In the nearly 30 years Hamid Sharifi has been in the countertop business he has seen plenty of changes to the industry. He was there when solid surface took over from laminate and reigned supreme, saw the rise of natural stone and quartz surfacing, and was a part of the mix when everything seemed to fall apart a few years ago. And, as the times changed, so did his company.
“We started in 1984 and have been adding sections to the pile ever since,” Sharifi says. “We do all kinds of surfaces; natural stone, solid surface, laminate, tile and other surfaces. We have different divisions and we market each of them a little differently. But it is all the same thing; just doing what we consider specialized surfacing.”
Design Is Where It’s At
Having acquired a degree in mechanical engineering in college, Sharifi went to work in new home construction, working for a number of different builders, one of whom was his uncle. After a few years of managing custom home construction he gravitated more to the kitchen and bathroom part of the house. “Those areas are much more design oriented,” he says. “The rest is just paint and drywall, so it didn’t interest me.”
When he finally ventured out on his own Sharifi was open to adding new materials to his offering as the market changed, probably due, in part, to his experience as a custom home builder. But it’s more than just the products the company offers that makes it stand out. Ashco International is unique because of the depth and quality of services it offes its varied mix of customers. At the fabrication level, for example, that means seeing across material categories to integrate useful fabrication techniques.
“We have developed an expertise in solid surface for creating invisible seams that we apply to natural stone, quartz and laminate countertops,” Sharifi says. “So we can create almost seamless quartz and granite installations. We do a coved backsplash in laminate and solid surface and we use that knowledge to do coved backsplashes on granite and quartz. It’s something we can do that is not a forte for most people in the industry.”
Total Customer Care
At the customer level, Ashco International has perfected the concept of the One-Stop Shop. “The firm is licensed in general contracting and plumbing,” Sharifi explains, “which makes it very easy for our clients to hire a company that can remove the tops and disconnect plumbing, install the tops and reconnect the plumbing. By the end of the day the kitchen is back in use. Plus, all the services and the warranties come from one company.”
Ashco International is also active in providing sales support to its wholesale customers. “We do lots of back-end support,” he explains. “We train our customers and their teams on the features and benefits of the products we offer, and we are there to answer questions when they need us.”
When reflecting on the early days of his company, Sharifi remembers dominating the local market through product exclusivity rights. “Those days are over,” he says matter-of-factly. “We enjoyed the ride, but it is much more open now in terms of the many kinds of materials and brands that our customers have access to. It’s a good thing, although it can sometimes be challenging to stay in the forefront with so many different options. But, that’s where our decades of experience give us an edge.”
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