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“Because of the countertops, we had all the equipment to do monuments and donor recognition products – things people do for fundraising,” he says. “The idea still was to diversify so we weren’t so dependent on any one business area.”
It’s an idea that’s continued to work well for the brothers, who took over ownership of the company when their father passed away in 2002. As Tony Malisani says, if the operation was located in a city of several million people, it could easily focus on one of its many aspects, such as countertops.
Click photo to enlarge“If you’re in a state that’s the fourth -argest geographically, and there aren’t even a million people, it’s a little different here,” he says.
Which explains the 600-mile installation road trips; it’s not unusual for the company to sell products to jobs in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Idaho, and across the border into Canada. Some of its work has been installed as far away as New Jersey.
“They were doing a remodel and needed some stone from a quarry operating near Livingston (Mont.),” Malisani explains. “The guy who owned the rights to the quarry was processing the stone, but he didn’t have the equipment to give them the product they wanted. We did a cooperative deal where he sold us the stone, and we processed it and sold it to the contractor.”
Malisani doesn’t have salespeople out combing the hinterlands for clients. When it comes to residential work, Tony Malisani says the company’s Internet presence helps a lot, and the firm also works with lumberyards offering kitchen and bath remodeling to serve as dealers.
“We have an arrangement where they sell our products and handle the financial end, and we try to make it worth their while,” he says. “It works well for everybody. We both get a little bit of business and we try to enhance both our reputation and their reputation by doing a good job.”
These dealers have built-in displays and samples of more-common countertop materials. In turn, Malisani tries to change out the jobs in a single day.Clilck photo to enlarge
“We’ll go in, take out the old countertops, and take out the old plumbing,” Tony Malisani says. “Then, we put in the countertops and reset the sink. I’ll also schedule a plumber to stop in and hook everything up, so at the end of the day they’re back up and going.”
It’s a process that generally works well, he adds, and homeowners tend to love. The main drawback is sending someone from the shop out initially to measure and template the job.
The Malisanis aren’t afraid to do things their own way. For one thing, their own showroom is only a modest 1,500 ft², which isn’t much when you consider the breadth of products they offer.
Part of that philosophy is a preference for having residential jobs go through their dealers. Some is also based on experience.
“Years ago we bought a truckload of ceramic tile as kind of an experiment,” Tony Malisani explains. “We were trying to set ourselves up as a dealer/distributor for a tile company that’s now out of business.
“What we found was we ended up pushing it, rather than being interested in the customer and how best to provide our services. When we started purchasing a fair amount of stone, we found we were doing the same thing.”
There’s also the issue of getting rid of inventory if a particular stone or tile they choose doesn’t sell well. Today, Tony Malisani says the company stocks a couple-hundred slabs in popular colors, but prefers to work with distributors on anything out of the ordinary.
Space is also a consideration for the company. Not only is the original 1935 building still in use, but over the decades Malisani Inc. built additional space on both sides of 11th Street before throwing in the towel and building again in a Great Falls industrial park in 2004.
“We’ve got about 4,000 ft² where we store slabs,” he explains. “There’s a 4,000 ft² building where we have tile and tile-setting equipment. The fabrication shop is right at about 2,500 ft², and then we have probably another 1,500 ft² of office space.”