Company Builds a Foundation on Tile and Stone

by WOHe

Company Builds a Foundation on Tile and
Stone

By Denise Vermeulen


CHERRY HILL, NJTo say that Linda and Stephen Stelmaszyk have built
a rock-solid business on a foundation of stone would not be
inaccurate. More than 25 years ago, the Stelmaszyks opened up a
remodeling business and soon became interested in ceramic tile.
Recognizing the need to carve out a piece of the market for
themselves, the Stelmaszyks began to search for their niche.

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. 


A Dual Approach
As both a wholesaler and a retailer, Stelmaszyk has taken a dual
approach to marketing Westwood Tile & Stone, which primarily
serves clients in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Both ends
of the business have benefitted from word-of-mouth referrals,
according to Stelmaszyk, with referral business being a key piece
of the equation after so many years in business. Sales reps also
pump up the wholesale side of the business by visiting kitchen
designers, builders and interior designers to build one-on-one
relationships. 

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.
EMPLOYEES: 38
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.”

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