Torin Dixon

Special Correspondent

Brian Hodges, owner of Granite Dealer in Memphis, TN, stands in front of his concept for bar backsplashesWell, here we are again. This month Americans will choose a new President, or perhaps continue to retain the current one.

These past years have presented enormous challenges to small business owners and American workers. We have seen 3.8 million home foreclosures since 2008, and a U-6 Real Unemployment (unemployed + underemployed) rate in August 2012 of 14.7%. 

Installing a granite fireplace surroundEurope is teetering on the edge of fiscal collapse. The Middle East is embroiled in the chaos left over from the Arab Spring, and American embassies and consulates are under attack by Islamic extremists, resulting in the assassination of an American Ambassador and three other brave citizens.

Granite Dealer got its start in 2009 as a slab distributor based in Memphis, TN, and found ways to thrive in a struggling economy, including design, fabrication and, high-quality installationWe are living in troubled and challenging times, and Americans are weary of the economy we have struggled with for the past four years. With so many out of work, and few opportunities available, Americans have had to adapt in ways not seen since the 1930s.

Having seen that the color and movement are visible on the back, unpolished side when the stone is wet, Hodges decided to suggest a product he distributes from Braxton- Bragg. By applying Tenax Ager Color Enhancing Sealer, he was able to permanently give the stone a wet look and bring out the color and markings which compliment the polished surface on the bar, giving this a different look that he still has not seen duplicatedSo it is with a small independent slab distributor in Memphis, Tennessee, Granite Dealer, LLC. Owned and operated by Brian Hodges, Granite Dealer serves a three state region covering Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas. With a slab warehouse in downtown Memphis, Granite Dealer imports and distributes stone slabs to a diverse group of regional fabricators.

With economic challenges facing the country and the region, and with fewer homes being built, Brian began to see several of his fabricators close their doors starting in 2009. As a slab distributor, the remaining few slab buying clients began having trouble finding stone fabricators and installers. Granite Dealer began getting numerous requests for fabricator referrals and this is when Brian seized the opportunity to transform his business.

One of the assets Brian brings to his business and to his clients is the ability to remain extremely positive while facing many challenges. Brian characterizes himself as an encourager and found many of his former fabricators who had closed their doors deeply struggling with their new found unemployment. Brian saw an opportunity and combined the needs of his granite customers with the need of work by his fabricator friends, and opened a fabrication and installation division. 

This type of business dynamic usually does not sit well with either the area fabricators, nor with his 6-8 distributor competitors. Yet, Brian feels that he has made this unique transition without encountering the expected backlash that would normally cripple other distributors in other markets.

This hybrid approach to distributing and fabricating is not often successful as the usual fabricator customer base is afraid of loosing customers by sending their clients to view slabs. However, with Granite Dealer’s market diminishing and leaving smaller fabricators in place, the normal threat of losing sales was minimized. Brian feels he is serving both the interests of the local homeowner market, while continuing to ship slabs to fabricators outside the local Memphis market.

With a sales office in Olive Branch, Mississippi, utilizing a part time sales staff, Granite Dealer is reaching beyond the local Memphis market. Granite Dealer reaches a market within a 250 mile radius from their shop and warehouse to make it possible to install a project and make it home the same day.

As a man deeply devoted to his family and faith, Brian Hodges applies his passion for life and family to his employees and customers alike. He feels that part of providing excellent customer service is simply being there, meeting his customers on a regular basis, sharing their struggles, coaching, and sometimes just listening. His positive and caring attitude has developed into a loyal pool of satisfied clients.

Like most small businesses, Granite Dealer has been forced to adapt to the challenging economy. Memphis, like many cities, has been struggling. Memphis Business Journal reported in September that the Memphis economy ranked 87th among the nation’s 102 largest metros. This dynamic has forced Granite Dealer to dig deeper to find ways to cut costs and adapt to the economic slowdown. Many times to save money, Brian is the janitor, receptionist and delivery driver. But mostly, he prides himself on simply being a friend. His positive and infectious attitude has served him well over the course of his career, and helped Granite Dealer, LLC not only survive, but thrive during this protracted economic slide.

Brian Hodges and Granite Dealer, LLC was able to assess his market, observe the realities his fabricators faced, and implemented necessary changes to bring positive results that helped many in the process. This type of leadership is desperately needed in our country. 

We need real leaders who are willing to make tough choices to bring hope back to the risk-takers and builders of small business. Small businesses like Granite Dealer, LLC are the engine of job creation that America desperately needs.

Torin Dixon is a 35-year stone industry veteran, writer and owner of He may be reached at or 800-380-6881.