“Mother Nature gets most of the credit for all the beauty of natural stone; it’s truly amazing what was happening inside the earth,” says Joe Sykes, the president of Atlantic Stone on Johns Island.
In one place, customers can be educated about stone selections, fabrication and installation of countertops, as well as smaller projects such as coordinating backsplashes. The showroom displays hundreds of samples in addition to mock countertops for inspiration, so customers are sure to find the piece that matches their style and design aesthetic. With more than 20 years of experience in the industry, Sykes freely shares his knowledge to help them through the process of selecting stone as well as its installation and upkeep.
Over the decades, Sykes has watched quartz evolve into a popular option, and he’s seen a shift from white and gray color schemes to tans and earthy tones. Paired with bronze finishes, customers are creating warmth and comfort in their home environment.
“They’re looking for a little more color in their life,” he says.
There have also been changes in the industry itself: a move toward more eco-friendly options. Clients are showing more of an interest in sustainability, sourcing and how stone is manufactured. In the same vein, suppliers are also making changes to become carbon-neutral and utilize recycled materials without compromising quality.
Sykes originally worked in the flooring business, and it was through his projects with tilework that he grew interested in the industry. He joined a local stone company in 2003, then in 2006, he opened the doors to Atlantic Stone, serving both residential and commercial clientele. Today, his company works with some of the top quartz companies around the globe—Cambria, Caesarstone, HanStone and Daltile to name a few—as well as local natural stone and quartz importers.
In 2017, the business expanded to meet a void in the market: maintenance and restoration. It was hearing from clients and other people that they needed service and maintenance on their countertops and tile. Sykes hired one employee to fill the gap and oversee skilled technicians to handle chipped countertops, resealing, stains or pieces that just needed a touch-up. This extends beyond the kitchen counter to cleaning, re-caulking and sealing grout in showers and on floors.
“It’s a necessity that no one in town was really doing,” says Beth Branstetter, the project manager at Atlantic Stone & Tile Care. “I inform and educate them—especially with marble—what products not to use, what causes etching and appropriate cleaners to use. I think 90% of the homeowners I meet don’t realize the ongoing care required to preserve their investment.”
Atlantic Stone works with homeowners, property managers and even competing fabricators for their expertise, and its technicians attend a stone and restoration school so they can identify and remedy issues.
“We’re kind of on that honey-do list,” Sykes says, laughing. “That list sometimes doesn’t get addressed, so we come in and help the homeowner check some of those boxes.”
Christiana Lilly is a freelance journalist in Pompano Beach, Florida. See more of her work spanning the arts, community news and social justice at christianalilly.com.