Fabricator Offers One-Stop Shopping for Tops

by WOHe

Fabricator Offers One-Stop Shopping for
Tops

By Daina Darzin


WESTCHESTER, PAFinding a niche and sticking to it is a frequently
cited marketing philosophy but few have done it as successfully as
MacLaren Fabrication, which currently boasts a 40% a year growth
rate. In fact, president Andrew MacLaren cites controlling his
company’s expansion as his biggest challenge. “[It’s hard] to
control the demand of having three premium products under one roof
and not grow too quickly,” he explains. “We’re very selective with
the customers that we bring on and the amount of capacity pressure
we put [on ourselves].”

MacLaren started out working for a custom kitchen dealer
straight out of high school, and quickly became the chief
installer. He then progressed to owning his own kitchen remodeling
business, which evolved into a specialty installing DuPont Corian
countertops 16 years ago. Many remodelers were uneducated in the
fine points of installing the then-brand-new product, so DuPont
created a certified fabrication network. “Back then, we didn’t
think there would be enough business to keep us busy,” MacLaren
admits. But Corian turned out to be a big hit with consumers, and
MacLaren Fabrication was on its way.

Today, the company sports eight crews, and installs about 50
kitchens and bathrooms weekly. MacLaren Fabrication has also
recently undertaken such high-profile projects as the installation
of DuPont’s 2001 trade show booths.

Additionally, the company also did installations for “Dining by
Design,” a New York fundraising event coordinated by the Design
Industry’s Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA).

Adding stone
About five years ago, the company expanded to installing granite,
and began fabricating natural stone materials last year. MacLaren
says the new specialty was in response to granite’s rapid
penetration of the high-end countertop market. “I saw all my hard
work was [threatened] due to the incredible demand for natural
stone products. So it was basically, get in or get out,” he
recalls. 

Deciding to branch out into stone fabrication as well as
installation, MacLaren just recently completed purchase of all the
equipment required for the job a much more complex procedure than
fabricating Corian. “We bought a lot of automated machinery, line
polishing machines, a CNC router,” he notes. Heavier equipment was
also required to move hefty granite slabs. 

MacLaren works with two large granite distributors to obtain his
raw material. Frequently, customers like to pick out their own slab
prior to fabrication, which MacLaren says puts an additional burden
on the process. “We have to provide more salespeople to aid in the
selection of stone, but it is part of the natural stone dilemma,”
he explains. “We actually have inventory inside and outside. We
poured 200 yards of concrete outside, where we keep all of our
slabs.”

DuPont was surprisingly receptive to sharing space and business
with its Mother Nature-manufactured competitor, MacLaren
elaborates. “They believe in me as a partner, because in the solid
surface business, we are 100% Corian,” he notes. “We are a brand
champion for them. Therefore, they listened to me, and they
understood that me getting into the granite business actually
protected my Corian business. Now, in a million dollar home, we can
do [the countertops] in the whole house. We can do the kitchen in
granite, and all the bathrooms in custom Corian.” The business
expansion also reflects the trend towards combination kitchens,
with, for instance, a granite center island and Corian sink area,
MacLaren adds.

All the new equipment is also essential for another addition to
MacLaren’s repertoire: DuPont Zodiaq, a new surfacing product
that’s made of 93% quartz. “It has a very luxurious look but it’s
far more consistent than natural stone,” MacLaren explains. Zodiaq
has a hardness rating of seven, as hard or harder than most
granites, and it’s totally non-porous, with the shimmery look of
real quartz. 

“There’s no need for slab selection, and that’s a benefit in our
industry,” says MacLaren. “The high-end builder doesn’t have to
worry about his customer going off and making selections in other
places where maybe he doesn’t do business, and not being able to
obtain that special stone.” 

MacLaren Fabrication’s design capacity is limited to
countertops; the company coordinates projects with area designers.
“That’s where our showroom comes in,” MacLaren explains. “We allow
designers to bring their customers in.” MacLaren targets area
designers through open houses, as well as through hands-on
demonstrations. “We’ll show them the process, and in some cases
we’ll have them actually work with the products from an
architectural standpoint, so they can feel more comfortable when
they specify the product,” he notes. 

The company also does considerable advertising in builder trade
magazines, as well as participating in local home builders’
associations. “We also support our local kitchen dealer market on a
wholesale level,” says MacLaren. His marketing efforts are
currently limited to an 80-mile radius further expansion is limited
by the problems inherent in transporting heavy materials, he
explains.

Home centers, especially the new, upscale EXPO Design Center
chain, have recently made inroads in the high-end countertop
market, but MacLaren insists he isn’t worried. “Not only do we have
a showroom that’s unique [combined] with a wholesale fabricator,
but we provide [great service with] installation, design and
fabrication,” he declares. “We’re one of the few companies in the
country which can manufacture and install all these products under
one roof. That’s what makes us unique.”

MacLaren Fabrication Inc.

LOCATION: Westchester, PA
PRINCIPAL: Andrew MacLaren, president
SHOWROOM: 1, 2,800 sq. ft. 
HOURS OF OPERATION: Showroom: Mon.-Fri., 8-5;
Saturdays by appointment. Fabrication shop: Mon.-Fri., 7-5
EMPLOYEES: 48
DESIGN SOFTWARE: Custom-designed
MAJOR PRODUCT LINES: DuPont Corian, DuPont Zodiaq,
granite, marble, natural stone 
SPECIALTY: High-end countertop fabrication and
installation 
BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY: One-stop shopping for all
high-end countertop needs. “We’re one of the few companies in the
country which can manufacture and install all these products under
one roof.”

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