Have you ever driven by a beautiful upscale home and wondered, where did they find that amazing stone? There’s a chance they got it from Maiden Stone Inc. Founded in 2003, Maiden Stone provides outstanding service supplying custom architectural stone for luxury homes. They specialize in thoughtfully selected stone solutions for residential design projects of the uppermost caliber. Based in Houston, TX, Maiden Stone offers a global reach of products and supplies custom fabricated stone for projects throughout North America.
Maiden Stone Inc’s extensive collection of materials has been carefully chosen to fulfill the varied needs of very high end residential projects: interior and exterior paving, rough cut or cut to size veneer, as well as architectural elements such as carved moldings, columns, and fireplaces surrounds.
MO: Tell us how you got into the stone business, and if there was a lot to learn about the industry before you started the company?
Sandra: It was a serendipitous entre. After living in New York City for eight years and working in first the fashion and then the caviar industry, I was ready for both a career change and lifestyle change. Coincidentally, in 1999, one of my best friends from college founded a stone business with her husband and they were looking for someone who could help them develop a sales program. Pamela’s wonderful artistic sensibility got me excited about the stone industry, and the prospect of living in Seattle was extremely appealing. The company; however, was primarily focused on materials from China and, as a salesperson, I knew there were other stone options for my clients. With the support of some wonderful mentors, I left the China-focused company and started my own business. In the almost nine years since, I am continually learning–about new stones, new factories, better procedures and processes. It never stops challenging me.
MO: 95% of your business is referral or repeat business. Wow! What do you think sets you apart when it comes to customer service?
Sandra: We like to say “we leave no stone unturned” in our pursuit to provide our clients with custom tailored solutions for their projects. We do not stock any inventory (except samples) which frees us to find the best materials that meet the client’s requirements. We always try to put the customer first in every aspect of our business.
MO: You mention that you have collaborated with the top design teams in the country. Tell us about the process of this collaboration, and why designers prefer working with your company.
Sandra: Our clients are among the top designers in the US, or they may be the general contractors or installers who work with them. We strive to be a valuable resource to our clients at all levels of a project. Typically, our clients will contact us with an inspirational image or specific criteria for the goals of the stone on their projects. Once we understand the desired color range, the scope, the schedule, and
the budget, we forward materials that we believe are suitable. This is an iterative process that ultimately expands to include submitting various finishes in a variety of stones until the right combination is found. This can be alengthy progression that may last several years. Our clients prefer working with us because we offer great customer service—and patience—via unique stone solutions.
MO: You mention that because you seek the finest materials from all over the world, being able to communicate is extremely important. Can you tell us any tips on how your company has effectively communicated with those speaking different languages?
Sandra: A picture is truly worth a thousand words. In the stone business, we call it a shop ticket. Our shop ticket is the final contract confirming what the client wants and what the factory is expected to deliver. We have found that having well drawn shop tickets that are easily understood by anyone is key.
MO: Explain to our readers how they can identify quality stone from cheap/fake stone?
Sandra: Natural stone is very similar to fine leather—it ages and becomes richer over time. Just as a beautiful leather bag will pick up the patina of wear, so will stone. ‘Fake” stone, which is also known as man-made or reconstituted stone, is generally easy to spot because it doesn’t have the same depth of color and texture inherent to natural stone and this becomes more pronounced over time. Natural stone looks its worst on the day it’s installed because it is so “new” looking and only grows more handsome each day, month, year, etc. Natural stone is a legacy building material truly without equal.
MO: What is your favorite project that Maiden Stone Inc. has ever worked on?
Sandra: There are so many projects that I have enjoyed working on. We are always pleased when we hear the homeowners are ecstatic about their stone, or when we are contacted about a new project with a design professional that we have worked with previously. This tells us that we are doing things right. There are also the challenging projects where the specification is so precise, or the design is extremely difficult to execute in stone, that force us to take our game to next level. These are the projects that really define us to our clients and are often the ones that we remember most.
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