Fabricator Profile: Nelson Tile & Stone

Apr 3, 2018 | Customer Profile

What strikes you when you visit Nelson Tile & Stone in Bend, OR is how everyone is friendly and happy. That might just be part of living in central Oregon, but it seems like they’ve got a very special team dynamic there. Thanks to Chris, Jenifer, Katie, Molly and the rest of the Nelson team for you hospitality & time!

Slow and steady growth and improvement

Chris Nelson started working in the stone industry over 20 years ago – first as a mason, then doing tile, and opening his own shop about a decade ago. They started making the move into slab countertops from tile with Chris and his “grumpy sawyer“, but because of the dynamics of their business and the local economy, it was increasingly difficult to attract and retain employees in the shop.

As a consequence, Chris invested in digital technology in 2016, and hasn’t looked back since. Rather than hiring more people, he hired machines.

All of his templates are done via the Laser Template device, and their shop runs a Northwood CNC. What’s amazing is how this automation leads to an incredibly lean, efficient, and consistent. The whole operation runs with just three people in the shop, and another three in the showroom.

Today, the showroom is being renovated an expanded as the company continues is steady pace forward.

Owner as technician

What seemed a little unusual about Nelson Tile & Stone was the fact that Chris, the owner, is also the templator. Typically countertop fabrication shops buy our software when the owner moves from the field or the shop into the office, and discovers there’s a bottleneck they hadn’t considered before.

But it’s clear that Chris is living the dream. He hired an amazing staff that he trusts, and lets him do the work that he truly enjoys. Plus, making sure the templating is perfect has benefits throughout the business, since it’s one of the most critical steps in any countertop shop.

It’s also clear that they’re happy with the size of the company. Although they’ve considered adding a second shift to the shop, it’s more important to find the right person to lead that effort rather than trying to optimize the business around growth for growth’s sake.

Great products and great customers

In the showroom, what is striking is the emphasis on quartz products. Outside of the building, there are granite slabs to entice customers, but the overall mix is over 60% quartz.

Many of the quartz surfaces that homeowners are choosing are from a very modern palate – with a big emphasis on colors that have a marble-like look. Because of marble’s porosity, the natural stone isn’t very desirable in a kitchen, but engineered stones can stand up to the wear & tear without staining.

Currently, Nelson Tile & Stone does about half of their business directly with homeowners, in large part because of their shop’s great location right on one of the main arteries going through downtown. And, that percentage might increase when a new pub is opened next door, adding to the foot-traffic and visibility.

Speeding up the quoting process

It was great to learn that adding Moraware CounterGo to their process has had a great impact on quickly they’ve been able to get quotes to customers. Estimates that used to take hours to draw and lay-out by hand now take fifteen minutes. Plus, there’s been a noticeable decline in the number of jobs where the original estimate is radically different than the templated measurements. Part of that is setting a better expectation with the customers from the very beginning of the process.

Thanks again for allowing us to visit your shop! If you’d like to read more profiles of countertop fabricators, sign up for our monthly newsletter, here: