Interview with Braden Gateley

Words by Michelle Heslop. Photos by Dasha Armstrong.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you initially got into the solid surface industry. I was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and raised in Victoria BC. I started in the stone countertop industry when I was 19 years old. I had no idea what “I wanted to do when I grew up.” My parents were renovating their kitchen at the time and their countertop installer had a small operation in Saanich where I was offered work. It was all hand tools and natural stone and I would get a true sense of fulfillment seeing the finished outcome of the kitchens and bathrooms I created with my own two hands. Initially, we were fabricating one, maybe two kitchens a week. Then as we got busier, we needed more space and more equipment. This is when I invested in equipment and started working on my own.

Describe the transition from owning your own successful stone countertop business to taking over Stone Age Marble. A few months before I bought Stone Age Marble, I was looking into upgrading and purchasing new equipment in the United States. A week before I was leaving for Minnesota, I was talking with Giovanni, the previous owner of Stone Age Marble. The longer we talked, the more it became apparent that this company would be a perfect fit for me. I really think it was fate. Looking back, I was a week away from buying machines and equipment to go a completely different direction with my career in the solid surface industry.

What was your inspiration for taking this next step in your career as an entrepreneur? As an entrepreneur, you are constantly making choices and taking risks. If you ask any business owner, there are those few major decisions that really put you out there and take the leap. Living without regret was my inspiration. In my opinion, you make the decision and you’re ten toes in.

How is running Stone Age Marble different from operating your previous business? Stone Age Marble is a custom fabrication surface company whereas, my previous company specialized in kitchen and bathroom countertops. From wrap-around fireplaces to shower walls and compounding mitres, it’s the unique details of each project that really sets Stone Age apart. We still do kitchens and bathrooms but I discovered very early on that the level of complexity to some of our projects requires a team of professionals with more forethought and pre-planning.

As a well-known supplier in Victoria, what has the support been like from the community since taking over Stone Age Marble? This past year has been incredible. At first, I was told that I had big shoes to fill. Keeping that in mind, my primary focus has been on service and quality craftsmanship to maintain a strong relationship with the community. I’ve met some great people within the building community and our relationships have flourished thanks to their support. It’s a good feeling having both strong working and personal relationships with people you collaborate with every week. I have been welcomed by designers and contractors alike, and for the most part, it has been quite seamless. They are passionate about what they want for their clients and I am an eager listener.

What do you love about working within the design/build community here in Victoria? The best aspect of working with different designers and builders is that I have been exposed to so many different types of styles. From sleek and ultra-modern to the very traditional, each project is unique and abstract in its own way. The wide scope of each project keeps us creative and really allows us to love our work.

You are now supplying and installing Neolith, which has been making waves as an innovative alternative to traditional stone products. Why is it such an important surface to offer? In my opinion, Neolith is the most versatile product on the market. From indoor and outdoor applications, cabinetry wrapping, countertops, flooring, showers, and fireplaces, Neolith does a phenomenal job with vein and book-matching. The way it cuts and mitres really allows us to be creative with what we’re building. Neolith is a high-performance surface that has staying power and will be a product we offer for many years.

Now that you are settled in, are you planning on making any changes to the business? Most of the changes we needed to make are complete. The staff that came over from my previous operation have transitioned to Stone Age seamlessly like it was meant to be. Innovation is essential, and the first thing I did was post my credo, “innovate or evaporate,” where our staff can see it every day. We are always looking to stretch our creativity with products and technology — it excites me for the future of this company.

Running a successful business may not leave you with much time off to rest. What do you do to recharge and stay fresh? I spend time with my young family as much as possible. My two daughters and wife are what really keep me grounded in our busy life. On my days off I love fishing and getting out on the water in the fresh air and elements. There is no better place than Vancouver Island for enjoying the outdoors.