The Cutting Edge


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Lowcountry builders, architects and homeowners have a seemingly endless inventory of companies they can call when they need to have natural stone countertops or tile installed. If the job is going to be a difficult one, however, their options narrow considerably. Atlantic Stone, a 5-year-old company located on Johns Island, is near the top of that list.

Atlantic Stone owner Joe Sykes and his experienced staff have built and nurtured a reputation for being able to handle the tough jobs, according to vice president Chuck Gainey. For example, Vetrazzo is the brand name of a popular material made of recycled glass and used for countertops and bars. Though it might be an excellent option for homeowners, some companies don’t like to deal with it because it is difficult to cut.

“We can handle the jobs others might not be adept at,” Gainey explains. “Other companies might not like to use Vetrazzo because it’s difficult to work with. You must be certified to be able to cut it. There’s a lot less risk with other types of stone.”

To Gainey, who was with Lowe’s for a decade before coming to Atlantic Stone two years ago, the company’s stellar reputation is a vital aspect of its success. He points out that, like mechanics, people don’t always see contractors in the best light because “a few bad apples can spoil it for everyone.” As a result, Sykes, Gainey and their team of seasoned employees are constantly striving to maintain the standards that set them apart from many of their competitors.

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For instance, Atlantic Stone’s installers spend extra time on their layouts, their seams are all but invisible and they always make sure the grain of the stone flows in the same direction, which is especially important when they are working with an L-shaped countertop. Their pursuit of perfection is critical because 85 to 90 percent of the company’s business is on Kiawah, where multimillion-dollar homes are the norm. Atlantic Stone has also done work for professional athletes and giants of the financial world.

“With that type of clientele, the job needs to be done right,” Gainey says. “We are obsessive about details. We do everything right the first time.”

Much of Atlantic Stone’s business comes from referrals from satisfied builders, architects and interior designers, but the company is also popular among Lowcountry companies that import granite, marble and travertine from around the world.

Gainey explains that some people visit a fabricator first when they are interested in new countertops, while others go directly to an importer. Either way, almost all of them have the opportunity to choose the color and pattern they prefer and to pick out a specific slab of marble or granite. Each slab, generally around 55 inches by 120 inches, has a unique pattern.

The importers provide homeowners with a roster of local fabricators; Atlantic Stone is on the list disseminated by AGM Imports, Vitoria International and CRS Marble & Granite in North Charleston, as well as by Pacific Shore Stones on Daniel Island.

Those who start their search for the perfect countertop or the most elegant tile floor, wall or swimming pool at the Atlantic Stone showroom can choose from among more than 500 samples. Or, according to Gainey, he can order just about anything.

He points out that homeowners have a wealth of options. Granite is extremely dense and durable, while marble, which is softer than granite, displays high concentrations of color. Travertine has holes and troughs that produce a weathered appearance. He says quartz countertops—Han-Stone, Caesarstone and Silestone—are also popular.

Atlantic Stone remains popular among homeowners, builders, architects and interior designers. With so many clients, the company might be working on many jobs at one time, all in different stages of the process. But Gainey enjoys the challenge of managing it all.

“We have a scheduling meeting almost every day,” he says. “There are lots of moving parts.”

Brian Sherman is a Charleston-based writer.