The Mountain Marble Team
“A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.”
Our most tenured stone professional, Richard Kearley, is very fond of this quote. To him, it captures the spirit of our fabrication team—the talented group of individuals who work in concert, merging cutting-edge technology and old-fashioned know-how to create the finished marble and granite products that enhance hundreds of homes in our area.
Each of our artisans—and our front office team—holds to a standard of excellence and a commitment to quality workmanship that exceeds industry standards—and even customer expectation. It’s based on a passion for bringing out the best in the stone that they work…and in themselves.
Fabrication Team - Shop Foreman
As Shop Foreman, Bruce keeps a discerning eye on every aspect of the fabrication process, bringing over 30 years of experience to bear. “I started doing stonework in South Carolina in the 1980s,” he explains, “and I fell in love with working with stone—with being hands-on. The stone itself is beautiful, but the craftsmanship that goes on behind the scenes is what really brings it to life.”
Bruce joined the Mountain Marble team in 1996 and has been bringing that dedication to excellence to each job that passes through the workshop ever since. “Everybody here knows what our quality standard is. If that means going back and finessing the details, we’ll keep at it until we get it right. I think everyone has that mentality here. We want to do justice to the material.”
From the time the client’s job is ordered and scheduled, Christensen is there to ensure that the process moves along smoothly: coordinating, supporting each artisan and troubleshooting any obstacles that may arise. “We’re working with a natural material and that can be challenging,” he observes. “You have to meet those challenges with patience and tenacity.”
The payoff? “The greatest satisfaction is at the job site,” he says. “When the seaming is done right, it looks like the stone was cut right out of the mountain and put back in order. Everything just flows.”comment
Fabrication Team -
The man with the plan, Dwayne Johnson is the Operations/Production Manager of the shop. Working with architect’s drawings or with the digital readings that the Mountain Marble staff takes on site, Dwyane specifies the project using CAD (Computer Assisted Design) software that will guide the process from conception to completion.
It’s exacting and detailed work, but Dwayne delights in it. “At one point, I wanted to be an architect. I love engineering and problem solving…making everything fit to a 1/16th
of an inch. I even enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles in my spare time.”
Working with the architects and builders in establishing the plan and timeline—and meeting it—give Dwayne a sense of satisfaction. To do this, Dwayne coordinates the team effort, keeping track of the projects as they move through the shop and on to the final installation.
Since joining Mountain Marble as an installer in 2000, he has manned many of the stations along the way and understands the challenges involved in delivering the level of quality and customer service that the company is known for. “After our clients have conferred with the sales team, they know exactly what they want and what they expect. It’s my job to see that they get it…on schedule,” he says proudly. comment
Fabrication Team - Sawyer
Giving the appearance of a cohesive surface of granite or marble within a kitchen or bath doesn’t happen by magic. It’s the skilled work and trained eye of Gabe Johnson that makes it appear to blend so naturally.
A member of the Mountain Marble team since 1999, Gabe has been working with stone for over two decades. As the “sawyer”, it is Gabe’s exceptional gift for reading the pattern and character of each slab of stone that allows him to translate the measurements of a template into the optimal rough cuts that will go on become the finished product. “The stone has a voice,” notes Richard Kearly, “and it really speaks to Gabe.”
Perhaps it’s Gabe’s talents as a visual artist that gives him such an eye for detail and sense of composition, allowing him to envision the final outcome. “Some stones are hard to match, particularly those with lots of veins. You have to visualize how it will all flow together. You also need to know your materials— to set up the initial cut so that everything is integrated, but has structural integrity as well.”
Gabe also supervises the stone yard, grouping slabs by grade and color and displaying them in a way that helps the customer to see the potential inherent in the stone…potential that Gabe and the team will help them to realize.
Founder & Stone Aficionado
“I like to think of myself as the village stone guy,” says Mountain Marble’s founder, Hank Strauss, “just like the village cobbler or the village blacksmith. If someone needs stone, it doesn’t matter what size or amount. We’re here at your service.”
That would be a fair assessment; he’s made this his life’s work. With decades of experience in the business and an encyclopedic knowledge of (and passion for) stone, Hank has an unwavering dedication to providing the community he lives in with exceptional product and craftsmanship. But he’s quick to point out that he doesn’t do it alone.
“There’s no way that any given individual can educate themselves about the ten thousand details that are involved in any given project,” Hank explains. “Most shops are organized with one key guy—usually the owner. I have a team who are specialists. My foreman has been in the business almost as long as I have—always in the shop. He has a physical set of skills that far surpasses mine. Between the two of us, we offer a broad spectrum of knowledge of how things are, how things will go and what can be expected.”
Hank’s team would probably compare him to a symphony conductor—bringing together a group of talented individuals, working with beautiful material and merging them to create an exquisite, harmonious result. “Hank is incredibly knowledgeable about stone,” says one staffer, “but he’s also very intuitive about people. He knows how to inspire them to give their absolute best.”
And Hank is all about offering the best to his clients, regardless of the scope of the job. “Our deal is educational—taking you by the hand, walking you through the process and then doing what we are professionals at so that the end result is what you were looking for,” Hank asserts. “If the customer understands what defines quality stone and what identifies superior fabrication, then Mountain Marble will be the natural choice.” comment
“We’re not in the sales business,” notes Asheville native Jeremy Wilson, “we’re in the service business.” He would know. Jeremy began working with Mountain Marble, on the client side, nearly two decades ago as owner of a kitchen and bath design company. “With my experience, I can walk the residential customer through the process but I also understand the vocabulary and needs of the commercial customers—the designers, builders and architects.“
Jeremy believes that a well-informed consumer will best appreciate the value that Mountain Marble provides. “We have an extensive inventory of truly exquisite stone. I help our retail clients to understand that it’s not just choosing a number out of thin air and making every stone in the yard fit a “one size fits all” price point. It’s part of our expertise to provide our clients with the information they need to make the best decision with their hard-earned money. “
In servicing clients, both commercial and retail, Jeremy relies on the Mountain Marble team and their impeccable reputation for craftsmanship. “We’re really good at the high-end, specialty work—the very detailed projects. Hank’s a stone guy from birth and most of the guys in our fabrication and installation shop have been here for well over 10 years. There aren’t many fabrication operations that have the kind of combined experience we have here. There’s an awful lot of talent on the human side to go along with the beautiful material and our state-of-the-art technology.
“People may have the perception that we’re more expensive. That’s just not the case. There’s a lot of value in getting things done right the first time. In that, I believe we’re better than most of the fabricators out there. I enjoy having the opportunity to prove that to our customers.”
Fabrication Team - Installer
Unlike many of our team members, John Bradham often has the opportunity to see projects fully realized. John has been with Mountain Marble since 2005 and has had experience in many aspects of preparation, including templating and fabrication. Much of his tenure, however, has been spent as part of the installation team.
“There are a lot of unexpected variables in the field, doing install,” notes John, “so you have to be well prepared… make sure you have all the tools, the sinks, the faucets and verify that all the necessary hardware is pre-installed so that everything will fit perfectly. Actually getting the stone safely into the home is often 75% of the challenge, and then there’s the finish work…making it come together the way it’s supposed to.”
Having had experience preparing calibrations and manning many of the fabrication stations, John appreciates the collaborative effort that makes it all possible. “It’s all about the finish line—the team works together to get there. In my opinion, everyone on this team is really gifted and committed,” he says. “I’m glad to work with them. They’re artisans.”
The crowning moment is when the stone is put into place. “Everyone is waiting…it’s the focal point. The stone takes the whole project from the rough to the finish. It’s the icing on the cake,” John observes. “That’s what makes it shine.”comment
Fabrication Team - Templator
It’s often said that the Devil is in the details, but our templator, Karl Stottlemyer, isn’t intimidated. Karl is responsible for gathering the measurements that our artisans will use to translate the client’s conceptual designs into the finished product.
Armed with his trusty, state-of-the-art digital laser measuring devices, he’s usually the first team member on the site. “As the templator, you’re the point man,” he explains. “I get to meet with the customer to make certain that the dimensions and specifications we have are accurate and that they reflect what the client wants. Sometimes that changes in the field—things aren’t as expected or there’s something better that can be done—so you have to be flexible and adjust to the situation to get resolution.”
Karl began working in the stone business while living in Colorado and joined the Mountain Marble team as an installer in 2001. Since that time, he’s also been a fabricator in our shop—experience that gives him an excellent overview of the process and an appreciation for the team effort. “We’ve gotten really good at the relay,” he notes
“If I can come in to the house, work out the details and make the client completely comfortable with what we’re doing, it behooves everybody who works on the project afterwards. That way, when the installers show up, the customer can be confident that they are going to get a finished product that will function beautifully over time.”comment
Fabrication Team - Programmer
Computers have brought the stone industry into a new age, but the end result is only as good as the input from skilled programmers. Here at Mountain Marble, Kent Origer is the man behind the machine, defining how the massive CNC (Computer Navigated Control) will cut, bevel and finish each piece of stone that has been prepared by the sawyer.
As our resident computer wiz, Kent carefully delineates the parameters and specifications of each individual piece that the highly responsive CNC fashions—exact to a hair-width—from overall shape and size to edging to openings for sinks and faucets.
Kent’s background in computer science, coupled with his hands-on experience in our stone yards and fabrication shop, gives him the sensibility—and the sensitivity—for this very precise and demanding role. A member of the Mountain Marble team since 2006, he interprets the highly detailed plans that have been provided to him, merging his careful calculations on the computer keyboard with the skills of the other artisans in the shop to produce a beautiful and meticulously crafted product that will satisfy the most exacting standards. comment
Journeyman Marble Artisan
A senior member of the fabrication team, “Curly” joined Mountain Marble in 1995 when founder Hank Strauss was introduced to the miniature “bonsai” tree sculptures that Curly created from re-purposed copper wire cable. “Hank told me that if I had the patience to do that, I had the patience to work with stone.”
His determination and technical abilities make him the go-to guy for challenging projects, sensitive repair work and creative solutions. Although he possesses a master craftsman’s comprehensive abilities in templating, cutting, and polishing, it is Curly’s exquisite handwork that truly sets him apart…deftly crafting everything from switch plates to sinks to bowls to platters.
Curly’s understanding of the medium and gregarious nature make him a favorite of clients, whether they encounter him in the showroom or on the job. “He’s our goodwill ambassador,” notes Hank Strauss. Maybe that’s because he loves what he does.
“ I started working with stone when I was 25 and six months into it, I knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. This is an art. I put a lot of myself into the work that we do.”
Front Office Administrator
Tracy Pinegar, our front office administrator, understands the importance of clear communication. Trained as a machinist in the Navy, she has spent her civilian years doing the exacting finish work on titanium parts for airplane engines.
Now, armed with a degree in accounting, she has brought her talent for detail and commitment to excellence to Mountain Marble. “I greet the customers and get them started,” she says. “Once they’ve had a consultation with our sales staff and made a choice of stone, I take all of their information, their blueprints or drawings and create a comprehensive file for the fabrication team. I make sure that the team has everything they need to follow through. We all just want to do a good job and make the customer happy. It’s a real team effort.”
Along the way, Tracy has developed a deep appreciation for the natural materials that the team works with and how they craft that material. “I’m focusing on learning stone. The stone may be given a general name by the industry, but these slabs are really individual…each has a personality. I see the slabs here in the yard, and it really amazes me what they become…how the team joins pieces so well that it looks like that’s how it was in the ground.
“That’s how we like the whole process to be for our customers: as seamless as possible.”