By Francie Healy
A countertop is a countertop is a countertop, right? Wrong. Not if it’s a countertop with any class, beauty or longevity.
A superb stone countertop is a process. It begins many steps before it appears in your renovated kitchen or bath.
Urban Quarry of Ottawa is one of the first steps in the journey.
It starts with exquisite slabs of stone such as quartz or granite. Each type of stone, and each piece of stone itself, is different, so the process involves a keen eye for quality and an understanding of how and where it might best be used.
This is true even if it’s not a countertop ‒ if it’s a wall, for instance, or a shower, or a fireplace, a mantel, a hearth, or a threshold.
Once Urban Quarry selects the best pieces from a number of its preferred dealers, it fabricates them into custom elements for your kitchen, bath, and other parts of your home.
Urban Quarry is not a retail outlet. Its showroom on Stevenage Drive in Ottawa is open to the public, but products are available only through the company’s select kitchen and bathroom dealers, builders, contractors, and designers. Homeowners can inspect their stone at the showroom and see first-hand the colours, veining, patterns and characteristics of the stone they have chosen in conjunction with their renovator or designer, who place and oversee the order with the company.
Bob Gould, director of Business Development, has been in the kitchen-bath business for more than 25 years, and he knows the industry well.
“We steer them in the right direction,” he says, “but it’s really a personal choice. Like anything else, technology has come a long way and there are a lot of options.”
Given those options, customers often find it a challenge to choose the stone that’s right for them. They rely on their renovators and designers for information, or they can get answers when they visit the Urban Quarry showroom.
“But in the end,” says Bob, “It all comes down to personal taste. Some areas are better in different areas and for different rooms. Quartz has a heat issue, for one example. So it’s not great around fireplaces or outdoors.”
Natural stone, of course, comes from the earth, and it’s perfect for outside use.
“They all have their ups and downs,” adds Bob. “What’s important? Design or maintenance? A lot of it depends on your lifestyle and your stage of life. If your kids are grown up and gone, the kitchen isn’t going to go through the same wear and tear for the next 20 years as it did when there were young children around.”
He explains that although quartz is about 75 per cent of their business, there are customers who return to them to say they’ve had stone, then granite, then quartz, and now they want to go back to granite.
“There are still people with laminate countertops who never had granite in their lives,” he says.
Urban Quarry relies on its professional stone suppliers such as Masterpiece and Interstone, the two vendors from whom they buy natural stone. The vendors explain to customers the pros and cons of certain stones for certain uses, and Urban Quarry also has its experts on hand.
“That’s the purpose of the showroom,” he says, “not only to show what we have, but to help contractors and renovators and their customers.”
But he adds customers don’t usually start their experience with Urban Quarry. Renovators and designers do, but by the time most homeowners arrive at the Urban Quarry showroom, they have chosen their stone and just want to see how it looks.
On the other hand, “the next time they’re looking, they might come straight to us because then they can see the whole gamut of options.”
Edge profiles: smallest details
Part of the process of choosing how a countertop will be fabricated is to choose its edges. Urban Quarry has a full selection, 17 in all, with a wide variety of options. Serge Bellavance, Owner and Vice-President – Director of Sales and Marketing, says each style has its own personality. These edges have likely been worked out beforehand between homeowner and renovator, but that’s a purpose of the Urban Quarry showroom, to let them see every last detail.
Quality first: elite partnerships
Urban Quarry’s well-established product brands, known worldwide, include:
Interstone Tile & Marble
One of the newest partners is soon to be Caribou Wood Products for butcher block countertops or islands. Bob Gould says they hope it will be officially launched next year.
The company also partners with Bristol Sinks and Franke Kindred Sinks. “We’re not a plumbing shop; we’re not in the business of selling sinks,” says Bob, “but it is a service we provide to all our accounts and dealers so if they wish, they can buy their sinks through us.” It simplifies matters during fabrication and installation.
“We partner with specific brands because they have quality products,” explains Bob. “They’re all different ‒ different finishes, colours, textures, designs ‒ and they’re all excellent. We want everyone to know that these are brands we stand behind.”
A family affair: skills, time and talent
Urban Quarry is a family business. Nearly 35 years ago, Laurent Bellavance, along with two other partners, founded Marble Unlimited, which manufactured synthetic marble for bathroom applications. Nearly 20 years later, natural stone would be in demand, and so was Laurent’s solid expertise. The company went into the natural stone fabrication business. It began carrying and fabricating quartz and was so successful it expanded to a fabrication shop triple its size.
In 2010, the company changed its name from Marble Unlimited to Urban Quarry. Six years ago it relocated to 2717 Stevenage Drive, Ottawa, where it has its large showroom along with its fabrication plant.
Before the magic happens: the process
When Urban Quarry installs countertops, the site measurements have to be precise and detailed. All cabinets first need to be installed in their final positions, and technicians need access to:
- Cabinet doors
- Cabinet hardware
- End panels (gables)
- Sinks (with manufacturer-supplied templates) and plumbing fixtures
- Cook tops
- Refrigerators (in some cases)
- Electrical outlets (roughed in)
If the renovation calls for a full-height backsplash, your renovator will make sure your upper cabinets are already installed along with exhaust vents. The technicians need to know details such as seam location, corner radius, overhangs and any other special features your renovator specifies.