By Rick Hemphill
Granite was and is created deep in the fire of earth's furnace of molten rock and during volcanic eruptions. The fire rock is old. It looks out across the Gaza Plain in Egypt sitting as the huge blocks that are the pyramids and their cousins carried water in the Roman aqueducts almost to this day. Most of the granite available today which is cut and polished for your kitchen countertop or bathroom vanity was created millions of years before fish swam in the sea or dinosaurs rumbled across the landscape.
Tom Simon and his long time partner Herbie Bennett have been cutting and polishing slabs of granite for kitchens, bathrooms and even poker tables here in Hagerstown for over seven years. "We started out in a little garage in Greencastle," Says Tom Simon remembering when he and Herbie decided to start the business on their own. "We outgrew that in a month and so we have been here ever since." "We were able to pick the best of the best guys to work for us and we take care of them and they take care of us." "I enjoy the look of the finished granite piece and the customer coming in and tell us that we have done a great job."
"As a kid I was always interested in stone, landscaping and walkways, walls and stuff like that but I was always into rock," Tom continues remembering his beginnings, his still youthful enthusiasm for granite breaking into his voice. "I didn't know how much until I saw granite." "I walked into a granite shop and I saw a showroom like this one here with granite all around and I knew right there that is what I wanted to do," says Tom of his love of working with stone. "I told them I would work for them no matter how much they paid me." "I knew I would be good at it and once I was in it I was hooked." "They hired me that day." Tom and Herbie can provide you with just about any kind of stone kitchen covering you might need. "Granite is the #1 thing people want in their house," Tom says authoritatively.
"It is the number 1 surface." "The other one is quartz but it is not as beautiful as Mother Nature can make stone and it is not as heat proof as granite." "Granite has natural beauty and is a hard natural surface." "It is something people want and I am glad they do."
Granite is heavy weighing 20 lbs per square foot. "A slab is between 1000 and 1200 pounds," Tom explains from personal experience. "We use a hydraulic lift to bring the slabs inside and put them on a hydraulic table which lays them down and helps move them around." "It is transferred around by forklift and manpower." "It is manpower that moves it in to the customer location." "In the door, up the steps." "Installations can get a little crazy sometimes but we have a bunch of young big strong guys doing our lifting to move the granite around."
"Shortly after I first started a bunch of slabs fell on me and I got hurt," Tom remembers. "I was working too hard on a leg that didn't work as well as it used to, so I began to help my daughter as a Mister Mom and just helping out with granite on the side." "I loved stone and working with it." "Then my partner Herbie came along and said let's take this to the next level." "I have been in the business 20 years or more but seven years ago we started the business as the Granite Guys and things have been going good."
Herbie is a great guy we just go together," Tom says having a friend and business partner in one. "I do more of the customer relations and he does the running of the shop." "He gets the projects produced and out the door." "My wife Noreen handled the books at first." "When we first started Herbie and I didn't have the will or desire to get us legal and deal with the licenses and stuff so Noreen took care of all of that for us." "She would sit on the phone for hours dealing with the licensing, taxation and stuff." "It was him and I and we split it down the middle with Uncle Sam."
Granite as a natural stone comes in different colors and granulations. "Not all the tops are all solid granite as some are Labradorite, Quartzite, Limestone, or Marble and some are harder than others," Tom explains clearly enjoying his favorite topic. "Blacks are the hardest and densest." "Marble is not something you put in a kitchen as it will scratch and dent and is easily affected by acids and stuff." "That is why Marble is in bathrooms and fireplaces, and the hard stuff of granite mostly goes in kitchens."
Granite comes from all over the world. "We order in the slabs from Brazil as they are one of the biggest exporters," Tom says noting that most granite is imported. "There are states that have granite and limestone and marble but most of ours are brought in from overseas." "There is some Dakota Mahogany we get from out west and grey granite from Georgia that is used mostly for monuments and curbing and government buildings and stuff like that but not as a kitchen cabinet."
"Uba Tuba is the most common granite we use," Tom says slowly spelling the unusual name of the Brazilian rock. "It is black with flecks of gold and blue in it." "The cost varies according to what other stone is embedded in the granite." "Labradorite has an iridescent shimmer." "It is a blue/green color has a lot of wow factor in the colors and that is more expensive."
"Different areas of the world produce different granites due to the amount of iron or sandstone in it." "I am not a geologist so I don't know all the physical details but they are different." "The lighter colored ones are sometimes a little more porous while the absolute black is the densest and least porous granite." "With this economy we are doing mostly remodeling," Tom says very enthusiastic about his business in his casual laid back manner. "It is a recession proof job if you are good at what you do."
The Granite Guys want their customers to be satisfied and understand what granite and other natural stone tops can do for you." "Come in and talk to us about what you want to do." "We are a plethora of knowledge." "We want you to know everything you need to know about granite, quartz, marble or whatever." We want you to be happy with it and make certain you know how to maintain it." "We go over how you are going to use it." "We are very detailed and the worst thing you could do is put granite into your house and forget something or didn't think about something." "We go over every detail." "We love the stuff so it is easy to talk about the colors and types and edge details."
"Whether to overhang a certain amount or about the backsplash, the radius or clipped corners, stove details, other appliance issues to did we cut enough holes for the faucets." "And the big question, how are we going to get this thing into your house through your doors." "There are more details then you might think."
And granite although hard can be brittle. "The smaller the piece the more brittle it is," Tom acknowledges. "The thinner you get the granite the more brittle it can be." "If you have a 10 foot long 4 inch wide backsplash and you pick it up wrong or bump it as you go through a doorway carrying it into the kitchen it may snap that granite in a minute." "You have to be very careful with it especially if you have big pieces like a sink." "You have to be really careful moving it." "Once it is put into place and shimmed up and glued then it becomes solid as a rock." "It becomes one with cabinet and the surface is durable."
Even a rock like granite needs some care from time to time. "Granite comes about 1 ¼ inch thick and we call it 3 centimeters," Tom explains as he would to any prospective customer. "It is a natural stone and it needs to be sealed." "Actually the darker/black granites may not need the sealing as it is very dense stone." "It is the lighter, grayer, browner granites that have fancier colors that require more sealing." "The darker ones don't stain as easily as the lighter ones either."
But sealing the stone is simple and lasts a several years. "All you need to do is seal it every once in a while and it is just like cleaning it," Tom says with a slight grin. "You spray it on and you wipe it around and it is sealed again for a year or two." "Granite will suck up what it wants and the sealer acts like a wax coating." "Usually a sealer lasts for 3 to 5 years depending on the chemicals used on it or the exposure to heat." "Our recommended product is used to seal it before we install it and we leave instructions with the client on how to care for their new stone top."
"Every day is fun," Tom says clearly enjoying his business. "There is country rock on the radio in the back it is not a high stress job." "We don't like stress so we keep this low stress." "We are about doing a good job and we don't sweat the little things." "You do that and everyone is happy and that makes a better job for the customer." "If you want it done at a fair price and done right and on time you should be using the Granite Guys." "We have a great reputation and we strive to please each customer the best we can."
"We were never happy when we were working for other companies and we always thought we could do it better or more ethical," Tom remembers back to when they started. "So for our business we got the best saw guy, the best installers, the best sink guy and we pay them well and we give them vacations, and Christmas bonuses." "We take care of them and in return they take of us." "So by being fair and ethical and not being greedy we have built a business that has a great reputation and our customers tell their friends and help sell our stuff for us." "Word of mouth is the best sales staff."
"In fact our most challenging job is coming up," Tom continues. "We have to do all these elevator lobby walls and that is going to be a rough job on a time schedule." "The measurements are critical to the project." "If the measuring fails then it fails all the way down the line." "We have been doing 2 jobs a day for 7 years, about 700 jobs a year." That is about 5000 jobs since we have been in business."
"Table tops are very easy as anything that has big radiuses and sharp corners are easy to do," Tom says as he explains some of the ways in which granite can be used.
"We sometimes make the sink out of granite and so we make a big granite box." "The sides are epoxied together and many times they are like a farm sink so you see the front." "It is time consuming and it has to look good." "Sometimes they want a granite dish drainer on the sink and we will refuse to do that." "Setting your dishes directly on the granite to dry will eventually chip your plates and you will chip or break the little gutters in the granite dish drainer." "The granite is brittle and there is no way to polish inside the grooves in the drainer."
"We do outside kitchens, tables, sinks and even outside grills," Tom says expanding on the uses and pitfalls of the stone. "Not every granite can go outside." "You won't hurt the stone but you would hurt the finished surface." "Now they coat the granite tops with an epoxy to fill in any nooks and crannies and make the granite shinier and less porous."
"Outside any pits or epoxy would dry out and you would have a hole or crack or fissure in the surface." "We seldom modify the face of the granite it is usually just cutting and polishing the edge, polishing the surface is a big job."
The Granite Guys are located at 830-A Bowman Avenue in Hagerstown and they are committed to making your job look the best that it can. "This table came right out of the earth and it's beautiful, Tom says with a sweep of his hand across their displays. "Nowadays there are hundreds and hundreds of colors." "We do everything here."
"We do it all and we do it every day." "We don't sell lumber here we only do granite." "Go to the professionals who have the experience and know how to do it for you." You can email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org.