When you arrive at the AGM Imports warehouse in North Charleston, you climb a flight of impressive light-brown granite steps and pass between stately black-veined granite columns. You glide across a buff-colored travertine tile porch that carries through the door and into the lobby. Finally, you’re greeted at a weighty white granite desk by an expert in the field of natural stone.
Walk into the warehouse and feast your eyes on every style and variety of granite, travertine, marble, soapstone, onyx and quartzite you can imagine. Natural stones carved out of the wondrous loam of Mother Earth stack up like playing cards in 400 styles that encompass whatever color and pattern you might desire for your kitchen or bathroom.
Now operated by a third generation of the Antunes family, AGM Imports celebrates its 10th anniversary in Charleston this year. The company, founded in New York by a Portuguese immigrant, has grown to include four offices throughout the Southeast. Hard work and fine quality stones have been the keys to AGM’s success. The company’s second decade begins with something new: a quartz product that mimics the look of Italian white marble, but offers the durability of a harder stone.
White marble countertops are all the rage these days—particularly in kitchens where “light, bright and airy” is the fashion. When customers started to ask for a stone that would hold up to wear and tear better than marble (which is susceptible to etching), owner John Antunes scoured the planet, meeting with 15 different quartz manufacturers to find the perfect alternative. He now carries 12 styles of Polar Stone quartz, whose translucency and three-dimensional marbling easily fool the untrained eye. And those rocks are rolling right out the door! They now make up a quarter of industry sales.
Antunes has traversed the globe to find the most beautiful stones and bring them home to his customers. AGM Imports carries slabs from roughly 40 countries, including Italy, Brazil, India, Namibia, Turkey and Madagascar. Many of the stones are so vigorous they stand up to food slicing and oven heat.
As a wholesaler, AGM Imports sells the stone to your fabricator, the person who will install it in your house. But you can visit AGM to choose what you want. The selection is all first quality, vast, and so diverse that “there’s something here for all walks of life,” according to customer service representative Emily Griffin.
As evidence, Antunes recalls locating Amazonite, an emeraldcolor feldspar found in Brazil that is embedded with turquoise. “This particular quarry was only able to produce two blocks for slabs this year. But we have developed such great relationships with the quarries, we were given the opportunity to purchase before other suppliers. If you purchase this exotic stone from AGM you will not see it anywhere else … except on the walls in Tiffany’s,” says Antunes.
Stone is most often used in countertops, but the AGM showroom demonstrates how many other uses it has. People have bought it for backsplashes, chair rails, vanities, fireplace surrounds, baseboards, wall or floor tiles and more. It is used to great effect in restaurants, hotels, offices and basically any indoor area. One customer hung on their wall a half-ton sheet of Copenhagen granite—65 square feet of inch-and-a-quarter-thick material—as a piece of art. Don’t try this at home, at least not without reinforced walls!
There’s no up-selling at AGM, just right-selling. Griffin and her colleagues try to match customers with the product that best meets their needs in terms of material, color, finish and price. AGM staff serve more as interior design consultants than as salespeople. Once you have the stone you want, it’s up to your fabricator to shape it into a fabulous new work of art—wherever they put it.
Barry Waldman is principal at Write Stuff Communications, a PR and marketing firm for non-profits and small businesses. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org