An entrepreneur with deep roots in the local community, Albemarle Countertop Company’s founder and owner Wes Carter has set his business apart by forging connections and honing his craft.
After working for (and eventually running) his mother’s bathtub repair company at an early age, Carter became fascinated with stone and trained himself to become “a granite guy.” “I joined a brethren of stone workers called the Stone Fabricators Alliance, went to workshops across the country, and learned techniques to better cut and install countertops,” he says. “And now I teach them to the people who work for me.”
Carter opened ACC in 2003 and moved the business from Market Street to its current Hydraulic Road home in 2017, adding a new location in Crimora—Valley StoneWorks—in 2019. Surviving the lean recession years, the company continues to thrive by word of mouth because people love stone surfaces. “The lion’s share of what we do is kitchens and bathroom vanities,” says Carter, “but also quite a bit of fireplace surrounds, and sometimes even dining room tables. It’s a big deal to me that we do the best work we can, because people talk.”
While natural stone is closest to Carter’s heart, ACC sells lots of manmade, engineered stone composed of granite and quartz chips infused with resin and colored pigments. Though he could work through wholesalers such as Lowes or as a subcontractor for other remodelers, Carter prefers the direct approach. “The best model for us is to sell directly to customers because we’ve figured out how to work with people,” he says. “We have staff that can help, who are creative and patient, with an eye for design and great attention to detail.”
Leveraging that advantage, ACC is in the midst of an expansion of its Hydraulic Road shop, enlarging the showroom and adding finished vignette spaces and fullsize slabs of stone so customers can envision their project with more than just a small sample. Noting that Charlottesville land is mostly zoned for residential or commercial use, Carter laments that there are only small pockets in town where operations like his can fit in. “A maker needs an industrial space,” he says. “Where do all the businesses go that can make things instead of just having everyone buy things?”
Even as technological advances such as digital scanners and cutters have made the process of crafting countertops more efficient, Carter still relies on his connections with people, and a grassroots understanding of his own skill set, to succeed. “I think the one thing I’ve been able to innately do is to find good people to help me do all the things I can’t do, like bookkeeping, marketing, and selling,” he says. “Find great people and pay them well, and they do great things for us.”