Thursday, November 30, 2006

Brazilian Factories

Ever wonder where all this Granite comes from? Well, it comes from all over the world, but most of the really pretty stuff comes from Brazil. Probably 80% of what we carry comes from Brazil.

In Brazil, the epi-center of stone is in a city called Cachoeiro. It is north of Rio and south of Vitoria via a snake-like road that encourages you to keep your eyes closed for the entire 2 hour trip. The Brazilians seem to gain an unusual sense of vehicular humor when facing a steering wheel.

Back to Cachoeiro. It is a city of about a million people that looks like it stopped growing in 1926. In Cachoeiro, there are about 600 granite factories. Most of them are quite small. Some don't even saw their own material. But, what you usually see is a tin roof, no side walls, a crane beneath the roof, a gang saw that cuts the blocks, and a polishing machine that polishes the rough cut slabs. Then, they'll have a loading area where they fill the containers. The containers are then taken back up that snake-like road to Vitoria, which is the port that most of the companies use.

When we were there last June, the middle of their 'winter', we ran across a number of owners of large slab distribution companies from the US. When they found out we were fabricators, they were not exactly enthralled with our visit to 'their' domain. Because, traditionally, fabricators buy from US distributors. We do too, but to a much lesser extent. One of the problems the US distributors have is that they need volume and consistency. That means they have to buy from the larger factories for the most part.

We're not hampered by that. We have two agents on the ground in Brazil who do nothing but run the back alleys looking for unusual materials and the ocassional bargain. We also buy from some medium-sized factories, but I'm more interested in the unusual materials. You can see from the pictures below what is headed our way. You won't find some of them anywhere else. At least, for now. But, by the time the others catch up, we'll be onto other things.

Because we're able to go direct, we're able to place stones like Juperana Fantasy or Taboo or Fantastico Dark into a builder line program. If anyone else could get materials this pretty from a US distributor, they would certainly not be in a builder program. Same thing for some of the upper end stones such as Matrix Motion. We're able to keep that in a middle range, while others are forced to place it in ultra-high end pricing. That is because several of the US distributors are charging substantially more than what we paid. Same stone, same grade.

Currently, we have about 125 colors. Of those, about 25-30 are in the builder line. Tastes in Granite are getting more sophisticated. People like natural stones that have some sort of pattern. That is what we're really good at. Not just acquisition, but fabrication and installation, as well.

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This is a fairly large factory outside of Cachoeiro. Sits on the side of a hill over the river that runs thru the city. Very pretty place. You see the typical tin roof, with a crane underneath. Their slab storage is in front. Their gang saws are in the background. To the left, not in view, is the polishing line. Just beyond the gang saws is the block storage yard. This factory is famous for Sucuri.

1 comment:

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