Sunday, February 26, 2012
CHARLTON — Brazilian immigrant Alecx Santos has come a long way from waiting tables at the IHOP restaurant in Shrewsbury, his first job when he came to the United States as a teenager 20 years ago.
He and his wife, Alcine, have seen their granite countertop company, All Granite & Marble Inc. at 379 Worcester Road, grow into a thriving business, with $3.8 million in annual sales. All Granite & Marble imports, cuts to order, finishes and installs natural and engineered stone for residential and commercial spaces.
Mr. Santos attributes the rapid doubling of sales to building a strong sales force, focusing on customer service and investing in technology. He said when he bought the business in 2007, the market for home sales was weakening, but the demand for renovation supplies, such as the granite kitchen countertops that are his core business, was expanding.
The timing couldn’t be better, Mr. Santos said. The failing economy slowed new home construction, yet gave rise to home retention with renovation. The couple sold several rental properties to purchase the cut stone wholesale company.
As the customer base and sales grew, so did the need for increased production space and processing efficiencies.
The couple purchased the 3-acre parcel that houses the business two years ago for $350,000 and made plans to modernize operations.
All Granite & Marble finished building a 12,000-square-foot processing plant and warehouse late last year, and a 10,000-square-foot showroom and stone-slab display house are expected to be completed next month.
“I’m very happy with the town. The Planning Board and building inspectors were very supportive, and I enjoy working with those guys. I put buildings up in another town, and did not have this support,” Mr. Santos said.
Town Planner Alan I. Gordon said it was a routine site plan approval.
“An old ramshackle building was razed. It’s very impressive with the new buildings, and the operation is very high-tech now,” Mr. Gordon said. “He worked very well with the board regarding design, drainage and parking lot design and landscaping.”
The couple has invested $1.8 million of their money in the buildings to date, and expect to spend another $200,000 to finish the showroom.
“We put those buildings up to make sure we match the newest technology. We are investing in the machines bit by bit,” Mr. Santos said.
About $500,000 of stone working machinery was installed and more is on order.
When finished, Mr. Santos said, the processing plant will be the largest in the Northeast.
The business has been a homecoming of sorts for the couple, as the primary supplier of granite is a quarry in Brazil, followed by quarries in India and Italy.
“Brazil is number one in colors, and has many quarries. We do buy from the United States also, but very little because the color is not very successful,” Mr. Santos said.
Residential kitchen designers and dealers represent about 80 percent of the company’s sales, with granite vanities and countertops as the top sellers.
“We do much more in granite; not much marble is used anymore, and the quartz (engineered stone) is becoming very strong,” Mr. Santos said.
The company employs 28 people, who do everything from sales to installation. When a dealer places an order, they choose from more than 3,000 slabs of in-stock stone.
With the increased efficiencies, Mr. Santos said, the goal is to reduce the company’s order lead time from seven-to-10 business days to five, and increase commercial sales of such products as bank teller stations and hotel reception desks.