Products Added To Company

By Marci Hummel

Times Business Editor

Good news just keeps coming from L.E. Smith.

The Bryan company – which already is one of the largest custom laminate countertop manufacturers in the nation – now is making solid surface countertops as well.

Kevin Smith, director of business development, said the company has hired five new employees and anticipates a need for more in the future.  L.E. Smith currently has approximately 87 employees.

“We’re looking forward to this product expansion as a way to better service our customers who currently multisource their countertops from more than one supplier,” said company CEO and President Laura Juarez.  “This is our first step in becoming a one-stop shop for all styles and materials of countertops in the Midwest.”

Craig Francisco, chief operating officer, said L.E. Smith purchases solid surface sheet goods from brand names such as Corian, and then customizes and fabricates them according to customers’ preferences.

“It’s an identical process to what we do with laminate,” he said.  “We are still a wholesale manufacturer.”

Francisco said the company anticipates being involved in large-scale projects such as hospitals and schools, although it will still do custom residential work.

“Long term, we intend to build a solid surface business that equals our laminate business in scale and reach,” Juarez said.  “We’re blessed to already have a great team that understands the service and quality expectations of the customer base, lean manufacturing and logistics. … We anticipate great things.”

Francisco said the company refitted part of the plant to handle the large solid surface countertops.  The area features a computer numeric control router that custom cuts the solid surface sheet goods into the desired shape.  Fabricators then build up edges of the countertops, add the desired finish and install the sink.

Francisco said many customers prefer solid surface sinks, although stainless steel sinks are gaining in popularity.  Acrylic is another option.  Most sinks are under-mount, but he said some customers opt for surface-mount.

The company also installs the solid surface countertops in customers’ homes or businesses.

Wheeled wooden carts – a clever innovation created by L.E. Smith designers – are used to move the unfinished countertops through the facility and to eliminate the need for multiple lifting, Francisco explained.

The laminate portion of L.E. Smith’s business is not slacking, either.  Francisco said custom laminate fabrication sales in April were the second-highest in the company’s 60-year history, “and that was before we were doing much solid surface, so the future’s really bright.”

Smith said part of that bright future includes a recent contract with Ryan Homes, one of the top 10 builders in the country, to fit all its Columbus-area homes with countertops.

“New construction is not something we went after in the past … but it is coming back to life, slowly,” he added.

Francisco said the company strives to remain positive.  “We have blocked out the negative,” he said.  “We believe we create our own destiny … you’ve got to go out there and attack every day.”

“Everybody’s on the same playing field,” Smith added.

This attitude has extended to social media.  Smith and Francisco said L.E. Smith is one of the first countertop manufacturers to be on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  The company’s Web site also features three videos that take visitors through the countertop manufacturing process.

“This is a way for us to reach out to (customers),” Francisco explained.

The company also is participating in an outreach program for Haitian earthquake victims.

Smith said it is donating $1 per order to the Haiti Relief Fund.  The goal is $10,000 by July 1, “and we’re on track,” he said.