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Many of today’s stone fabricators are in the business because of granite kitchen countertops – so what happens when someone comes in and asks for marble?

Depending on the part of the country in which they’re located and their clientele, more shops are finding clients who really want marble in their kitchens – for a variety of reasons.

200 Baker Kelava11Click photo to enlargeAnd, these shops are cutting and installing them, after earnestly explaining the potential pitfalls marble offers to those who can’t handle regular wear-and-tear. The stone may take a little more tender loving care in the shop, but the real key to success is making sure customers know what they’re getting before closing the sale.

SETTING IT OFF

Marble in the kitchen is hardly enjoying a boom. Demand for marble kitchen countertops is spotty, at best, with interest low in the eastern portions of the country and somewhat stronger in places such as Texas and trend-setting California.

“It’s like one percent of our countertop business, or maybe less,” says Josh Yoltay of Beltsville, Md.-based Artelye.

Rich Booms of Redford, Mich.-based Great Lakes Granite and Marble Co., agrees with the “less” figure. He says in recent years the company has average about 2,800 kitchens annually, “and I bet we don’t do five a year in marble.”

On the other hand, Bob Stasswender of Austin, Texas-based Southwest Marble and Granite Co. estimated his shop averages one marble kitchen each week.

“We process between 20 and 25 slabs a week, of which three or so are marble,” he says. “Some of that is bathrooms and fireplace surrounds, but it still works out to about one kitchen a week.”

He adds that after looking at the numbers, he’s a bit surprised by that level of volume. However, it’s not a figure that surprises Latham Woodward of Oakland, Calif.-based Baker Marble and Granite Co. He says that company does 50-70 marble or limestone kitchens a year

“Our clients tend to be a little savvy,” he says. “They travel a lot. They’ve been to Europe and seen Carrara countertops in kitchens, or they’ve seen limestone kitchens in Israel. They don’t accept the argument that you can’t have these stones in your kitchen.”

While travel put marble in a new perspective for some people, for others it’s more a matter of popular culture. Several, including Yoltay and Walter Siewior of Ridgefield Park, N.J.-based All Granite and Marble Corp., say some are being exposed to the idea of marble kitchen countertops by design magazines.

“They see it in magazines and that gets the interest going,” says Siewior. “They see it in a magazine and they think that’s the standard.”

Adding to that is the popularity of cooking shows on cable television.

“Some of the cooking shows have really set off the designers around the country,” says Vito Cangelosi of Mission City, Texas-based Cangelosi. “A lot use white marble, either the carraras or the calacatas, and that’s helped it catch on in the Houston area.”

Finally, as with any other product, it has to be promoted. Stasswender says he suspects shops that don’t do much in the way of marble probably aren’t as comfortable with it as they are with granite.

“I’m not saying we promote marble, but we cut our teeth in the marble business,” he says. “We just do more of it than the people who’ve gotten in the business just recently. We stock probably the largest marble inventory in the Austin area, and when people walk into our showroom, they see it.”

SIMPLE, EARTHY ELEGANCE

Regardless of why clients are smitten with marble kitchen countertops, their main goal is generally the same: they want the look that only marble can give. And, for the largest part, that means one of the white marbles.

“You just don’t have a granite that looks like Carrara; there is no color in granite close to it,” says Artelye’s Yoltay. “White Carrara is very popular, Emperador Light is very popular, and so is Crèma Marfil.”