By Ed Hartz
The stone retailer and fabricator advertises, displays and promotes to generate a continual flow of new customers, then sells a product to each customer whom the retailer will rarely see again. Consider the garden center. They sell new annual plants to the same customers every year. Even when the customer buys a tree that will live for a century or more, the garden center sells fertilizer and pest control. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a continual relationship that generates a steady cash flow every year from existing customers?
HartzStone has partnered with a significant number of stone retailers and fabricators to provide the continuing maintenance that keeps the stone looking as good as the day it left the store. The retailer sells the service and HartzStone does the work.
While some customers shop only on price, other customers demand the highest quality materials and demand that they be kept in the finest condition. These customers have a reputation to establish and they use the impression that their homes give to support that reputation. The retailer knows who these customers are, and the add-on sale of continuing care meets the customer’s need.
The price conscious commodity shopper does not know that there are quality differences between one grade of 12-inch marble tiles and another grade. Successful retailers and fabricators have acquired an intimate knowledge of the characteristics of each type of stone they sell and the differences between French limestone, Indiana limestone and Irish limestone. The stone professional knows more than just the color and texture of each stone, the professional knows the characteristics that will suit the intended installation and those that will present future problems.
The professional maintenance and restoration craftsman also has an intimate knowledge of the characteristics of each stone, with the added knowledge of how well each stone has survived daily use in real homes. The professional maintenance craftsman also has an intimate knowledge of the tools, materials and techniques that produce the desired result with each specific stone in each specific environment. Although the cost conscious commodity customer would be satisfied with service from the local handyman, the high-end customer wants careful and expert craftsmanship. The retailer and fabricator already have full-time jobs, so the attractive alternative is to out-source the service responsibilities to a reliable maintenance and restoration professional. The successful retailer knows what the customer wants, so a brief conversation with local maintenance and restoration companies will reveal which can deliver the expertise that will keep the customer coming back.
So, go ahead and sell the tumbled marble to be installed in a shower, where soaps, lotions and every imaginable product of the cosmetics industry will assault it. Or sell the limestone counter for the kitchen, where cooking oils, fruit juices and a world of exotic ingredients will attack it. Just be sure to sell the post-installation cleaning and conditioning by a professional maintenance and restoration company so that the stone you sell will continue to look good while it is being used. Then sell the periodic maintenance contract so that the show room appearance is renewed every year. The customer will be happy with their stone for many years, and you will pocket a share of the maintenance revenue every year.
Ed Hartz founded HartzStone more than a decade ago to provide the highest quality stone restoration services to some of the most sophisticated and demanding residential customers in the country. HartzStone has built a reputation for professionalism upon extensive study of the characteristics of natural stone, thorough testing of restoration materials and techniques, and careful attention to the details of each restoration job. Visit HartzStone.com for more information about HartzStone and to see examples of completed restoration projects.
Granite paving outside the American Museum of Natural History, New York
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By Ed Hartz and Ed Townsend
Someone who works only with new materials may not be familiar with professional stone restoration services or why they may be necessary. In the extreme, a visit to the Acropolis in Athens, Greece will present the viewer with centuries of damage from soil, wear and gunpowder. Closer to home, the damage to the perfect appearance of natural stones begins with the residue from the fabrication equipment, adds grout haze during installation, and continues with soil, spills, grit enhanced abrasion, supermarket cleaners and polishes. Stains, scratches, improper maintenance and wear obscure the original beauty of natural stone, concrete, tile and grout. An inevitable, gentile deterioration you may think.
Modern standards of perfection approach those of museum displays and far exceed the expectations of previous generations. Common kitchen spills must be removed from counters, backsplashes and floors. Residues of bath soaps and lotions are simply unacceptable on showers and vanities. Dark trails leading from each doorway must be erased. The standard of performance for stone, tile and concrete in modern homes has been set very high. Occasional professional restoration is necessary for these quality materials to maintain their original appearance.
Because the stone, tile or concrete has been permanently installed, it must be restored in place, and because the restoration process is essentially an industrial process the professional restorer must exercise the most extreme care to protect the surroundings. Water, chemical cleaners, powerful machines to scour accumulated coatings and dirt with stiff brushes, and wet vacuums remove dingy residue. Diamond impregnated grinding disks remove the damaged surfaces and create new polished or honed surfaces. Appropriate polishes, waxes and sealers complete the restoration and set-up the surfaces for future. When the machinery and protective coverings are removed, the professional has worked miracles without leaving excessive evidence of the process.
Surprise, relief and even amazement follow the restoration of long abused hard surfaces. The clear, deep play of light returns to the surface of polished marble. The even color of clean sandstone, the polish of limestone and the contrasting grid of grout return to clean and restored surfaces. Granite regains its mirror smooth polish; the soft color and texture is again revealed in slate; and the industrial uniformity of concrete reemerges. Layers of dull coatings and dirt are stripped from glazed and unglazed tile and grout to reveal the original subtle shades and patterns of colors and textures. The distinctive characteristics of fine materials reveal themselves. Floors are even smoother and flatter than when originally set.
Each floor, wall and counter has had its own unique history and each restoration is a distinct story. To see a few examples of restorations of various materials, take a look at the Our Work section of HartzStone.com.
The first step in the restoration of a marble floor, the original un-restored condition is on the right.
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By Ed Hartz and Ed Townsend
Almost every public building and monument more than 5 years old is already marked by a lack of maintenance. Under staffed and underpaid, most governments and civic organizations opt to perform only the most basic maintenance, such as taking out the trash and cleaning the toilets. Town Halls, Fire Stations, Museums and War Memorial that were proudly dedicated by prominent politicians and wealthy donors gradually acquire the patina of grime and stains that we have come to expect on our neglected symbols of community.
Eventually many deteriorated buildings and monuments are removed to make space for modern replacements. A lucky few are extensively restored and renovated, thereby preserving the community’s architectural legacy. These public monuments were, after all, designed by the best architects and built by the best contractors using the best materials. Let’s remember that it is the well preserved church or courthouse that will be photographed for the scenic calendar, and used in the tourist brochures. The brand new pre-fab office building is best ignored.
Trustees of the public heritage need professional help to maintain public buildings and monuments in a condition that reflects community pride. Periodically, professionally clean the hard surfaces on a schedule that reflects the severity of the environment. Act promptly when the evidence of neglect becomes apparent; professionally remove stains, graffiti and grime before they become extensive and before they penetrate deeply.
But all this costs money that they don’t have, the trustees complain. Wise governments and organizations have begun to require that donors include an endowment to maintain the buildings and monuments. Governments and civic organizations have founded organizations to maintain the existing public heritage; often called “The Friends of” something or other, these organizations provide a focus for the maintenance of important community symbols and facilities. Some of this maintenance is hands-on, such as a trash pick-up day or spring flower planting. Other maintenance requires professional knowledge and equipment.
Everyone in the stone industry benefits when the natural stone in public buildings and monuments is clean and unblemished. It is good P.R. The retailer, installer and maintenance professionals can work together to create a little free publicity for everyone by adopting a prominent local stone installation and forming a “Friends of” organization to maintain it. Cleaning, restoring and conserving stone architectural elements are best left to the craftsmen at professional restoration companies, but the stone maintenance companies can often get most materials donated by the manufacturers if there will be sufficient publicity. Professional restoration companies can adopt a small monument and the allied businesses need only to help provide the publicity. Major buildings are a different situation. The stone retailers, architects and builders have potent contacts needed to raise the funds for major projects, but the pay-off will be proportionate.
I know that you are busy, but a few hours now to create an event that will put your businesses in the news every year is wise and forward thinking, just don’t forget to invite the TV news to your annual clean-up events.
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