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WIXOM, Mich. – When Tony Pascucci came to the United States from Italy in 1959, he obviously came with certain expectations in mind, and he worked hard to make those dreams – including Pascucci Marble and Granite – a reality.

It’s doubtful, though, that he would have envisioned the second generation to follow him into the industry would be his daughter, Joanna Pascucci-Stotler, rather than his son.

Still, Pascucci-Stotler says she’s following in her mother’s footsteps as much as she is her father’s. From its beginning 33 years ago, the company relied as much on the business skills of Mary Kay Pascucci as it did on Tony Pascucci’s ability to craft marble and granite.

Taking another cue from her parents, Pascucci-Stotler made certain she had her own good help to bring to the business. Curt Stotler started working for his father-in-law before the couple married, and today his background in civil engineering (plus plenty of on-the-job training) provides the practical experience in the shop.

GETTING STARTED

There’s no question that Tony Pascucci claimed his piece of the American Dream by dint of hard work.

His daughter explains that he began working in the stone industry in his native Italy at the age of 17. It was not, she says, something that previous generations of Pascuccis had done.

In 1959, at the age of 21, he initially immigrated into Canada.

“Then, he met my mother, who was from the Detroit area,” says Pascucci-Stotler. “That’s how he ended up here.”

Although he had primarily worked with slabs in Italy, Pascucci became a tile installer in the United States because it was easier to find work, first for a company in Dearborn, Mich., and then starting his own business out of the family home.

When Joanna Pascucci-Stotler says she literally grew up with the business, she isn’t kidding.

“The floors in our house were his showroom,” she says, adding that even as the tile business grew, her father wanted to get back into doing slab work.

“Some of the builders he was doing tile for had a need for slabs, and eventually he had enough work that he was able to start doing 100-percent slab work again,” she says. “At that point, he had enough clientele and material that he needed to open a shop, and he did that more than 20 years ago.”

While Pascucci-Stotler says she remembers the days when her father would go out and do literally every part of a job on his own, then come home and work on quotes into the night, Tony Pascucci did have one important helper from the very beginning: his wife, Mary Kay.

“My dad provided the hands-on experience, but my mother used to take care of the business side of things,” Pascucci-Stotler says. “He was out on the job, working with the material, but my mother handled the business.”

Pascucci-Stotler says she initially didn’t have any intention of going to work in the stone business. Instead, she went to college, earning a master’s degree in business.

She also met – and married – Curt Stotler. Then, Mary Kay Pascucci became ill with cancer.

“There was a need for me to work here,” the daughter says. “My husband had started working here before we got married, and I saw the need to help out and be able to carry things on. I started working here shortly after we got married.”

FOCUS ON QUALITY

As if that wouldn’t be enough for most people to manage, Pascucci-Stotler says it was at about the same time – eight years ago – that Pascucci Marble and Granite built its current facility in the western Detroit suburb of Wixom.

At 25,000 ft², it’s a space the family expects will serve the business for years to come.

“We have 10,000 ft² where we have our slabs on view for customers to select,” says Pascucci-Stotler. “We have another 10,000 ft² for our fabrication, and the remaining 5,000 ft² includes the showroom and offices.”

These days the company’s shop includes a Terzago bridge saw, a Park Industries Pro-Edge, and – since late 2005 – a Breton CNC.

Tony Pascucci’s daughter says it took some time – probably three years of shopping – to convince him of the wisdom of buying the CNC.

“We spent a long time going to the shows and to other shops and looking at them,” she says. “My dad has gone to a lot of places where he saw machines sitting idle or that left lines in countertops or where things still had to be done afterwards by hand.”

Pascucci-Stotler says Tony Pascucci particularly focused on quality, and it took awhile to convince him that the machine would do as good or better than the job that could be done by hand.

But, then, that may not be surprising, given his background. Tony Pascucci based his business on the belief that you do things the right way, and that’s the only way to do them, says his daughter.

Given that philosophy, it’s also not surprising that the company focuses primarily on residential work, and most of that is higher-end custom jobs. The family isn’t especially interested in working with production builders.

“We pride ourselves on going beyond what our competitors do,” says Pascucci-Stotler. “There are some people who do what we call, ‘lick-and-stick.’ We don’t do that. If it takes extra material or extra time to make the kitchen lay out the way we feel is best for the client and for the veining and the seaming, that’s the way we go.

“We don’t want to give them the cheapest way just so we can give them the cheapest price,” she adds. “We want to give them the best job.”

That reputation for quality has served the company well. Pascucci-Stotler says even today, much of its business comes from word-of-mouth.

“A lot of it is repeat work,” she says. “People will come in and say, ‘Your dad did my kitchen 20 years ago, and now we’re remodeling,’ or, ‘We’ve moved and we want you do to our new home.’”

The company’s showroom is also an important part of the sales process. Pascucci-Stotler says people just can’t always visualize the end product by looking at slabs.

“We’ve got a full kitchen display, and we have some bathroom displays,” she says. “We also offer some natural-stone tile, and we have those displayed. We offer sinks, as well, and we just try to give people ideas.”

SELLING SLABS

While the showroom and finished projects have their role, that 10,000 ft² of slabs helps set Pascucci Marble and Granite apart from its competitors: the company is also a supplier.

“We’ve always been a company that stocked a lot of slabs for customers to come in and look at,” says Pascucci-Stotler. “We grew to such an inventory that other fabricators would have clients come in and start asking if they could buy slabs from us. Slowly, we got into selling slabs.”

Selling slabs out of the Wixom location isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary. However, three years ago, the family identified what they saw as a need for more stone distribution in western Michigan, and opened a facility in Wyoming, Mich.

“Out of this location, we service pretty much all the Detroit area with fabrication and distribution,” says Pascucci-Stotler. “Out of our other location we service the whole state as far as distribution.”

She adds that the Detroit location provides stone – including natural-stone tile, landscape stone and exterior cladding, as well as slabs – mainly for Pascucci Marble’s customers because it’s such a competitive market and a lot of fabricators fear their customers might bring their work to Pascucci.

“If a customer comes here, we have everything they need,” says Pascucci-Stotler. “They can select their stone and we can service them completely during their visit rather than sending them someplace else.”

It also ensures that while the company can offer the staples in granite, marble, limestone and travertine, it also has some different colors – and even exotics such as onyx – for customers to choose from.

There’s also an emphasis on selecting top-quality stone.

“My father and I went to Italy in June on a purchasing trip, and he goes back about twice a year,” says Pascucci-Stotler. “We also have companies that over the years we’ve built relationships with. And, with e-mail, they can send photos of what they want to send up before they ship it.”

The computer and good inventory programs have also helped make the second facility a success, although for awhile Curt Stotler was driving to western Michigan almost every day to what Pascucci-Stotler stresses will remain strictly involved in distribution.

“We’ve found some great people over there, and things have gone well,” she says. “And, we’ve made a vow that we won’t bring fabricated goods to that side of the state. We don’t want to step on anybody’s toes; expanding fabrication to that part of the state isn’t even a thought in our minds.”

STRIVING TOWARD THE FUTURE

What is on her mind, and on the minds of Tony Pascucci and Curt Stotler, too, is continuing to make Pascucci Marble and Granite the best it can be.

“We’re always striving to do better,” says Pascucci-Stotler. “Customer service for us is the biggest thing, and we always strive for 100-percent satisfaction with our customers. To do that, you have to work hard to keep on top of things.”

The second generation is certainly doing its part. Pascucci-Stotler says the business probably tripled in the eight years they’ve been there, and currently has 15 non-family employees, including six people in the shop and a crew of installers. And, that doesn’t include Tony Pascucci.

“Technically he’s retired, but he’s here before I am in the morning,” says his daughter.

She adds that she and her husband certainly aren’t responsible for all that growth.

“Some of it has to do with demand,” she says. “Stone has just grown in popularity. And, with my husband and me here now, there are just more people to help the business grow. There are more people to spread the load around.”

While none of them has the years of experience Tony Pascucci brings to the job, his daughter says it also helps that some of their employees have been with the company more than 15 years.

That type of longevity, coupled with having a second generation in the business and all that means also helps Pascucci Marble and Granite stand out from some of its competitors, Pascucci-Stotler believes.

“A lot of that is the reputation my father has built and the business he built,” she says. “We’re hoping to carry that into the future.”

That’s certainly the goal, anyway, although with the Michigan economy in the doldrums at present she expresses some concern over how much growth the industry can absorb.

“We just want to do more of the custom work we’ve always done,” says Pascucci-Stotler. “Our attention to detail and our customer service make us different from a lot of production shops and we want to continue offering full service, from the conception of the idea and the selection of the materials, all the way through fabrication and installation.”

As for a third generation of the family at Pascucci Marble and Granite, it’s a little early to tell, although she and Stotler are currently expecting their third child, and she says, “I hope so.”

Certainly Joanna Pascucci-Stotler is proud of what her father has done with his life, and she believes he’s pleased with how the business is evolving.

“I think he’s pretty happy to see the business go on,” she says. “I’m sure that’s what his hope was; you work hard and you wonder if it will happen. For him, it’s been a great thing to see things change and grow and know they’re going to go on.”

Tony Pascucci may technically be retired, but his daughter adds that she doesn’t think he will ever really quit the business.

“I hope not,” she concludes. “He loves it, and it gives him joy to see it every day.”

Original publication ©2005 Western Business Media Inc. Use licensed to the author.


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