Bob Murrell 

M3 Technologies

Photos by Bob Murrell

This month, I am sitting down with Julie Murrell, the owner –operator of Knoxville Marble Polish. Julie, who also happens to be my wife of almost 30 years, has been successfully operating KMP as a female-owned business for many years now. I do consult and occasionally help on projects that require additional expertise (or simply put, man-power). Of course, consulting is part of what I do with all of my M3 contractor customers, on a daily basis.

The job enables Julie Murrell to meet new and interesting people — and sometimes other things!

The job enables Julie Murrell to meet new and interesting people — and sometimes other things!

Doing whatever the job requires. In this case, cutting off carpet tack strip nails embedded in terrazzo.

Doing whatever the job requires. In this case, cutting off carpet tack strip nails embedded in terrazzo.

As many of you know, I have been in the thick of this business (fabrication, restoration, and concrete work) for over 40 years. I worked on everything from the sales of small and large equipment, diamond tooling, chemical products and accessories to teaching one of the most popular and longest-running training schools at the old VIC International Corp. I taught thousands of students over many, many years. I also grew up with all of the old guard in this business like Dr. Fred Hueston, the Donatellis, several Italian manufacturer experts, and many who are no longer with us.

So when I started dabbling in the restoration of natural stone, terrazzo, and concrete on the side, I was initially just trying to earn extra money on the weekends to get a Mustang, Sea Ray boat or some other material thing that always seemed just out of my financial reach. It was during this time that Julie started helping me. She soaked up my technical knowledge, salesmanship, and most importantly, confidence, like a sponge. This confidence is especially key for success in this and many other businesses. She also had something I didn’t— a great eye for detail.     

Julie was always the one to make sure that KMP went well above and beyond the minimum scope of work. For example, if the surrounding area was dirty in a kitchen, and after refinishing and sealing a countertop, Julie would clean the stove, backsplash, and any other surfaces nearby that weren’t part of the scope of work specified in the contract. She would always leave a project in extra pristine condition, which gave her an excellent reputation with her clients, from day one.   

That’s how Julie came to this business of restoration and she has been doing it, quite successfully now, for at least 20 years. She is very smart and totally dedicated to her work. Some locals have even given her the title of  “the Marble Whisperer.” 

The KMP van makes a great billboard!

The KMP van makes a great billboard!

So, let’s find out what she feels enables her to be so successful, in such a highly skilled and demanding profession.

Q: Do you work mostly residential or commercial projects, and which do you prefer?

A: I actually do quite a bit of both, and each have their pros and cons. Commercial restoration sometimes offers the opportunity to be part of historic renovations, which I always enjoy very much.

Q: Do you feel your pricing is on par with competitors and similar trades?

A: Well, that’s an interesting question. One of my most memorable moments was being on a residential job, restoring a kitchen countertop, when a plumber came and went inside of an hour and charged the customer $290 to unclog a toilet. I thought to myself, I might be in the wrong business…  

Q: How do you market KMP?

A: Honestly, I let a wonderful lady named Debbie Shaw and her amazing team at SurpHaces handle my internet presence and I handle customer satisfaction. Word–of– mouth, and of course my KMP van, take care of the rest. 

Q: What do most of your clients need help with?

A: Hands down, education. Most homeowners have not been given or read the care instructions for the surfaces in their home. So, most of my work consists of hitting a reset button on fairly new installations of marble counters and floors. I am very adamant on the front end about stone care on the backside being the key to not having me back.

Q: What would you do differently, if you could? 

A: If it were possible, to do a little consulting work on the front end with interior designers. I think it could go a long way toward producing a better outcome for the customers and ultimately a better long-term confidence in the interior design process, where the use of natural stone is concerned.

Q: What do you like most about what you do?

A: First, I absolutely love the people! I have met so many amazing people from all over the globe through my work in the stone business, followed by the diversity of projects.

Whether my customers know it or not, I benefit greatly from the input they share with me on their experiences. I have been doing this for a long time now, and yet I still seem to learn something new quite often. One thing about dealing with natural stone products, nothing is always exactly the same. Nature and millions of years always seem to be able to throw you a curve ball, so the key is lots of batting practice.


Left: Good prep work is part of the job. Right: This is what a job sometimes looks and feels like, mid-project.

Left: Good prep work is part of the job.

Right: This is what a job sometimes looks and feels like, mid-project.

As always, and before beginning any new project, I recommend submitting a test area to confirm the results and the procedure, prior to starting a stone or hard surface restoration/maintenance project. Also, the best way to help ensure success is by partnering with a good distributor, like BB Industries, that knows the business. They can help with technical support, product purchase decisions, logistics, and other pertinent project information.

Bob Murrell has worked in the natural stone industry for over 40 years and is well known for his expertise in natural stone, tile and decorative concrete restoration and maintenance. He helped develop some of the main products and processes which revolutionized the industry, and is currently the Director of Operations for M3 Technologies.