started small, operating at first out of their two-car garage before moving into a 4,500-sq.-ft. shop four months later. However, today that little shop encompasses 35,000 sq. ft. and employs 35 people (see Figure 1). The business covers a three-hour radius that includes western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, West Virginia and the northwestern part of Maryland.
"It was quite a change, but solid surface has been a good product for us," said Gus. "We got into it when the new colors were coming out and the ½-in. material was being introduced. It just really caught on for us and we've always been able to stay one step ahead of our competition. We hope to continue doing that."
One way the business has recently worked to keep its competitive edge is to incorporate engineered stone as part of its offering. Although the majority of the business continues to be solid surface (it goes through about 200 sheets a month), they are offering DuPont Zodiaq and working on getting a second quartz surfacing line.
A Look Behind the Decision
"We'd been looking at the numbers for a year, like I'm sure a lot of people have, and we were seeing that the hard surfaces have been growing like crazy," said Gus. "Quartz has really been hot. No one can get their hands on enough of it, it seems like."
In addition to these trends, Blume said he was seeing the solid surface business continue to grow, but found it harder and harder every year to get that growth.