Planet Granite’s president Adam Bauer and vice president Nonnie Salamon first went into business together when they were teenagers.
The two, who grew up in Woodland Park, had a window cleaning business.
“We just have a good balance when it comes to business,” Bauer said. “I have all these ideas, and she makes them happen.”
Planet Granite also started out small. Bauer’s father Tom introduced him to the stone industry; the two worked on stone products using hand tools in the senior Bauer’s garage. The clients they served were referred to them by Bauer’s mom, who had a cleaning business.
Twenty years later, the company has grown into a thriving purveyor of countertops with one of the largest inventories of granite, marble, travertine, dolomite, limestone, soapstone and quartz in Colorado, as well as state-of-the-art digital tools and 125 employees. It serves a wide variety of clients, from individuals to builders, and works on jobs from vanities for homeowners to big commercial projects.
“People spend anywhere from $1,000 to $60,000,” Salamon said. “The average kitchen is $2,500 to $8,500. We do a lot of those $2,500 jobs.”
They still swear by the mission they had when Planet Granite was a two-man shop: “We’re here to help customers have nice kitchens,” Bauer said.
After founding the business in 1998, the Bauers moved their two-man shop and showroom to Elkton Drive in Colorado Springs. Two years later, Salamon came on board to help with the office and sales.
“We were doing retail kitchens,” Bauer said. “We would drive to Aspen and have a buddy of mine do the fabrication.”
Planet Granite grew rapidly after the move to the Springs. It moved to larger quarters twice more, finally relocating in 2003 into a 35,000-square-foot space on Stone Avenue.
“It was getting so crowded that people were knocking things over,” Salamon said.
A big boost occurred when the company landed Keller Homes and John Laing Homes in 2005.
“Those two accounts were the catalyst for our production growth,” Bauer said. “They trained us to handle big-volume accounts.”
About that same time, Bauer went to Brazil and found a warm, rustic granite called Gold Brazil that no one else in Colorado was stocking.
“We started importing it,” he said. “The gold matched the Tuscany vibe everybody was building at the time. It has been a hot item for 15 years.”
The increase in business also required upgrading the company’s tools.
Customers can help design their own kitchens using a software program that digitizes the layout.
More than $2 million worth of processing equipment includes a template maker that allows every countertop to be brought into a CAD program, nine water jet saws and six computer-controlled machines that edge the slabs and do cutouts. Each piece ends up in a fabrication area, where it is hand sculpted and finished.
“It used to take us a week to get a kitchen done,” Bauer said. “Now it takes two hours. We do 20-25 a day.”
All of the waste material is recycled. Some 14 tons of block per day are ground into road base and used in parking lots.
The company also wanted to recycle the large amounts of water used in fabrication, but there was no system on the market that could do it.
“We created our own water system that can recycle 250 gallons per minute,” Salamon said.
The recycling systems have reduced Planet Granite’s water bill by almost $10,000 a month and also make for a safer workplace.
“We have to use water for every tool,” Bauer said. “We’ve eliminated silica dust altogether, which is crucial for the health of our employees.”
Most of Planet Granite’s customers are in the Colorado Springs area, but it does 20 percent of its business in Fort Collins and is looking to approach the Denver market.
“We’re discussing opening a satellite shop in Fort Collins,” Bauer said. “We’ve also decided to expand into new products. Our vendors from all over the world are showing us new products,” such as a line of luxury vinyl tile.
Bauer said the company strives to create an employee-centric culture.
“There’s a thing my wife tells me: Employment is a two-way highway, and respect for employees seems to be the golden key. … With 25 kitchens a day, you can’t make every call as upper management. We’ve done the best we can do to let them know they can make a call. If they make a mistake, we have to stand behind them. That’s created a culture of respect. Everyone on deck is proud of the ship.
“Our dream is to take Planet Granite from Mexico to Canada along the Rocky Mountains.”