David McCall and Clay Clemmer, two men in the custom granite slab business in Tyler, decided to take on the challenge of creating a high-quality surface using granite tiles.
Their efforts led to a patent for a process, called GraniteLoc, that is used to construct a hard, even surface that they say will withstand wear as well as slab granite. GraniteLoc can be used on countertops, tables, showers, wrap-around tubs, sinks and other areas.
McCall, executive vice president of Granite Division Inc., said he realized several years ago that hardly anybody was supplying granite in Tyler, and he saw that as a business opportunity, given all of the building activity that was occurring.
He started a custom granite company on U.S. Highway 271, south of Loop 323, and later, with a slab of granite in tow, met Clemmer at a gasoline station in Terrell.
Clemmer, then vice president of Lone Star Marble & Granite in Forney, said he was interested in the wholesale manufacturing of granite for smaller fabricators.
McCall wanted Clemmer to join him in Tyler. In 2002, a little more than a year after they met, Clemmer and McCall founded Granite Division Inc.
"We had a tiger by the tail," Clemmer, company president, said. "We had invented the GraniteLoc product prior to incorporation."
Granite Division now employs about 50 people, with plans to add 12-13 more over the next couple of years.
'ONLY THE RICH'
McCall said seven years ago, "only the rich" could afford granite, but it was growing in popularity. But the GraniteLoc process allowed McCall and Clemmer a way to incorporate granite in a much more economical way.
Granite, after being mined and cut, is sold in slabs, some of them nearly an inch thick, but McCall and Clemmer say a granite surface does not have to be that thick in order to be durable and stand up to daily use. Also, if an error is made in custom cutting a granite slab, the entire slab often must be scrapped - at a considerable monetary loss.
"You're constrained by how far you can go out and make templates and install them," McCall said. "But GraniteLoc is a product that you can truly manufacture and ship."
And because tiles, as opposed to a thick slab are used, the cost is less.
"It just makes it a lot more feasible," said Clemmer, adding that once a granite slab is cut, and the portion to be used is installed, a good chance exists that the remainder of the slab will be useless and become part of the waste pile.
GraniteLoc is not a complicated system. In fact, CEO David Rasco agreed when asked why nobody had yet developed a patent on a product like it.
Clemmer developed the manufacturing process of what would become GraniteLoc when he and McCall were told by a local homebuilder that it was not in his company's budget to use slab granite. The homebuilder asked them to set granite tile by hand instead.
"Clay was the same way I was - we're not tile setters; we do slabs," McCall said. "But - this is Clay, this is the innovative one - said, 'If I was going to do tile, this is the way I'd do it. ... I'd flip it upside down, I'd put it together in slab format and we would incorporate that in one piece.'"
That conversation occurred on a Wednesday, said McCall, adding that he did not initially understand what Clemmer had in mind.
"I couldn't see that," he said. "Clay saw it; it was just that quick, and by Sunday Clay had produced the first piece of GraniteLoc."
GraniteLoc can be seen on the tables of the new coffee shop in the Brookshire's store on Rice Road. It is also the surface used on the coffee bar and in other places, including the deli seating area.
It can also be found in Citizens First Bank on Fifth Street and the Potpourri House.
The granite tiles are visible in a GraniteLoc surface, but the surface does not have the dips where grout would be. The hard resin surface between the tiles is uniform because the tiles were set upside down and the resin applied over their backs, filling in all of the spaces level with the tile surface.
Several layers of resin and materials are added behind the initial tile and resin layer to give it strength.
McCall and Clemmer created and perfected the process in 2001 and applied for a patent, which they received the next year.
Rasco said the company continues to install the product in homes for that same builder.
"It does what it promises," he said.
GraniteLoc also offers greater repair ability and more options for mixing and matching colors in tile and resin.
Rasco, who was one of the managers for program services at the Tyler Junior College West Campus, met the two men a few years ago. He went back to school and earned a master's degree from The University of Texas at Tyler, and McCall and Clemmer asked him to join their company.
"They kind of hit a wall as far as growing the company, and since I was on a team that took another single product national, I might be able to help," said Rasco.
In January he began trying to promote the product nationally, and he said the effort is paying dividends. In the shop last week, the men pointed to rows of prefabricated GraniteLoc pieces that would be shipped to Scottsdale, Ariz.
"Our GraniteLoc sales, just from the numbers I've seen, are better than double over this time year to date because of the emphasis," Rasco said.
Aside from flat surfaces, the company uses the GraniteLoc system to build shower boxes to hold soap and shampoo in showers.
It is also seeking patents on two other products.