Ten years ago, Constrata Surface Innovations had only a dozen employees and manufactured its own solid surface — Cornerstone — but after a decade of hard work, the company now has 90 employees and goes through 200 to 250 sheets of solid surface a month. And according to the company's division manager, Jeff Coombs, success all comes down to finding your niche and using it to your advantage.
Constrata began as one of four divisions of its parent company Majestic Marble & Glass, which was founded in 1990 and focused only on cultured marble. In 1995, the company began to manufacture its own solid surface, Cornerstone. "It grew from cultured marble into glass and mirror, and then we started the Cornerstone solid surface product," said Coombs. "And out of that grew the necessity to fabricate. Then from that, we broke Constrata off as a separate division of the corporation in 2000."
The company is ceasing production of its Cornerstone product and switching over to LG HI-MACS. The company's switch from its own in-house solid surface product to LG HI-MACS was, according to Coombs, purely a business decision. "With our Cornerstone Solid Surface, it got to the point that we weren't able to make the margins that we used to, but we do fine on the fabrication side," he explained. "You've got to find your niche and be happy with it."
The company also offers Cambria quartz surfacing, of which it stocks 16 colors, and LG Viatera quartz surfacing. Of the company's production of natural and engineered stone, 25 percent is quartz surfacing. Solid surface used to be the company's biggest seller, but Coombs revealed that things have changed.
"It's kind of strange — when we first got into granite five years ago, it took off pretty well and became about 25 percent of what we did, with the other 75 percent being solid surface," said Coombs. "Now it's the other way around — 75 percent of what we do is quartz and granite. We go through about 600 slabs of granite a month, and about 100 to 125 slabs of quartz a month."
When the company first started, it served the Raleigh, N.C. area, but now it has two satellite installation crews in Wilmington, N.C. The division now services all the way from the middle of North Carolina to the coast, except for commercial and project work, where the division will sometimes work from a longer distance. Everything is fabricated out of the company's main Youngsville location, a 60,000-sq.-ft. shop with about 2,500 sq. ft. of office space. Half the building handles solid surface, and the other half of the building handles stone and quartz surfacing (see Figure 1). The division used its extensive knowledge in fabricating solid surface and applied it to the production of stone.
"There's no CNC equipment in our stone shop," explained Coombs. "It's all a process that we pretty much developed through solid surface. We took everything that we've learned over 20 years of working with solid surface, and applied it to granite."
The division uses diamond tooling exclusively for its granite products. Its stone shop also features three large bridge saws, a cut department and an in-line splash machine by Regent Stone Products (see Figure 2). One person is assigned to work on splashes, and even with the company's general rate of 10 to 15 kitchens per day the splash machine allows him to keep up all by himself.
The company kept an eye on the growth trend in natural and engineered stone for years, but waited for the best moment to jump into this highly lucrative business. "We had been fabricating solid surface for years and felt the growth trend in quartz and granite," said Coombs. "Granite has always been king, and now it's been more available price-wise to more of the general public than it ever has been before." The division began its work with natural stone by offering the product Thin Stone (owned by Marshall Innovative Technologies) in 1999, and phased that out completely in favor of 3cm by 2001.