V for Versatility at V. Fontana & Co.
MB News 07/86
When Valerio Fontana founded V. Fontana & Co., he set out to establish a monument producing firm. Little did he know that one day, under the direction of his grandson, Mark, the company would manufacture granite items ranging from kitchen counter tops to desk-sized pyramids. As the firm celebrates its 65th year, it enjoys a reputation as one of the San Franicisco area's most versatile suppliers of granite products.
The history of this company is tied to the family's 1800 settlement in a town north of Florence, Italy. Stone cutting was a family trade, and Valerio Fontana took the skills he learned with him when he left for Canada in the early 1900s. He did extensive work on many of the large public buildings in Victoria, British Columbia.
San Francisco's city hall and public library also bear the handwork of Valerio Fontana. In 1921, he borrowed money to buy an old, frame building across from the Italian cemetery in Colma, Calif. A tremendous amount of work was produced in that shop, many years before the company built its present modern facility.
Elio Fontana worked with his father since he was in elementary school and he took over operation of the businessin 1946. He comments that his father never really retired, "he died on the job." Elio pronounced his plans to retire in 1979, and gradually his son, mark, assumed more and more responsibility for the thriving monument business.
Mark Fontana, who had worked part-time in the shop since he was a boy, became director of operations in 1982 and the firm actively expanded into other markets within the granite industry. "Today," he reports, "cemetery memorials make up about 65 percent of our business. The remaining work is for private people--things like table tops,fireplaces, granite plaques."
The firm does very little advertising for its granite products business. Most of the work comes from referrals--a large number from architects and contractors that have used Fontana's work in their projects. Mark says that this type of work is very demanding because architects have deadlines to meet.
While this work has its demands, it also has its rewards--creativity. Fontana likes that. There are so many products that can be manufactured from granite, both large and small.
He often persuades customers to use granite rather than marble because of its durablility and greater variety of colors.
Mark Fontana is sold on granite. As he puts it, "The granite business is a good business to be in. It's an honest living--you work very hard." In addition to working hard, he has found that being versatile is a big asset in the marketplace. At V. Fontana & Co., not only will you find beautiful and distinctive cemetery memorials, buy you'll also find polished counter tops,fireplaces and other finely crafted granite products.
The Fontana's are a family of stone cutters. Mark has taken the skills handed down by his grandfatber and father and added his own touch. Today, at V. Fontana & Co., the "V" stands forversatility.