Not Necessarily Monumental,
Yet Business Thrives
Daly City Record 04/06/91
by Dave Murphy
For Mark Fontana, being successful isn't just an idea that's etched in stone.
It's etched in granite. Sometimes Marble.
For Fontana -- and his father and grandfather before him -- working in the family business has meant creating all sorts of things in granite and marble. His grandfather started the V. Fontana & Co. business 70 years ago in Colma, mainly to serve the needs of Italians who wanted fancy tombstones and monuments.
Business is still thriving, but the success is no longer monumental. Now Fontana gets residents and businesses who want fancy things like granitekitchen counter tops or business service plates for testing equipment.
"The granite will look the same when the house is sold as it does now," he said, explaining why it is getting more popular. "You can't hurt good-grade granite."
Turing a 9-ton slab of granite into something useful takes special equipment, but Fontana said the main aspect is the quality and experience of his three Employees: Pete Masnada,Ray Ward and Russ Baker. Although he has been with Fontana more than 10 years, Baker is a rookie compared to Ward, who has worked there more than 30 years, and Masnada, who started in 1952.
"The year I was born, he was hired," Fontana said. "He worked for my grandfather, he worked for my father, now I'm his boss."
His supposedly retired father, Elio still is involved in designing, especially the monuments. Fontana said many Asians and Soviets in particular still like the fancy grave markers.
"He really created a lot of innovative designs," Fontana said. "A lot of people around the country use our designs."
The first step for the large granite slabs is the wire saw, which can cut them into any size up to 12 feet long and 6 feet tall. A large emory wheel and silicon carbide help to cut and smooth the granite.
"You can make it a natural appearance, you can make it a honed appearance, you can make it a polished appearance."
The wire saw takes care of most of the cutting, but there are times when it needs to be more precise, such as for kitchen counter tops or the service plate he was making for Apple Computer Co. That is where the diamond saw comes in.
Fontana said that saw can make cuts to 1/1,000 of an inch.
Although the work is changing, the tradition of the family business continues to be important to Fontana. He hopes it also will be to his 11-year-old son, David.
"I intend to work another 20 years and give it over to my son," he said, "if he's willing to do it."