Stonecrafters: In Stone Work, Quality Sets You Apart

Dave Hammerl knows quality isn’t a buzzword; it’s the cornerstone of his business’ success. Attention to detail guides every competitive edge in this business.

Dave Hammerl, owner of Stonecrafters in Lakemoor, has built his company upon a reputation for quality in product, tools and customer service.

There’s a good reason why Dave Hammerl puts a premium on high quality. It’s not just because that’s what clients demand from Stonecrafters, 430 W. Wegner Road in Lakemoor. It’s also because quality is this company’s competitive advantage – the thing that puts Stonecrafters a notch above other fabricators in the Chicago area.

“Anyone can take a slab of stone, cut some countertops and maybe make them fit,” says Hammerl, president of Stonecrafters. “But we’re taking it to a different level. We want a higher level of quality, a higher skill level and a higher precision.”

By focusing on the best products, the best people and the best high-tech equipment available, Hammerl and Stonecrafters are uniquely positioned in their ability to provide granite, quartz, marble, quartzite, limestone and similar products for everything from kitchens and bathrooms to exterior accents.

Detail is a common thread, and that’s by design. His clientele are the type who expect a certain result. In fact, Hammerl estimates most of his clients are managing contractors and subcontractors directly, rather than working with a remodeling firm. For this group, quality customer service goes hand-in-hand with quality results.

“It’s not always about price with homeowners,” he says. “It’s about how they feel, and do they feel you’re going to be there to do the job, finish the job and service the job if something goes wrong? Are you going to be there to take care of them?”

Hammerl’s commitment to quality stands on three prongs: tools, people and products.

For the past 10 to 15 years, he’s made a strong investment in high-tech equipment at the Lakemoor shop where Stonecrafters operates with its sister company, Liberty Limestone.

Stonecrafters sources products from highly vetted, reputable dealers with access to a variety of high-quality materials.

Computer-controlled machinery like a CNC bridge saw, a CNC router, and AutoCAD programming make it possible for these companies to mill stone with a high level of accuracy – down to the 32nd of an inch, says Hammerl.

“It helps us to reach a higher level of consistency and a higher level of finish,” he adds.

All of that high-tech equipment also requires a higher-skilled worker, which is what you’ll find among the nearly 30 people on the Stonecrafters team. These days, there’s less of an emphasis on craftsmanship and handiwork than on machinery and programming skill – which is what’s demanded from the high-tech tools at their disposal.

While the shop crew is a highly technical bunch, their peers on the installation crew need both technical skill and a touch of customer service. For this team, Hammerl seeks high-level carpenters and stone installers who can master a certain approach to details. New employees are carefully vetted to ensure they meet those high expectations. There’s little room for sloppy work, poor customer service and bad habits

“If they don’t meet our expectations, we don’t keep them onboard very long. We let them go,” says Hammerl. “We don’t play around with quality.”

The same can be said for the Stonecrafters product. Hammerl prioritizes premium suppliers who have a reputation for quality. This relationship has many advantages for Hammerl and his customers. Not only is he confident in the quality of the product, but he can more easily – and cost-effectively – locate unusual products when called upon.

Sometimes, clients find a stone that catches their attention online, but it’s sold by an unfamiliar dealer in some faraway city. It sounds great, until Hammerl explains that shipping the stone may cost as much as the job itself. That’s not the case with his trusted vendors.

“Our suppliers are very big and they have offices nationwide, so if someone finds a product they like – from our suppliers – in Los Angeles, or Cleveland, or Kansas or Atlanta, we can typically get it here at an affordable cost,” explains Hammerl. “That’s why we choose the suppliers we have.”

Put it all together, and it’s easy to see why Hammerl strives for – and receives – five-star reviews on so many jobs. In fact, he has more than 200 online reviews from customers who’ve left personal recommendations.

“They really take the time to write something, rather than just click the five stars,” says Hammerl. “Some firms might tell a customer they’ll get a prize or a gift card, or a percentage off the job with a good rating. You can usually spot those because there’s no verbiage to the review. But our customers are so impressed and pleased that they will take the time to write good things about their experience.”

For Hammerl, it all goes back to detail, because that’s what helps him to stand out from other companies. When he can demonstrate that level of technology, personnel and product – and how they contribute to the bottom line – he finds many clients realize there’s a natural choice.

“For a while there during COVID, we saw there were people who didn’t even shop around. They just came in and said, ‘You’re our guy,’” he says. “They wanted us to do the job, and they would pay for the job upfront. We delivered and installed it and didn’t have to collect a balance at the end, because that’s how confident a lot of people were. At one point, our lead times swelled to almost four to six weeks – double our usual time – and yet people were willing to wait.”

These days, Hammerl also has the benefit of experience, after working in the industry for more than three decades. He got an early taste of the business from watching his father’s and uncle’s stone businesses, but it wasn’t until years later that his brother roped him into the industry for good. Hammerl was doing seasonal construction work when his brother recruited him to install stone for a local company. The pair eventually branched out on their own, first by handcrafting stone and later by investing in high-tech fabrication equipment.

“There’s still something to be said for the handcraft,” Hammerl says. “However, when you want to get into higher volume and competitive pricing, you need the tools and the technology to make a good profit, so you can continue to invest in your business and keep your people happy with the latest, greatest tools.”

Modern advancements aren’t solely in the shop tools. Manufacturers are bringing out an ever wider array of materials, including porcelain slabs that are ideal for outdoor kitchens and quartz products that have higher quality, clarity and finishes.

“They’re always coming out with new stuff for us to play with,” says Hammerl.

For all of the things that have changed, one thing that remains the same is the shopping process, and too many people leave their selections until too late in the remodel, says Hammerl. In the ideal world, clients should select countertops, faucets and sinks around the same time they finalize cabinet orders. Once those cabinets are installed, clients then call for a measurement, which ensures the stone and the plumbing fit exactly where they’re supposed to. The Stonecrafters team uses high-tech lasers that account for precisely what’s there.

“The best jobs are organized way in advance,” says Hammerl. “We know what they want, they’ve picked it out, they’ve put down a deposit, we have all of the information, and then when we’re ready for it we can perform at a higher level because we have everything ready to go.”

It’s just one more reminder of why the details matter so much, and why clients recognize the difference.

“You pay for quality once, but you can pay for poor quality twice,” says Hammerl. “It all depends on what your expectations are. There are two camps of people: those who want a good price and those who want good quality. Those who want good quality want it done, and they want it done right.”