Quality granite at reasonable prices
- Stone City, Aurora, CO
We recently visited a couple of friends' places, and astonished to see the granite countertops they have in their kitchen and family rooms. This is really neat and attractive. All the friends just told one name, Stone City, from which they got the work done. Many of the Coloradans know the two brothers in this business, namely Sridhar Babu and Srinivas Babu. DesiShades walked into Stone City to know the details about this business and spoke with Sridhar Babu.
It’s a nice spacious office, centrally located on Abilene Street between Iliff and Mississippi Ave in Aurora, with a neat showroom with granite samples. There are few office staff busily answering the client calls and booking orders. We saw the things expected, which are the granite tables everywhere in the office. Adjacent to the office, in the back, there is the storage for the huge slabs, finished and unfinished, along with a shop with all the cutting machines, edging machines, very sophisticated laser guided cutting machines etc. One side of the shop has all the finished orders in the carts that makes us feel no wonder they are the market leader.
DesiShades: Thanks for your time Sridhar. Can you brief us about the business and your background to come into the business?
Sridhar: We are Stone City, started in 2002. The experience goes way back to 1989 when I was exposed to granite industry. In India we have several quarries where we used to cut the blocks and at the processing industry cut the slabs and export them. We were just sending the cut slabs, but really did not know their end usage so much. Most of the times, we were thinking that they use for wall cladding for high-rise buildings or commercial things. In 1998 when I came to US, we were looking for different options while working in IT. We saw multiple uses for granite here. With our rich experience with granite, we started the industry here, and ever since we have been trying to serve the market for various needs. We specialize in granite counter tops, which is a niche area for us. We import the granite stone from different countries wherever the stone originates. There are several players in the market, but most of them just import the stone and supply to the fabricators or installers. We at Stone City are one stop shop, where we import the material, fabricate and install. We have our own resources back in India and other countries, where we get the material directly from the source, avoiding a lot of middlemen. By avoiding each such layer, it helps us giving the better cost. That’s how Stone City prices are better than most of the people in the market, which is one of the strength of Stone City. People call Stone City a place that is “Quarry to Kitchen”. That’s a very good recognition to us.
DesiShades: What are the different products you carry and the range of products?
Sridhar: Granite falls under the natural stone category that comes from earth's crest or the mountains. We specialize in granite. It is about 90% of our business, and the kitchen counter tops are about 70-80% of our business. Other than granite, we also carry the other material such as slate, marble and lime stone. On special requirements, we can bring any natural stone. Some times the markets need us to get the quartz products, which is artificial stone / engineered stone. We always cater any needs around the stones.
DesiShades: What are different market segments for you? How do you see the scope for new homes versus remodeling homes?
Sridhar: Granite was meant to be for the million dollar homes earlier, but not any more. For the past five years, there was a rapid transition. Because of the internet exposure, the prices in the granite industry were stabilized very much from the earlier highs. It is lot more affordable to everybody now. When comes to new home construction, granite can be used for all Kitchens counter tops, fireplaces, floor tiling, bath countertops, window wall covering, window sills and other special areas. We can go by any special request for the customer. Granite can be used in most of the houses these days. We can use the other material, but granite being the hardest material next to diamond, it can be used extensively. Granite is maintenance free, heat resistant, scratch resistant etc. Some people have some concern that granite might stain, but it does not, if sealed properly. We do this as a standard process in our installation. When comes to remodeling, granite can be used wherever needed. Many a times when the builder gives a cheaper laminate and the people want to change it. We can always help them for remodeling. When somebody wants to put their house on the market, granite countertops will make it a very good selling point. They make the house lot more appealing to the buyer. Granite always gets its value for the investment.
DesiShades: What is the usual price range for granite? Many people want to know these details.
Sridhar: Cost of the Granite goes by square feet. Our price range is $35-$70/sq.ft in our inventory. There are about 200 colors of granite in the industry and we carry about 70 to 80 colors, which are most popular ones. We can always get a special color to a customer upon special request. Our top most color which is $70/sq.ft is priced anywhere about $120-$130 in the market. You can see a significant price difference between Stone City and other vendors. Biggest granite producers are Brazil, India and China. Processing at china is cheaper because of the big manufacturing hub and cheaper processing facilities. Other countries such as Finland, Saudi Arabia, Italy and Russia also do the granite exports. Italy is big in marble though. Pricing depends on where we get the stone from, how we get the stone etc. With no middle people between us and quarry, we can get the stone at an inexpensive price.
DesiShades: Being a small business owner, how many do you employ?
Sridhar: We have about 17 employees here, and we directly or indirectly engage about 50 people with our business. In our India facility we directly and indirectly employ about 60-80 people.
DesiShades: How are you doing with the economy? How do you set apart from other business?
Sridhar: Stone City is always known for its customer service. The primary focus has always been the customer service for us. Most of our customers are referred to us by our existing customers. For granite counter tops, Stone City is always been the market leader. Our repeat business is very good, customer referral is very good.
DesiShades: For most of the charity causes, I see Stone City to be affront. What are your charity contributions?
Sridhar: Stone City always believes in social commitments and charity organizations. Small or big, whatever is possible; Stone City has always been participating in. We take pride in our charity contributions. Whether it is the help with logistics or financial, we try to do our best.
DesiShades: Can you tell us about your family?
Sridhar: I and my brother Srinivas Babu have started Stone City. We live in Denver. I am a mechanical engineer from KITS, Warangal. My brother is an Electronics & Communications Engineer from REC, Warangal. We came in 1998. I live in Centennial, with my wife Amritha and 3 kids, Anushka, Rithika and Vaibhav. My brother lives with his wife Lisa and a daughter Saanvi. We take pride in running the business.
Jerri is the general manager at Stone City. DesiShades had a chance to chat with her.
DesiShades: Hello Jerri, I have a couple of questions to you. How do you feel about Stone City?
Jerri: This is a very family oriented business. I really like working for Babu Family. The business is growing. I do get a lot of comments from customers with how knowledgeable we are and how caring we are for start to finish on their projects. That’s one thing I really like working for a smaller company.
DesiShades: How is Stone City making difference in the market?
Jerri: We are direct importers of the slab. We fabricate and install. We also cut the middleman to buy the outside stone for the customer, so we can save a lot of money for the customer. This is a very fair company and I really enjoy working for the company.
One can certainly see more than what they imagine in granite, when you visit Stone City showroom. Visit them to know more about their products online at http://www.stonecityllc.com or visit their showroom at 1620 S Abilene Street, Aurora, CO 80012.