Etched in Creativity
Uniqueness in Wood, Metal and Stone delivers natural beauty
A native of Brazil, Rafael Marcussi arrived in the United States in 2014 with the goal of building a business. Formerly a leader on a granite production line in Brazil, he brought with him 15 years of experience in managing projects and skills in sales and customer relations.
For a few years, he continued to work remotely for his previous employer back in Brazil, using his talents to build business connections in the U.S. Craving the autonomy to implement his own strategies, set goals and enjoy success on his own, he soon felt called to start his own business. Together with business partner Marcelo de Freitas, Marcussi formed Uniqueness in Wood, Metal and Stone (Uniqueness) in 2018. He says, “I’m from the sales side, so I like to connect the dots and build relationships. I like to understand more than just the job–to know the customer’s taste and give advice as to the best design solution for the space.”
Marcussi hit the ground running, going door to door looking for work. His hard work is paying off, as he recently met a big milestone, securing a large enough volume of work to acquire a building and open a showroom. Marcussi and de Freitas closed on that property Jan. 31, 2020. The space accommodates a 7,000-square-foot showroom in addition to a 10,000-square-foot workspace where Marcussi designs and produces stone countertops.
Uniqueness serves the Northern Neck, Richmond and Virginia Beach areas, and because of Marcussi’s hometown ties, he sources his materials directly from Brazil and India, offering more competitive prices than if he purchased through a wholesaler. He is passionate about his work and the “uniqueness” of stone: “Granite is one of a kind. Once it’s done, it’s like a fingerprint,” he says.
A Diverse Business Where Service is Key
Marcussi has worked extensively in new home developments where the builders have subcontracted him to install granite countertops and tile backsplashes. He also performs a large number of remodeling projects. “Twenty years ago, we used Formica, but now people are upgrading their homes to granite. I perform the removal of the old product and installation of the upgrades,” he says.
In addition to his experience in residential construction, Marcussi has expanded his customer base to include general contractors for hotels, restaurants and hospitals, installing countertops for various commercial projects. He cites the Greater Richmond Convention Center and the Matchbox restaurant in Charlottesville, Virginia, as two of his biggest accomplishments in the commercial arena. “Both showcase my granite and marble craftsmanship very well,” he says.
Marcussi explains that the general contractor for the convention center project was working within a tight budget for the countertops. Marcussi took measurements and calculated an estimate using base level colors that fit within the project’s budget. However, he knew that other options would work better with the building’s design.
According to Marcussi, most of the granite used in the United States is imported from Brazil. A Brazil native with many contacts in the granite industry, he went directly to the supplier for the convention center project. He explained the level of traffic and visibility involved and negotiated a better color option for a price that allowed him to produce and install the countertops within the client’s budget. “The color matched perfectly with the coastal theme the designer was planning,” he says. “Don’t just do the job. Go above and beyond to make recommendations, offer new ideas, find better solutions.”
Lisa Moore, a Business Development Consultant with The Blue Book Network, says, “He has relationships with marble and granite companies around the world. He’s a problem-solver, and difficult projects don’t scare him. He has a great attitude and is easy to work with.”
When it came time for construction to start on the Matchbox restaurant in Charlottesville, the restaurant’s owner knew Marcussi was the man for the job, having worked with him on a previous project. The owner recommended Marcussi to the general contractor. Marcussi says, “He told the GC, ‘Rafael has to install the tops.’ He was pleased with the way I worked.”
Marcussi describes another project involving the construction of a real estate office where he was hired to build desks and countertops. When he saw the original plans for the reception desk, he was concerned it would result in too many cut lines in the granite, and he wanted to achieve a more attractive result for the client. He was able to create a different design that, while more challenging to build, led to a more striking end result that pleased the client.
“The quality has to be there. I cannot sell my services without both good quality and good prices. But service is key. Service is good responsiveness, keeping customers informed and giving them both the good news and the bad news. If you have a problem, find a solution. I always try to implement this philosophy. How you serve makes a big difference,” Marcussi says.
Marcussi’s commercial experience also includes projects in Panda Express restaurants and Marriott hotels.
The Name Says It All
Marcussi explains he is the “stone” guy of Uniqueness in Wood, Metal and Stone. He has two partners offering custom work in wood and metal. He talks fondly of his partners, calling them “really talented guys.” He tells the story of how he came to meet de Freitas, who specializes in woodworking. Both from the same hometown in Brazil, the two had never met before coincidentally crossing paths in Richmond two years ago. The third partner is Nildo Bonfim, specializing in metal works. The three combine their talents to offer “uniqueness” in wood, metal and stone.
While the bulk of his business is countertop installation for larger-scale projects, Marcussi enjoys the creative outlet he and his partners find in custom work. They collaborate on one-of-a-kind jobs, combining materials for items such as doors, stair rails, gates and timbered ceilings. They plan to expand this specialized area of their business.
No matter the material, Marcussi prides himself on developing creative solutions in order to meet desired outcomes. Of prospective clients, he says he would tell them, “I want to reach your goals, your requirements. But once I get involved, I can also offer other ideas and solutions.”