Nature’s Granite offers rock-solid customer service.
➼ Nature’s Granite owner Christine Congedo understands exactly how first-time customers feel when they come to one of her showrooms. During a previous career as a software engineer for the U.S. Department of Defense, she purchased a house in Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood to convert into four high-end apartments. She wanted granite countertops for the kitchens, so she started checking out suppliers.
It was a frustrating experience, to say the least. “I hate shopping. I would prefer to walk into a place and say ‘Here’s the colors, what do you think is best?’ But no one would do that,” she says. “I must have gone to 15 different companies.”
Now that she runs her own countertop and fireplace supplier, she tries to remember her own frustrating experience. “It’s overwhelming—there’s so much to choose from. I decided I was going to make sure whoever came, they were going to flippin’ love it,” she says. “I am not a salesperson. I’m just a person.”
Congedo is happy to offer design advice. For instance, she urges against using dark stone in small rooms with limited natural light. “It’s going to make the room shrink.” She’s also happy to explain the pros and cons of natural materials like soapstone, granite, and marble versus composites like quartz. And she’s committed to helping customers find materials that fit their budgets. “People feel they can’t afford granite. They never even want to ask, because they think they can’t afford it. But there are some inexpensive—but beautiful—granites,” she says.
More than anything, Congedo wants to make her clients’ design dreams come true. Instead of having customers flip through catalogs or scroll through computer images, her showrooms on Canyon Road in Morgantown and in Grantsville, Maryland, are packed with stone remnants. The attached warehouses are filled with full-size slabs to help customers better visualize the material in their homes.
Congedo and company often send shoppers home with a sliver of their chosen quartz or granite. “They want to take the little piece and hold it next to their floor sample and door sample and paint sample.” And if there’s even a shred of doubt before customers sign on the dotted line, Nature’s Granite is happy to have a slab shipped to the Grantsville facility so customers can see it for themselves.
But that commitment to customer service doesn’t end at the showroom door. Congedo has built a crack team of professionals to guide clients through every part of the purchase and installation process. Customers start off in the capable hands of Summer Cooke and Mike Rogers, directors of sales for the Morgantown and Grantsville showrooms, respectively. They are then handed over to Cheryl Tuma, director of customer relationships—she’s the one who schedules a visit by a templater and works through any necessary changes that arise as the project progresses. Chad Wamsley manages the Maryland-based fabrication shop. Shawn Tuma, director of field service, oversees the company’s team of templaters and installers and also coordinates any post-installation service that might be necessary.
Congedo says it’s all about offering customers the kind of service she wishes she’d gotten, back when she was on the other side of the sales counter. “If I don’t hear the word ‘love,’ I say, ‘Keep looking,’” Congedo says. “They have to love it.”
featured photo by Julian Wyant