Premier Countertops of Omaha, Neb., recently moved from a 4,500 sq. ft. solid surface shop to a 15,000 sq. ft. facility in which the company fabricates not only solid surface, but also natural stone and quartz surfacing.
Figure 1 - Premier worked a deal with Nebraska Furniture Mart, whose facility in Omaha has 450,000 sq. ft. of showroom and gets around 60,000 shoppers a month, that allows Premier to showcase its product in the store, such as this kiosk featuring Hanstone and this display showing a number of products, such as Avonite and Wilsonart solid surfaces. "The Mart" gets a percentage of the sales made through its stor and offers Premierís customers 30-month financing.
Figure 2 - To solve weight issues in dealing with the lifting of stone products, Premier purchased several A-frames that it loads right onto its trucks with finished tops ready for installation.
Figure 3 - Much of the company's success can be attributed to hiring the right people for the job on both the new stone/e-stone side of the business and the well established solid surface side.
Figure 4 - The company works with BCS, which not only has a local warehouse, but also owns 25 quarries in Brazil and stocks around 100 different styles of granite, which allows customers to pick out the exact slab they want.
Figure 5 - Two things that draw more business to Premier are a) placing slabs of granite in places the public will see them, and b) having a showroom that displays all of the various materials and products the company offers.
Figure 6 - Nothing can replace quality craftsmanship is a basis of Premier's work, which can be seen here in these solid surface, quartz and granite kitchens.
Premier Countertops, in Omaha, Neb., may have begun quite by accident, but its rapid growth and expansion in its region's countertop market was far from accidental.
Owner Mory Ludwick has implemented a number of methodologies designed to get him to where he is today, which includes a recent move to a new facility that allows for the fabrication of solid surface, quartz surfacing and natural stone. A lot of solid surface shops are exploring similar moves, and Ludwick was gracious enough to explain how he did it and offer a few words of advice.
A Solid Beginning
Ludwick and his co-owners, wife Lori and partner Tom Lentz, entered the countertop market in 2002 after leaving the house framing industry and began performing remodeling work on commercial and residential applications. During that process, they had a customer who wanted a solid surface countertop, which was Ludwick's first introduction to the product.
"When we went to price [the solid surface], we could not believe the cost of it," explained Ludwick. "Upon inspection, we determined we could do the fabrication ourselves. So we went to see a friend and fellow fabricator to get a few tips and Premier Countertops was born."
Like many fabricators entering the solid surface market, the top was fabricated in a garage and after some trial and error, it was installed with success. "The customer still has the top today and is just as thrilled with it as the day it was installed," said Ludwick, who then approached a local Formica distributor about setting up an account.
"At first our Formica distributor laughed when we asked about fabricating its solid surface product," said Ludwick. "We were told we needed to be certified to purchase materials. So, we attended Formica's training classes and have not stopped fabricating since."
With the success of his first solid surface project and seeing the potential money to be made, Ludwick rented a one-bay shop in which he and Lentz began the business. "The shop was about 1,200 sq. ft. with office space in the front half," remembered Ludwick. "Our desks for bidding consisted of sawhorses and sand-bags. Fabrication was done all by hand. We watched our numbers closely with our first jobs and finally exploded into the marketplace. We have yet to look back."
Premier now has 15 full-time employees and covers a 250-mile radius, but it didn't come easy or without plenty of work to get there. The business continued to grow, largely through word-of-mouth referrals, until Ludwick was finally in the position to take advantage of the contacts he had already established in the builder industry from his days framing houses.
"We continued to add square footage a bay at a time, and slowly added employees as business developed," he said. "In September of 2004, we added an AXYZ CNC router from Fabricator's Choice. They gave us the training we needed, and by buying the CNC, we were able to lower our prices and increase our output, so we could enter the builder market in a big way."