New marble company plans Jan. 24 open house

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
Take some time out to visit Mid-America Marble Products in Marion and meet a couple who have discovered a way to fool Mother Nature.

Manufacturing cultured granite, marble and onyx, David and Laura Yates opened their business in December in a new building that houses a manufacturing plant and showroom in the Marion Industrial Park.

They custom design cultured stone used in kitchens, baths and a variety of other areas in homes and commercial buildings.

“I think it’s a much needed product in this area,” Laura said. “It’s wonderful for remodeling, especially older homes, and this area has lots of older homes.”

Products manufactured in their plant include wall paneling, bathtub and shower surrounds, window sills, fireplace mantels and facings, kitchen counters and bathroom vanities with molded sinks of various styles, sizes and colors.

“We are open for anyone who comes in on a retail basis,” Laura said.

“But our predominant business is going to be with contractors. The contractors can send their customer in. They contact us and let us know their customers are coming to visit and would like to see what we have.”

Laura owns The Hair Company, a beauty and tanning salon in the heart of downtown Marion. She works at her shop three days a week. David continues to work at his job of 20 years at Boeing in Wichita.

“He is a carpenter by trade, although he doesn’t do that at Boeing,” Laura said. “He loves the building industry and likes making things.”

Laura’s duties include office work, such as bookkeeping, accounting and sales. David is involved in the “set-up work and making the cultured marble,” Laura said. “But I went through the same training as he did, and I can do the whole thing, as far as making marble, too.”

To learn about their trade, they traveled to California in March to attended a week-long training program with Tiffany Marble Molds International Inc.

“We actually did the process from start to finish,” Laura said.

The couple broke ground for their new building and enterprise in April. In addition to other loans for purchasing the property and equipment, the Yates applied for a micro loan from South Central Kansas Economic Development District.

“We felt like SCKEDD had a lot to offer us, like marketing, accounting help and a lot of different things that were included in that loan,” Laura said. “That’s why we went with that loan-to complete the building.”

The doors opened for business on Dec. 9. The showroom is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

David’s son, Michael, is a part-time employee helping the couple grow their business. The potential for growth looks promising, according to a Tiffany Marble Web Site.

“The marble industry has virtually exploded in the last few years,” according to the site. “Our manufacturers today are selling an average of seven times more Tiffany Marble, Tiff-Onyx and Tiffany Granite per home than just a few years ago.”

The main focus of the business is manufacturing and sales. The installation is completed by the contractor or the do-it-yourself homeowner. The product is not delivered to the job-it must be picked up at the plant.

The simplest way to refer to the Mid-America product is to use the term “cultured,” such as the cultured-pearl process that forces an oyster to produce a pearl.

“In fact, 80 percent of our marble products is actually ground marble or limestone, which is a form of marble,” according to the Web Site.

Laura said she was hard pressed to find any disadvantages to their cultured stone.

“I just haven’t come up with a whole lot of them yet,” she said chuckling.

Among the advantages over nature-made marble, granite or onyx are the following:

— Cost effective. Cultured marble weighs less and is “easier for contractors to put in,” Laura said. “It’s very reasonable compared to natural made. The casting process enables the manufacturer to produce complex shapes at a fraction of the cost of producing from natural-quarried materials.”

— Easy maintenance. It can be cleaned with soap and water. “It’s very easy to take care of,” Laura said.

— Strength and durability. Natural and cultured stone will chip, but cultured-marble chips can be repaired.”With natural marble, you can’t repair it,” Laura said. “With this, if something happens to it, you can go in and repair it.”

And their products are three to four times the tensile strength of natural marble. Tensile refers to the greatest longitudinal stress a substance can bear without tearing apart.

— Non-permeable. The cultured stone doesn’t have pores that allow fluids to be trapped along the surface, and it’s less likely to permanently stain or collect mildew. “Because it’s not porous, there’s no place for bacteria to grow,” Laura said. “And unlike natural marble, it is very resistant to wear, heat and staining by ink and other substances.”

— Design versatility. Designs are limited only by the imagination of the designer and producer of the product. Each part is individually cast and pigmented and is therefore unique in appearance. Parts can be cast into almost any shape for highly customized designs.

— Seamless construction. Products can be cast in one piece. Vanity tops can be designed with integral bowls and a back splash to minimize crevices and offer ease of installation.

Of the three stones they manufacture, granite is currently the most popular with customers.

“The hottest thing going right now is cultured granite,” Laura said. “The cultured granite is a little more like real granite. We have 40 colors to choose from. You pick your color, and a lot of it depends on the look you want.”

The Yates said they are set up to handle custom orders from anywhere in central Kansas. “Our closest competitor, who makes culture marble available to contractors, is in eastern Kansas,” Laura said.

And for area homeowners wanting to remodel their kitchens and baths, the cultured stone is one answer to difficult remodeling constraints.

“We can make it whatever size you need so it will fit those older homes or apartments,” Laura said. “Things were not built to today’s standards. So your cabinets may not be the same depth as a standard cabinet available in a home-improvement store.”

To introduce their new products to homeowners, contractors and those curious about their unique showroom and plant, the Yates have scheduled an open house from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 24.

“People need to come in and see what we do,” David said.

The future may include offering solid-surface products that can be routered and sanded similar to working with wood. The Yates are looking for an independent-certified fabricator to manufacture the product and install it.

But for now, they said they are pleased with their new business venture in a building that was completed in eight months.

“It was a very enjoyable eight months knowing that there’s something wonderful coming at the end,” Laura said.

“But, I think the big thing I’ve enjoyed more than anything with this is the opportunity to work in a small community, and yet it can be a big thing for the whole community,” Laura said. “It can have a big impact on a lot of things in this area, including jobs and beautification of homes.”

(For more information about Mid-America Marble Products, call 620-382-2992 or send an e-mail to midamericamarble@iwon.com.)

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