By Kimberly Hundley
Frank Cunningham was barely 20 years old when he set upon the marble-lined path to his destiny. Working in Italy as a stone installer, he was inspired by the weathered beauty of an ancient marble limestone road. If only the look could be recreated.
His vision led him to found Authentic Durango Stone, headquartered in the Airpark, but sourced out of Mexico, where more than 140 locals are employed as stone professionals in Durango Stone factories, where they hone millions of feet of tiles, slabs, wall cladding, columns, balustrades, baseboard and stair treads.
“We have three factories and four quarries, all owned by our parent company, World Wide Stone Corporation,” says Cunningham. “We are taking the state-of-the-art Italian machinery and making what is literally the finest quality marble limestone that has ever been produced. Yes, the best in the world is coming from Mexico, with Mexican workers who show respect for the stone.”
We sat down with Cunningham in the Durango Stone showroom at 7946 E. McClain Drive to learn more about this business gem sparkling in the Airpark’s midst.
Do you sell direct to consumers?
We sell to the trade. The reality is stone needs to be professionally installed.
What influences the trends in marble preferences?
It follows the fashion trends in terms of design and color. Some colors have always been popular. Beige, our main color, has been popular forever. But whites have been more popular in the last few years, and the cleaner the white, the better.
The word “marble” conjures up images of palaces and Roman sculptures. Just how expensive is it?
Fireplaces can cost as little as $400 and as much as $4 million. The most expensive one I ever did was $70,000. We can do something as small as crown molding, or we can clad a home in solid stone—that’s the high end of the high end.
Are you working on any lavish projects right now?
We’re doing a job in Saudi Arabia for one of the kings—a mural for a wall that measures 30 feet by 160 feet behind a pool. They created a picture out of hundreds of shapes. We cut them, number and package them. When the pieces arrive, [the clients] are the ones that put them up. It’s a huge mosaic with huge pieces—but you know, a million dollars to them is less than 10 cents to you.
You’ve been in Scottsdale since 1988 and moved to the Airpark in 2000. What do you like about this area?
I think it’s a good place for us to be because we’re not like the other guys. We’re the only quarrier/producer operating here. We are the only place that you can order literally anything made. To be able to make things custom, you have to know so much about it that you can render it to paper, which is why almost nobody does custom work. Few people can take a three-dimensional object, talk about it and create it! Take that wall for the Saudis—the drawing cost them $500,000; the stone is costing far less than that!
You sound fired up!
They say if you do what you love to do, that’s where passion comes from.
More: durangostone.com (visit to view a video of the factory in operation)