Fabricator Focus

The Beveled Edge Marble & Granite
Westminster, Md.


"Things just kept growing and growing."

Holly and Jim Marshall

By K. Schipper

WESTMINSTER, Md. – Think you’re busy? You might want to stand in Jim Marshall’s shoes for a few minutes.


The president of The Beveled Edge Marble & Granite Inc. just opened the company’s second shop in Gettysburg, Pa., in November and is looking forward to taking delivery on a new CNC so production can begin there.


He’s also a partner in a separate business involving a totally different level of stones. Gettysburg Gem Art cuts and facets precious stones and Marshall says complements his work with marble and granite.


And, in his spare time … he’s out showing a home or two as a licensed Realtor®.


At least part of the reason Marshall can spread himself in so many directions is the active involvement in The Beveled Edge of his wife, Holly, the operation’s vice president, and the person responsible for getting Marshall into the stone-fabrication business in the first place.


Rather than seeing the new location as just so many more hours out of his day, Marshall says he’s excited to see what the future holds.

BUSMAN'S HOLIDAY

Although he’s always been a hard worker, it’s really Holly Marshall who helped move her husband into the stone-fabrication business.


As he explains it, 30 years ago, she was working for a wholesale supplier. He lived in the Pittsburgh area and was working as a union printer, and they first met when their paths crossed while she was on a sales trip.


Working in a union shop, Jim Marshall says he had an abundance of vacation time, and after awhile he would arrange to go on sales trips, visiting stone shops with Holly.


“She’d say, ‘I have to go to the Carolinas for a week. Why don’t you come with me and we’ll make a mini-vacation of it,’” Jim Marshall says. “I’d go with her and I’d start talking to the shop owners about machines and fabrication. I was pretty hands-on.”


A little later, he went so far as to go into some of the shops and volunteer his time to learn the trade on those same “mini-vacations.”


“I told them I’d help them if they’d train me, and I gave my word I wasn’t planning to set up a shop in North Carolina,” he says.


By the late ‘90s, Marshall was doing some fabrication on his own, with Holly getting some of the jobs from her contacts in the industry.


“We started out very small,” he says. “We bought a Blue Ripper rail saw and started with some hand tools.”


Eventually, enough work started coming in that Marshall couldn’t continue leading a dual life.


“Things just started growing and growing,” he says. “I was still working in the printing business. I was working the night shift, 12-hour shifts three days a week. So, I’d work in the printing business three days and the other four days a week I’d do fabrication. It just got to the point where I had to let the printing go and put my time into fabrication.”

“We started out very small. We bought a Blue Ripper rail saw and started with some hand tools.”

Jim Marshall

MAINLY GRANITE

The Beveled Edge opened for business in a 1,200 ft² rented space in Westminster in 1998, and Holly Marshall has been an active participant in the business from the first.


“From day one, she’s handled the books,” says her husband. “She’s done sales for us. She really oversees a lot of the business.”


He adds that one of his greatest pleasures – along with keeping his employees and customers happy -- is that he’s been able to work with his wife over the 20-year-history of the business.


With effort from both Marshalls, the business continued to grow, and after almost 10 years, The Beveled Edge finally moved into its current location in a 6,000 ft² rented space on one of Westminster’s main streets.


“That was right when the recession happened,” says Jim Marshall. “We went from a 1,200 ft² place to a 6,000 ft² place and the rent quadrupled. Then, the rug got pulled out from under us with the recession. There was a time when we had not much coming in, but we tried to stay busy and did what we could to survive.”


Survive they have, through a mix of business that leans more toward residential with a mix of renovations and new construction.


“We sell to builders, remodelers, designers, real-estate agents and house flippers,” he says. “We also sell to people who walk through the door. We even have a couple bath shops and cabinet makers.”


Marketing is a touchy subject with the Marshalls, who say a few radio ads and social media are their main forms of marketing – along with word-of-mouth.


“A good 75% of our business comes from word-of-mouth and just being in business so long here in Westminster,” says Jim Marshall. “When people talk about marble and granite, our name usually comes up.”


Not that those two stones are the only things they talk about when discussing The Beveled Edge, although Marshall says granite is the business’ top-seller. The company offers multiple lines of quartz, as well as Neolith®, Dekton®, soapstone, bluestone, limestone and travertine.


The line recently expanded to tile, although its installation is being subbed out.


“With our new location in Gettysburg, the building used to be owned by a tile company that was there for 40 years,” says Jim Marshall. “The building is synonymous with tile, so it made sense for us to offer it along with our slab work.”


The Marshalls expect to have the same sort of impact on the Gettysburg community, where they moved from Maryland seven years ago. Although they’ve sold and installed jobs into northeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware, and as far south as Virginia, the bulk of their work comes from the area between the two communities along the Mason-Dixon Line.


“It’s funny, but customers in Pennsylvania a lot of times don’t want to travel across the state line and come to Maryland, even though it’s only a half hour away,” he says. “We’ve been looking for a place in Pennsylvania for the last few years, and we finally found one that we got into in November.”

“When people talk about marble and granite, our name usually comes up.”

Jim Marshall

DOING THE PREVIOUSLY IMPOSSIBLE

The new Gettysburg outlet of The Beveled Edge offers some major advantages over the Westminster location. Perhaps the biggest is space. Although it’s only 5,500 ft² – compared with the 6,000 ft² in Westminster – the Marshalls bought the building, which sits on three acres.


Jim Marshall says outside storage has been one of his biggest challenges at the Westminster shop.


“Since we rent the building, they have designated parking spaces for us, and to store our granite outside has always been a challenge,” he says. “We’ve always needed more space. With three acres, we can put granite everywhere.”


It also has a loading dock, and before things are done, it will be a totally wet shop housing a five-axis Park Industries SABER® SawJet. The Westminster shop operates with a Park bridge saw purchased 18 months ago, and a FASTBACK® II Flat-Edge Polisher.


“We’ve run three or four miles of stone through the FASTBACK, and the bridge saw have many more miles on it than that,” Marshall says. “We’re excited about the SABER because it opens the door to do other things.”


At present, the Marshalls are upgrading the electrical service on the Gettysburg building, although its showroom is up and operating.


“We’ve done some really nice displays in there, with waterfalls and mitered tops,” he says. “We tried to mix it up and show some higher-level work.”


In the meantime, all fabrication is being done out of the Westminster location, and orders are grouped so that one day the three-man installation crew works in the Gettysburg area, and the next they’ll focus on jobs around Westminster.


Of course, the road between the two is familiar to both Marshalls, who try to alternate days in the two locations, and Jim Marshall tries to plan his sales and measuring trips in much the same way. It’s only natural for him to wear multiple hats, and he counts himself as an addition to both the three-person sales and office staff, and the three-man fabrication crew.


He admits he’s not sure yet how fabrication in the Gettysburg location will impact the company’s staffing, but he’s waiting to see how the speed of the CNC reduces the cutting time per job. However, with so much of his customer base in Maryland, the company will fabricate in both locations.


As with so many others, Marshall admits it’s not always easy finding good employees. His best source: people who are referred to the company by its existing employees. Fortunately, he says, there are more people out there who have basic skills that translate into the industry.


“At one time, we had a guy who came from the glass industry,” he says. “He was used to installing glass panels and that came in handy.Our senior employees usually handle the training, and Holly and I also help train them.”


He adds that The Beveled Edge offers bonuses and incentives, as well as a decent wage, and the Marshalls try to treat everyone there like family.


Not surprisingly, he calls the expansion to Gettysburg the company’s greatest success – at least so far.


“The things we’re doing today weren’t really possible three, four or five years ago for us,” Jim Marshall concludes. “With the economy strong and consumer confidence being up and people spending money, it’s given us the confidence to spread our wings.”