Bella Pietra, Bella Famiglia: The Stone Gallery
In business since 1999, the Stone Gallery is a sprawling, one-acre stone yard in Harahan. This is not your average stone experience; at the Stone Gallery, you can purchase slabs of stone for the same wholesale prices that are usually only offered to stone fabrication shops. There are stone selections to fit every budget. After 10 years in the business, the Stone Gallery owner, Johnny Altobello, Jr., decided his company was going to change the way natural stone was sold in southern Louisiana. He decided to clearly mark each color of stone with the name of the stone, the size of each slab, the price per square foot, and the price of the slab. “It’s the most honest way that I know of doing business,” says Johnny. “Customers leave our facility with all of the information they need to make an educated decision about their project. We take the mystery out of buying natural stone.”
“Our one-tiered pricing system is very important to me,” Johnny continues. “There are no games or gimmicks here, just premium quality material at wholesale prices. We charge the same price regardless if the customer is a stone fabrication shop, homeowner, contractor, or designer. Homeowners can buy their stone directly from us, and we will hold it for them until their job is ready,” he says. The Stone Gallery will also ship customers’ purchases to the stone fabrication shop of their choice, or if they don’t know a stone fabricator, one can be recommended from their list of preferred fabricators.
There are different grades of natural stone, just like there are different grades of diamonds, emeralds, and other gemstones. The Stone Gallery imports and sells only first-quality, premium grade natural stone, the highest grade available. “We have quality control people in Italy and Brazil who select the first quality stone just for us. Before we purchase the material chosen by our quality control staff, I must approve each stock. And I’m picky,” he laughs.
The Stone Gallery has over 150 colors of natural stone in stock and has access to hundreds more. The most popular have historically been marble and granite, but exotic quartzites are starting to take the market by storm. “It’s a natural stone that’s harder than granite, and it comes in some really gorgeous colors. The only stone harder than quartzite is a diamond. People are starting to ask for more exotic stones in unusual colors, so we’re importing more and more quartzite and unusual granites every month,” says Johnny.
“People’s taste in natural stone continues to mature. They don’t want the same colors of stone that they see everywhere; they want new, bold and fresh colors. We specialize in the unusual. When we opened in 1999, there were probably 10 colors of stone in this market. As we grew, I reinvested our profits into exotic stones, bringing colors to Louisiana that no one had ever seen. Some of the most popular exotic quartzites are Palomino, Fusion, and Symphony. We have many other colors that are here or en route from Brazil and Italy. We’re always adding new colors to our product line.”
By popular demand, the Stone Gallery also started carrying Blanco sinks and faucets. “Our customers wanted to be able to get everything they needed for their kitchen in one place. They told us that if we had sinks, tile, and backsplash ideas, they wouldn’t have to run all over the city! So, we’ve made it a one-stop shop. We also carry an extensive line of DuPont stone care and maintenance products, as well as stone remnants and half slabs of marble for vanity tops and smaller projects. Like the larger, full slabs of stone, these smaller pieces are on display in the stone yard and all marked with the stone name, size, and price. Customers can also shop by taking the virtual tour of our stone yard on our website, stonegalleryno.com,” Johnny says.
The Stone Gallery is the oldest wholesaler of stone in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and it has been a family owned and operated business since day one. Johnny started the business on a small covered lot on Airline Highway. “It was me, the forklift, a cordless phone, and the office trailer. Bathroom breaks and lunch breaks were luxuries,” he says. Though many members of the Altobello clan have worked at the Stone Gallery over the years, the sales team now consists of Johnny Jr., his wife and business partner Carolyn, their son Johnny III, and Johnny’s brother-in-law, John Bordes.
The family staff gives personalized golf cart tours to assist customers in selecting the perfect piece of stone for their project. While on the golf cart tour, you ride through rows and rows of beautifully displayed natural works of art. The Stone Gallery is truly an art gallery of stone, with an extensive natural stone and porcelain tile selection for flooring and backsplash materials. Carolyn offers free design services and advice for customers who purchase their countertops from the Stone Gallery. Once Carolyn and the customer have agreed on a backsplash selection, they again visit the stone yard with a sample of the backsplash to see it next to the slabs of stone selected for the kitchen or bath.
“I’ve done a number of things in my professional career and liked all of them, but none as much as this,” says Johnny. “It’s great to see our customers get excited when they find the perfect stone for their kitchen or bath. This isn’t a job; it’s a passion, and it’s one shared by my entire family.” ✦
The Stone Gallery
5600 Mounes Street
Harahan, LA 70123