While in the process of choosing her life's work Julie Fawley investigated several careers, yet none of them seemed to fit her personality. Until, that is, she tried out solid surface fabrication. "I started in the shop pushing a broom," she says of her entry-level job with Atwood and Thompson, Inc., a solid surface-only shop located in San Diego. "Later I became a fabricator. I was one of the first women to get out there and work with the tools and the product."
That was 14 years ago. Today, Fawley is in the process of purchasing the company.
"I have four guys out in the shop and two office managers," she explains. "I am running the company now and (former owner) Bob Atwood is still on the board of directors. He comes in every day, talks to me and helps me figure out which way I want to go. Right now I am in the process of getting my license for cabinetry."
Atwood and Thompson fabricates mainly for the residential market, as well as building the odd commercial job. One of those commercial projects was a high profile installation for the San Diego Convention Center.
"We had recently taken on the Staron line and wanted to see how it would hold up in a commercial application," Fawley says. "The cabinet company who hired us was looking to use solid surface, so we suggested they use Staron. We've had no problems with it and have received lots of compliments on the installation."
The project consists of countertops for a concession stand in the Convention Center concourse. An open design, simple details like a bullnose edge, and a light color add a contemporary look and appeal. "It has a little unusual design to it," Fawley says. "In one section where they have a heat source on it, we fabricated heat rings from Staron to insulate the counter."
Fawley's niche is custom fabrication of solid surface, where she prefers to employ the traditional tools of the trade. No CNCs or other automated equipment here. Sitting down at the keyboard or other controls of a computer runs too far afield from her chosen station in life.
"It is kind of a hands-on business," she explains. "I go out and sell the job, take the guys out to template it, come back and build it. If they have any questions I help them, and when they go out to install, I'll be there too. When the job is complete I shake hands with the homeowner and get the final payment. That way Mr. and Mrs. homeowner feel a real connection to the owner of the business."