When Great Lakes Granite Works opened in downtown Comstock Park in 1994, it was the first granite fabrication plant in the Grand Rapids area. The historic Comstock Park Feed Mill was torn down to make way for the 25,000 square foot granite counter manufacturing facility.
Chris Fortosis, manager of the company, said the Comstock Park location was attractive. “We wanted to move here (Comstock Park) because the (Plainfield) Township acted like they wanted us,” said Fortosis. “The expressway is very convenient to our customers and for us reaching out for delivery services. There are now two showrooms – the one at 3970 West River Drive NE with the fabrication plant in Comstock Park, and one in Douglas MI. They serve West Michigan from Traverse City to the Indiana state line to west of Lansing.
Fortosis said the company took off almost immediately. “We knocked on doors for two weeks, and the quantity of response was so high we stopped because we couldn’t keep up,” he said, noting the company filled a need in West Michigan at the time. “(Before) we opened, you had to go to Detroit.”
The company started almost as a hobby in 1993 at Patten Monument, then located on Plainfield Avenue in Grand Rapids, said Fortosis, a long-time employee there at the time. Vendors for the monument company urged them to expand into manufacturing counter tops. “Vendors kept saying, ‘Why don’t you do counter tops? You have everything you need,’” Fortosis recalled. “So we got the minimum amount of machinery to get going.” Great Lakes Granite Works was born and became a company in its own right, now employing 25 people.
Fortosis, who has granite counter tops in his home, said the popularity of granite is clear to him “Basically there’s exceptional durability, and a look that’s matched by no other,” he said. “It’s next to impossible to scratch, and after we seal it, it’s very difficult to stain.” Most people think all granite is the same, said Fortosis, but that’s not so. There are hundreds of colors and infinite patterns to choose from. Much of the granite used for counter tops comes from countries such as Brazil, India, and Italy. Polished slabs come to the Great Lakes Granite Works plant where stone craftsmen cut them to size, polish the edges, and they are then installed in homes and businesses.
Six years ago the company was using some two million gallons of water and spending more than $9,000 a year on water bills. Fortosis said that prompted them to purchase water treatment machinery. All the water is now recycled and used multiple times, as well as being filtered, all of which is environmentally friendly. Plus they are saving money with a water bill that is now generally less than $300 per quarter.
Fortosis started working at Patten Monument 32 years ago sandblasting headstones, as well as working in delivery when he was attending what was then Grand Rapids Baptist College. He moved into sales after graduation. “This is a company that takes a lot of pride in high end craftsmanship,” said Fortosis, who lives in Forest Hills with his wife. “We have employees who have worked side by side with each other for decades. “It’s pleasant to come to work.”
Andy Bolt (left) and Chris Fortosis are co-owners and presidents of Patten Monument Company and Great Lakes Granite Works. Bolt is the manager of Patten Monument Company, and Fortosis is the manager of Great Lakes Granite Works.