Company Builds a Foundation on Tile and Stone
By Denise Vermeulen
Today, Westwood Tile & Stone earns some $4 million annually as a full-service ceramic tile, marble and granite firm. Westwood's inventory offers over 1,000 choices, and the company fabricates the majority of the granite it sells for custom kitchen and bath projects.
"We got into the granite fabrication business to support our own custom tile and marble jobs, because we could not get consistent delivery and service from fabricators," explains Linda Stelmaszyk. She notes that the company has already done over 600 jobs this year. She adds, "The products we sell are very often used together, and our ability to provide both, along with installation, gives us a market niche that companies doing one or the other cannot share."
A 4,000-sq.-ft. showroom and a 5,000-sq.-ft. indoor granite gallery help customers make design choices. Also, the granite gallery, which opened in May of 2000, includes metal halide lighting to highlight the granite's color as it will appear in the natural light of a home.
Westwood's retail clients are predominantly upscale, owning homes that are worth in excess of $300,000, and are often in the million-dollar range. The company maintains a "fairly large presence in the Yellow Pages," and does some advertising during the spring and fall the time Stelmaszyk refers to as the "home improvement season."
Westwood also began offering seminars to the public last year. "The seminars we have in our showroom," says Stelmaszyk, "are not common for our type of business, and have attracted a lot of interest." Promoted via public service announcements in local papers, the seminars provide information about granite countertops and designing backsplashes. Each of the seminars, which will be offered again at the showroom in the near future, drew between 25 and 40 potential clients from both wholesale and retail markets, Stelmaszyk notes.
Some 50 percent of Westwood's clients are remodeling contracts, and the rest have new homes under construction. Although Stelmaszyk's average client is in his or her thirties, she says that there is a growing market in the over-55 category. These clients have downsized, retiring to smaller homes, but are still looking for quality products, she adds.
The Great Outdoors
Stelmaszyk discovered additional business waiting in the yards of many of her upscale clients. A growing trend toward the "outdoor kitchen" has opened up new business opportunities for the company.
The use of granite or limestone as countertop surfaces built around a grill makes sense to many customers. These freestanding pieces make good use of the natural properties of the stone, frequently replacing wood. Granite's hard, non-porous, stain-resistant surface, for example, is also heat- and scratch-resistant. And, returning the stone to its natural element the great outdoors will not damage it, regardless of the weather.
"Surrounding the grill with natural stone makes the grill look as if it's part of the outdoor environment," says Stelmaszyk. She continues, "Backsplashes add an artistic touch to the outdoor kitchen, which personalizes the entire area."
Outdoor kitchens have helped to expand Westwood's business in the last two years. The firm has done some 12 of these jobs during the past year, and Stelmaszyk sees a growing potential in this area. The variety of colors offered and the lasting qualities of granite and limestone have great appeal among those using it inside, and she believes the outdoor kitchen can be an opportunity for repeat business.
In fact, most customers who plan an outdoor kitchen using granite, which costs about $80 per square foot, have been repeat customers. They are customers who have purchased granite countertops for use indoors, and see the possibilities for the yard. Stelmaszyk, however, hopes to pursue additional markets by developing business relationships with, for example, specialty pool designers.
A popular choice in outdoor kitchen tops is granite with a honed finish. This finish lacks shine, but blends in with natural elements and hides dirt better, she notes.
Another approach that works well, says Stelmaszyk, is a "broken edge look." A popular choice, this look is sanded to reveal smooth but chiseled edges.
The company has also been receiving requests for outdoor furniture such as limestone coffee tables. Often preferred in grays and beiges, with a matte finish, the material has a softer look than granite but is still durable.
Throughout the years Westwood feels it has proven its durability, as well. According to Stelmaszyk, the company has never wavered from its policy of providing quality products and service to customers. She adds that "rock solid" is a good description for what she sells whether it's natural stone products, or top quality design, service, products and fabrication.
Westwood Tile & Stone
LOCATION: Cherry Hill, NJ
PRINCIPALS: Linda & Stephen Stelmaszyk, co-owners; Rick Seraydarian, v.p.; Richard Holmes, sales manager.
SHOWROOMS: one, 4,000 square feet.
HOURS OF OPERATION: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon., Tues., Thurs., Fri.; 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Wed.; 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. Saturday.
MAJOR PRODUCT LINES: Ceramic tile by Tagina, Cerdomus, Porcelanosa, Furnace Hill and Marca Corona.
DESIGN SOFTWARE: None
SPECIALTIES: High-end custom kitchens, intricate backsplashes, custom marble murals, water-jet cutting of stone.
BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY: "We will never compromise quality. We always strive to give our customers excellent serviceand have never strayed from this approach."