ST. MARYS — Robust building in northeast Kansas this year helped a small Pottawatomie County business rapidly expand.
Sarto Countertops, a longtime Emmett-based manufacturer of granite, marble and quartz counters, broke ground this fall in St. Marys on a factory and showroom that will be eight times larger and greatly increase productivity. The move comes with a dramatic increase in production and job creation, co-owner Robert Wiemann said.
“The growth we’ve seen over the last two years has really been amazing,” he said while looking out over the construction site this past week.
With an expected opening date in March, the new facility moves Sarto’s operation into a 20,000-square-foot facility at 930 Jesuit Lane. Since 2005 the company has worked out of a 2,500-square-foot rental space in Emmett that Wiemann said wasn’t designed to be a countertop factory. The bulk of the space will be taken up by a 10,000-square-foot slab yard that allows Sarto to stock more colors of granite and quartz and possibly expand with limestone and soapstone option, but where the company will see the greatest improvement is in a 7,500-square-foot shop laid out specifically for countertop manufacturing.
“It’s only triple the size, but we’ll be able to produce minimum seven times the amount,” he said of the shop.
That productivity comes from a new, digital bridge saw and water-jet combination that uses cameras and lasers to more precisely cut the stone. Because the water jet can stop cutting at exactly the right spot, Wiemann said he expects the company to see immediate savings from the reduction in wasted marble.
That water jet uses a lot of water, but Wiemann said the new building will feature a water filtration system designed to reduce water consumption by as much as 70 percent.
Because Sarto, which currently employs about 10 people, will be able to handle more work, Wiemann expects to add two to three new employees immediately. By the end of 2018 he’d like to employ at least 15 with the option to continue hiring. Sarto has looked at countertop makers in the Kansas City area that employ about 200 as models.
“Sky’s the limit really,” he said.
Wiemann, who moved to Kansas from California about 10 years ago, and co-owner Giuseppe Vanderputten, who Wiemann said grew up in the construction business, bought the company in 2015 from Ken Moats and rapidly expanded production. At the time, the company did counter tops for two or three kitchens a week, he said. Now the company does about 16 sets with goal of doing 20 by the end of 2018. The new facility will allow them to do as many as 70 order a week.
Jack Allston, executive director of the Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation, praised the pair’s drive for growth and commitment to the county. Sarto has become a key economic driver in the area, he said, and the relocation could mark a turn for the Sandy Hook Industrial Park, just south of U.S.-24 highway.
Though PCEDC has owned the park since 2002, attention had been centered on the Green Valley Business Park, Allston said. In 2012 Patriot Outfitters, an outdoor and tactical supply company, opened in 2012, but Sarto will be the largest business in Sandy Hook.
Moving the factory closer to busy U.S.-24 will help Sarto’s visibility and ability to attract new clients.
“It’s good for customers and good for employees,” Allston said of the move. “The way these guys have grown their company has just been really impressive.”
Wiemann attributed Sarto’s growth to a very healthy building market.
In September, nearly 1,000 residential building permits were issued in Kansas compared with fewer than 800 during the same time in 2016, according to the most recent data from Wichita State University’s Center for Real Estate.
Year-to-date, more than 6,800 residential permits have been issued across the state, a 2.1 percent increase from the same period last year.
“We’ve really diversified ourself with a mix of direct-to-consumer, new building and remodeling,” he said.