Rebuilding a stone business: After a fire destroyed Sharon Re’s fabrication shop, she rebuilt it, sold it and eventually opened a new operation in the same building
Beginning in their early twenties, Sharon and Chuck Re started a tile business out of their apartment. While doing tile work for five years, customers would often ask them if they could do a vanity top for them. “We would have to go to a stone shop and have a vanity made,” said Sharon Re. “At the same time, we were getting sick of doing tile work. We decided to go to Cumar Marble and Granite and told them we knew how to template and install. I don’t know if we really did or not, but he hired us and for the next two years taught us everything we know today. That’s where we learned the value of hard work, learning from the best was the turning point for us and we will be forever grateful to Ivo [Cubi] for that.”
Sharon and Chuck would make the drive every day from their hometown of Temple, NH, to Cumar Marble and Granite, located in Everett, MA, and do jobs all around Boston, MA. “After doing this for three years or so, we decided it was too much,” said Sharon Re. “We had just purchased our first house and decided we should open up our own shop. We went to a place called The Stone Yard in Littleton, MA, that actually does nothing but outdoor stuff, but they had a saw and everything. We told them we were going to open up our own shop; it’s probably going to take us a year or so to get the building built and all of that, but we would come here and open up a countertop fabrication business out of here for you.”
Chuck and Sharon Re did that for a year and a half while they built their new fabrication shop, opening RE Marble and Granite in 2000, on their property. Business was going great for Sharon until the night of February 17, 2004. “I went to bed that night only to be awoken by a huge explosion,” said Re. “In a heartbeat, my entire shop, the trucks, forklifts, the office, etc. — everything was gone in one second. I had had rotator cuff surgery the day before and was barely coherent when this happened. Fire truck units from all of the neighboring towns were called in and the people for miles around heard and felt the explosion. That night, all my employees obviously saw the news bulletins on TV, and drove to the shop as we all watched it burn to nothing.
A stone community united
“I saw all my guys who had families to feed just staring blankly not believing that they just lost their job,” Re went on to say. “So I went around to each of them and asked if they were ready to get to work. They just looked at me kind of weird and then I said everyone go home and be here at 7 a.m. the next day. I stayed up all night trying to figure out where to start. The only thing I had left was some bags of garbage from the office in my dumpster near the house. I didn’t sleep a wink and at 7 a.m. the next day everyone was at my house with no idea what was going on. I told my office girl to get that garbage and try to piece together any jobs that were supposed to go on that day or that week. I told the shop guys to get on the phone with the tool distributors and buy anything we would need to get started. I headed to the store and bought computers and phones and made a makeshift office in my garage. The slab distributors in the area, Leamar Industries in Marlbourough, MA, Marble & Granite in Westwood, MA, and Boston Granite Exchange (BGE) in Haverhill, MA, all called us that next day asking if they could help. Boston Granite Exchange put out the word that we needed a place to fabricate ASAP. Within three days, we were at a shop in Massachusetts. We had to work the graveyard shift as the company that owned the shop needed it during the day. Trucks from Leamar, BGE and Marble and Granite were all at my place picking up slabs and transporting them to this little shop we were using, as well as storing slabs for us at their warehouses. The area fabrication shops all called asking if we needed help. Northern Marble and Granite showed up with a box of tools as well. All my cabinet companies called and tried to help us piece the schedule together, sent boxes of office supplies and called all customers to alert them of what was going on. I had my templater and my install crew out doing all the templates we had already done in the previous three weeks. We found a more permanent shop to work out of within a week and then all the slabs again had to be transported and again the stone distributors took care of doing all of that for free. The next few months were absolutely nuts between the insurance company, the fire investigation crew and running two fabrication areas from my garage. I could never have imagined how the stone community came together and got us through. Our very competitors were helping us. We did not lose one job. At most, people had to wait an additional week to two weeks for their kitchen.”
For the next year, Re would deal with the insurance company and building a new building for her shop, all while trying to run out of two or three different shops to get her jobs done. After the ordeal, she was fried. “After all of that, we decided to sell the shop, and it happened to be the perfect time since it was right before the industry took a nose dive,” she said. “After that, I started to do some barn building for a little while.”
Re sold her shop in 2006 to Dave Brassard, the current owner of RE Marble and Granite.
Forming a partnership
After building barns for a few years and when her non-compete against Brassard came up, she decided she wanted to get back into the fabrication business. “I didn’t want to build a new building and I didn’t want to start from scratch all over again,” she said. “So we went to the guy that bought our place and told him we would like to run out of your shop as to not have to compete against each other and we don’t want to hurt your business. So we would like to run out of your shop, and we would just be taking some of our old clients back that were ordering from other companies anyway.”
The two parties came up with an agreement and now run two shops, RE Marble and Granite and Re’s Mossy Creek Marble and Granite (MCMG) out of the same facility, the same machines and the same workers, templaters and installers. “We told him that we would not go after any of his customers. Any customer that comes through the door is yours I told him,” Re explained. “You wouldn’t think it would work, but honestly, it works really well.”
Both shops manufacture all natural stone varieties, as well as quartz surfacing, porcelain slabs and Dekton. Mossy Creek Marble and Granite keeps production to approximately three kitchens per week by choice, as to not overload time and machinery. That way, RE Marble and Granite can also use the machines. RE Marble and Granite runs one shift with 12 employees. Mossy Creek Marble and Granite has no employees, as it relies on RE’s staff.
“I am sure that as Mossy Creek and RE Marble and Granite continue to grow, especially with RE’s commercial work picking up, we will have to think about second crews,” said Re. “Right now, RE has a small amount of employees that turn out a fair amount of work for both our companies, but I think in the near future, there will have to be expansion.”
RE Marble and Granite has a Fusion 4045 saw/water jet from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN, and a Euro 35 bridge saw from GMM of Italy. The company also uses Slabsmith.
“The saw/waterjet was the latest piece of equipment purchased by RE which we also use at Mossy Creek,” said Re. “This has sped up the fabrication process, but also requires additional steps such as having to take photos, and we also had to hire a programmer. So bottom line, not sure if it saved a lot of labor or money with an increase in employees and second shift as RE commercial work increases. I think that is when you’re really going to see the benefits of the machine.”
The company mostly uses Alpha tooling and accessories — purchased from Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA, and GranQuartz, based in Tucker, GA. Additionally, laser templating is done with a LT-55 Laser Templator from Laser Products Industries of Romeoville, IL.
“At first, Chuck was resistant to the Laser Templator, as he is ‘old school,’ but he absolutely loves it now,” said Re. “It is much easier and quicker. Dave at RE was the one that decided that was the way to go and turns out it was a great decision. Also, I love the fact that we can email the layout to the customers for approval. Customers seem to love that as it saves them an additional trip to the shop.”
Mossy Creek focuses strictly on builders and residential markets. It does not advertise or even have a website as to not compete with RE’s business, which is primarily kitchen and bath dealers, mill yards, builders and commercial work. The average kitchen size is 60 to 70 square feet and RE Marble does approximately 12 jobs a week, on top of the three that Mossy Creek completes. In the short term, MCMG is setting their sights on trying to get more of the high-end builders who may want to do “out of the box” type projects. Long term they are working on promoting their new venture, which is a geode, agate slabs that they produce in a small shop on their personal property. “We have named the product, ‘Venzetta’,” said Re. “This is made from the raw agates, geodes that we buy, slice and mold for small areas.” RE’s vision is to increase their commercial market.
After everything Re has been through with her shop, she loves the history of what they started, went through and now feels like they have sort of re-invented the wheel where they can still do what they love but not have to worry about the ownership of a full facility. “It’s something that works well for us, as we are older and have been ‘married’ to the business for so long,” she said. “This type of arrangement lets us make a living and also have a little more freedom and flexibility to have a little more personal time and less responsibility. I also appreciate that Mossy Creek and RE can co-exist and work independently as well. I am not sure that it could ever be the norm in the industry, as it takes an immense sense of trust and respect for each other’s companies and boundaries. But I love the fact that companies with two different styles, one old school and extremely laid back vs. more professional and structured, can work together and each company can bring some great value to the other.”
By: Jason Kamery
Article originally appear on StoneWorld.com