Stone Interiors

Duane Naquin Shares His Blueprint for Success

Fabrication and installation of granite, marble and engineered quartz, including Caesarstone, Silestone, and Cambria. 

Stone Interiors began operation in July of 1997. The owners have over 63 years experience in Stone fabrication and installation, specializing in marble, granite, quartzite, and engineered quartz. After 20 years in business, we have expertly installed over 50,000 jobs. We now own and operate three showrooms in South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana.

Above: Custom marble kitchen and dining area in an open-plan loft. Note the mitered corners on the tops.

Smart people know the truthfulness of the statement “knowledge is power,” but the savviest of smart entrepreneurs will add, “Only if you know how to use it.” In this story, Duane Naquin, owner of Stone Interiors, Gaston, South Carolina shares his blueprint for success in the countertop business.

“I’m a second generation fabricator, and while I am the owner of Stone Interiors, it’s the second company my father and I have owned together,“ said Duane. 

Duane’s father is G.K. Naquin, one of the co-founders of Intrepid Enterprises, started in New Orleans, Louisiana,  in 1972. “Intrepid was the largest high-rise granite company in the country during the 1980s,” continued Duane. “When he sold out of the company in 1997, he immediately started Stone Interiors in Loxley, Alabama. After I graduated from college in 2001, I did some research to decide where we would open our second location, and picked Columbia, South Carolina.” 

By 2007, Stone Interiors would gross around 6 million yearly, but unfortunately, beginning in 2008 and during the many years or recession that followed, revenue diminished to about $2 million per year. 

“Initially we were founded as a purely wholesale company,” explained Duane. “We never dealt with any builders or retail directly, but during the recession the way we had to do business changed.  Today, about 40 percent of our business is servicing big box stores, 40 percent to builders direct, and 20 percent retail direct. We service all of South Carolina, Metro Charlotte, North Carolina and the Augusta, Georgia, market offering a wide array of granites, marbles, engineered stones, wood and stainless steel. Fortunately, this year, we’ll probably do somewhere around that $6 million again. So we’ve really come full circle and are looking to expand beyond that.”

Above: Stone Interiors shop equipment line-up includes a Baca Robotic SawJet, Marmo and Denver bridge saws,  a 711 and a 522 Marmo Edge Polisher, and an Intermac Master 43 CNC machine, which they use to fabricate their specialty edges, curves and sink cutouts. 

The Inner Workings: Yard & Showroom

The facility is situated on nine acres. A good bit of the property is wooded, which makes it a peaceful place for customers to visit. Duane explained, “We are in an industrial area outside of town, and our customers don’t see any of the neighboring places around us. We have a dedicated area for customers to safely view our over 1,000 in-stock slabs. Moreover, we have a large party tent to display our Luxury Collection of about 25 exotic materials we import, to be easily viewed. We don’t have to flip through them or just show the edge of a slab. They can see full front views of all those materials. We stock these luxury materials and sell them by the square foot.” 

Customers can also take advantage of various programs that help move remnants. “We’ve got some good package deals when customers are buying a kitchen, so they’re offered a great deal to have us do their vanities, too. That helps move those remnants through.” 

Stone Interiors regularly purchases materials from six different international suppliers and from 12 domestic wholesalers, explained Duane. “Typically, my wife Heather and I try to go to Brazil every other year to look for something new and different. She works here and does a lot of the buying. This is where the whole idea of the luxury collection came from, when we were visiting Antolini Luigi’s Brazilian warehouse. We walked into this beautiful building, looking at all this stone and thinking, “Hmm, this is what we need to do.” So we’ve made ourselves sort of a mini Antolini’s here. We also work with an agent that inspects our containers before they leave Brazil. That way we’ve got eyes on each container load.”

Above: Stone Interiors has been a Marmo Meccanica shop “from the very beginning,” said Duane Naquin. Much of their work is straight runs, handled by their Marmo 522 edge polisher.

State-of-the-Art People

Stone Interiors currently employs 46 talented people. The shop, said Duane, normally is staffed by eight to ten workers, depending if they have to add an extra person or two to their five installation crews, or two measuring crews.    

The showroom is staffed with five internal sales people and four outside sales people that service the builder and retail accounts, while three additional staff look after the company’s processing and billing of big box accounts. All are fully equipped to sit down with a customer and his or her designer to assist in fleshing out a custom design, according to Duane. “These are the kinds of things that we really specialize in. Our employees, by far, are the best in the industry. We’ve been at this location for 15 years, and we’ve got four people that have been with us from the first days, and many more have been with us for over 10 years.”

State-of-the-Art Shop

Above: Stone Interiors customers can see full slab samples of about 25 types of exotic stone. “We don’t have to flip through them or just show the edge of a slab. They can see full front views of all those materials. We stock these luxury materials and sell them by the square foot.”

The building has a total footprint of 20,000 square feet, with 16,000 dedicated to the shop, 2,500 for office space and 1,500 square feet for the showroom. From the beginning, Stone Interiors has been a Marmo Meccanica shop, said Duane. “We brought in some of the first Marmo machines back in the early 1990s, and we’ve been hooked on them ever since. When we first set up we had a Marmo bridge saw and their 711 and 522 Edge Polishers. Over time, we got another bridge saw, a Denver from Vic Industrial. We also have an Intermac Master 43 CNC machine.”    

If it’s ogee, triple pencil or specialty edges, it is done on the CNC, but 90 percent of their work is still straight runs and more suited to line polishers, he explained. “We prioritize what goes through the CNC, because we want it running at full capacity. It handles all the specialty edges, curves and sink cutouts. But all of our flat edge work still runs through our edge polishers — they still run circles around a CNC for straight edges. Last year, when we bought the robot (saw), we moved the original Marmo saw and put the robot in its place.”

The Kuka robot mentioned is a part of a BACA Systems machine. When first purchased, Duane also invested in an extra photo workstation to assist customers in slab layout. “All of our luxury slabs are photographed and pre-matched for our customers to view and experiment with layouts. As for the robotic arm, it’s been working great. We still have the same kind of waterjet maintenance that everybody has, but in terms of precision, speed, maintenance and reliability, the BACA is unparalleled. It has basically taken over everything we were doing on both bridge saws, with excess capacity beyond that. 

Above: The technology that Stone Interiors has chosen allows for great precision in templating and pattern alignment, as shown in this top and backsplash.

“As far as a learning curve, the BACA has been fairly simple. We were already running a CNC and shooting (laser) template files digitally, and using CAD systems. So if you’re already using laser and CAD, the robot is an easy integration. However, if you’re going straight from stick templates to learning CAD and everything else in the process, then I’m sure you’d have a little steeper curve. Before the robot, we could still cut by hand or by bridge saw, but now there is no reason to not take measurements with a laser.” 

Recycling & Safety

“When we built this facility, we constructed our own recycling system,” continued Duane, “So we are able to run gray water and clean water through our closed-loop system based on the requirements of each piece of equipment. Moreover, we are an accredited company, so we have to be part of the OSHA voluntary program every year. We’ve got our safety schedule set up with what has to happen, such as our monthly safety meetings and daily inspections of equipment. We also do annual hearing and pulmonary function tests, drug tests, driver safety–all of those things. 

Above: Shown with installation in progress: pattern-matched quartzite top and splash. 

“Our (safety) history goes back to my father doing large-scale commercial. At one point he had over 600 employees, and what they had for safety programs were very robust corporate policies and programs. When he left that world and started in this world, safety just naturally came with him. So we tend to be pretty stringent in this area. That corporate structure, additionally, is why we’ve been so successful. Many small companies know how to fabricate, but don’t know how to run a business, and that’s what dooms them. 

“So being able to run a business is what truly makes you successful in our industry.” 


Stone Interiors has an in-house marketing person that’s been with them for about a year, working on unifying their message. Additionally, they advertise on the radio, in various publications and participate at the local home shows.

“Our booth is more than just sample racks of materials that we stock. It is a kitchen set up with a TV showing video, and a sofa where they can sit and have a coffee and talk about what they want to do. But the gist of our marketing is to get them to come here and experience what we have to show. Everything we are trying to do and build around is the (experience) of buying stone as opposed to the (transaction) of buying.”

Give Customers What They Want, When They Want it, For a Price They’re Willing to Pay

Above: Sample double sink vanity features a custom backsplash with inset mosaic tile. Stone Interiors also offers tile work, focusing on backsplashes, wet areas and showers.

Duane continued, “One of our biggest customers is a high-end designer here in town. She uses us because we can help her. She comes up with designs, knows the image of what she wants, and she knows we’ll help her make it reality. With our technical level of knowledge, we’ll design and explain what’s going to be needed to achieve what she is looking for. That’s what we specialize in. Anybody can throw in a $30 per foot countertop, but it takes a whole other level of expertise and professionalism to design, implement and execute on a lot of the higher-end projects. Many designers have gone out and failed to get what they want with other companies, and then come back to us. So this is where we have really been able to perform where others have failed, and the kind of thing that separates the true craftsman from the guys that just go from job to job, offering poor quality.

“In the same context, the thing we find, though, is when you get into a lot of the specialized companies that do have the expertise, they’re mostly smaller companies with top craftsmen. We are a fairly large-scale shop that’s able to function with that high level of quality, running over 10,000 feet a month of finished jobs through our shop.” 

The Unique Ingredient

Above: Vetrazzo Glass island is perfect for high-end customers and designers opting for a nontraditional palette.

So what makes Stone Interiors unique? “I think it comes down to one simple thing that has many parts, and that’s customer service,” Duane replied. “We understand that people have a choice of where they do business. We want our customers to enjoy their experience. We want them to come here and look at their materials in a safe, clean, creative environment, with sales people that are capable of helping them design a project. Yes, some customers come in with designers, but many don’t. They just walk in off the street, unsure of what they want or what goes together. So it is up to us to walk them through that process and give them a good experience 

“So much of life these days is about experience. Sure, you can go somewhere, spend a lot of money and have things, but you don’t get the experience of going to new places. Those are the things that make life memorable, and that’s what we want this to be. People are going to make these purchases, live with these purchases, and we want them to remember this experience as a positive thing. 

“Some people come in and it’s all about the dollar. Whoever gives the lowest price gets the job, and that’s fine, we get our share of those customers. But anyone who comes here, looks at our facility, and looks at the way we operate, they’ll buy here. We are an accredited company, and we produce at that extra level, and the customer sees and appreciates that. One of the things that I always hear from our big box contacts is that one of the biggest reasons they love us is because of our installers. When they go out in the field they are dressed appropriately and they can communicate with the customers. Many companies aren’t capable of communicating, and that is nine-tenths of the battle right there. If you’ve got installers that are able to keep a good relationship and communicate, that’s what really makes a company shine.” 

Above: Stone Interiors’ nine-acre campus includes a 20,000 square foot main facility that houses the shop, showroom and offices. The MIA accredited company uses a closed-loop water recycling system.
Duane Naquin says, “Our inside showroom is about 1,500 square feet. Being in Columbia, we’ve got year- round warm enough weather, so we additionally have an exterior slab display. So while we have a relatively small showroom inside, our outside show space at any given time has 60 spots where we keep one of every variety of our colors.
We have vignettes in our showroom but are planning to do renovations. Over the next year we are going to be integrating a lot of touch screens with a lot of virtual elements into the showroom.” 

Amenities & Additional Services

Stone Interiors also offers major brands of fixtures, various braces and support systems and a limited range of cabinets. Cabinetry is not something that they get into very much, said Duane, because much of his sales are through cabinet dealers. However, he does put customers in touch with dealers to help facilitate getting the cabinets they want. Additionally, Stone Interiors keeps contracts with local plumbers and electricians to help facilitate the rerouting of plumbing or moving an electrical outlet.   

Tile work is within the company’s services, too, but once again, the company tends to focus on the higher end of that by doing backsplashes, wet areas, showers and things like that, said Duane. “I’m not the guy you’re going to get to install 2,000 square feet of tiles throughout your house. That kind of work is not necessarily the kind of work I’m looking for. I’m not a $6 a foot tile guy. Instead, we try and focus on the wet areas or problem areas that most people have.” 

Future Plans

“The takeaway of our story is that it’s all about learning, looking for new things, going to the trade shows, being a member of the associations and interacting with other companies.”

Knowledge Is Power, But Only if You Know How to Use It.

“If you go back and pull up old Surfaces and Coverings show programs, you’ll see that my father and I have taught countless classes, over the years. We go out and share what we’ve learned because we’ve always been about giving back to the industry. We let people learn what we are doing, and we learn about what they are doing. Many fabricators think they don’t have to ask for help and pretend that they know everything in the world, but that’s just not true, and not how you grow as company or as an individual. 

“Prior to 2008, all of our classes were about what’s the best equipment and what kind of work do you do. You know, technical classes. But once 2008 hit, it all became about business management, how to track your metrics, what your numbers are, those types of classes. To this day it is business management subjects that we continue to push.

“One of the biggest voids in this industry is how to run a business. Our industry has an extremely low threshold of entry. Sure, you can put your shingle out and sell countertops. Every fabricator-installer at some point thinks he can start a business, but do they know the technical side: how to get a license, how to get a permit, how to pay their taxes? These are the biggest stumbling blocks for people in our industry.”

— Duane Naquin

“Our future is a big, wild ride. We are starting to deal with a lot of these new, ultra-compact and large format porcelain tiles. It should be interesting to see where a lot of this business develops over the next 10 or 15 years. 

“Silestone just turned 25 years old, and I remember when those products first came on the market, and we thought ‘where is this going?’ So it should be interesting to see where all of these new products are going and what comes out beyond them. We are a technologically interested company, and are always looking for what is next. 

“As far as the heart and soul of our company, it’s the way we pay attention to details and take care of our customers – which actually traces back to our employees, who care about our customers and make sure they have that special Stone Interiors experience. And that’s the thing! Anyone out there can go out and buy a piece of stone, and most can sell, fabricate and install it, but it’s selling the “sizzle” and giving customers an outstanding experience while purchasing their countertops that really sticks with them. 

“So the takeaway of our story is that it’s all about learning, looking for new things, going to the trade shows, being a member of the associations and interacting with other companies. Don’t live in a hole. You’ve got to get out there and risk looking foolish and realize that you don’t know everything. That’s how you learn and how you share and grow your company.” 

Stone Interiors is an accredited MIA (Marble Institute of America) company. Past awards include Stone World Magazine’s Fabricator Of The Year award and the MIA Pinnacle award. 

To learn more about Stone Interiors, view their website at

This content is a feature from the Slippery Rock Gazette.

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