Member Spotlight - L.E. Smith Company

Member Since 1998

The L.E. Smith Company, based in Bryan, Ohio, has a long history with a unique background and forward-thinking philosophy toward business that allows it a distinctive perspective of the industry and has earned it much success.

L.E. Smith was founded in 1950 by Lawrence E. (L.E.) Smith, with the help of his wife, June. At that time, the company was selling metal molding edges for countertops. June was an artist who also opened several art stores selling her work and the work of local artists. Their combined work ethic, creativity and innovation helped build a strong foundation for the next generations. And, as such, it has remained family-owned for three generations now.

By 1970, the company had grown and with the invention of solid surface, it expanded to become one of the first DuPont™ Corian® distributors in the United States. In the late ’80s, Steve and Joe Smith took the reins from L.E, and became sole owners in 2001. Under their leadership, as the second-generation owners/executive team for the company, L.E. Smith also grew to become one of the largest custom laminate manufacturers in the Midwest.

In 2005, Steve and Joe sold L.E. Smith to their five children, who own the business to this day. Over the years, and generations, it has continued to evolve, and now is a countertop fabrication and installation powerhouse, producing approximately 10,000 countertops every month.

The current leadership team at the company includes Laura Juarez, CEO and chairman, Mari Ivan, president, Brian Smith, director of sales and one of the third-generation owners, and Christine Wheeler, director of fabrication and services.

L.E. Smith is now a custom fabricator of all brands of solid surface and laminate, handling projects that range from small residential to large commercial jobs. And while the company is based out of a single location in the northwest corner of Ohio, it has a geographic footprint that covers Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Chicago and Pittsburgh. Commercial shipments start in the Midwest and span the East Coast and Southern states.

While the company focuses largely on the fabrication of laminate and solid surface, which combined account, for almost 90 percent of its revenue, L.E. Smith also provides hard surfacing. “We work with laminate, solid surface, cultured marble, stone and quartz in a furnish and deliver or installed basis,” said Ivan. “Our goal is to ensure our clients are more profitable and successful as a result of partnering with L.E. Smith. Having said that, we do provide installed hard surfaces for our commercial clients. Providing the greatest client experience is key to all our success. Through good fortune and persistence, we’ve built several partnerships that allow us to provide this type of experience.”

The company’s solid surface division utilizes CNC machines, a V-grooving machine and a thermoforming oven as part of the technologies it uses to provide efficient, yet customized solutions for its customers. Its laminate division is comprised of multiple CNC machines and has customized machines that provide a high level of efficiency and quality in end cap, cutout and banding functions.

Partnering for Success
One of L.E. Smith’s main goals is to ensure its clients see their businesses grow as a result of working with the company. As such, one of the central beliefs the company holds is that its clients are partners, not just customers. “Mutual respect, communication and partnership on products, services and business strategy provide the foundation of our business and our philosophy to ensure our clients are more profitable and successful as a result of choosing to work with us,” explained Ivan.

With about 60 percent of its business falling into the commercial arena, the leadership team also places importance on simplifying projects for its clients. “By offering multiple materials, our clients can realize efficiency gains simply because they are able to work with fewer suppliers,” said Ivan. “Our goal of becoming a single-source supplier for our clients does come with some challenges. Most notably, our employees are required to learn so much more than if we just focused on one or two materials. We do a lot of cross-training to ensure they are able to educate our clients effectively on all products we offer.”

The company also offers additional value-added services, as part of its pathway to continued success. “Every product purchased through L.E. Smith includes the option of professional measurement and installation services,” explained Ivan. “For large commercial jobs, we also offer on-site project management that ensures each project runs smoothly and meets or exceeds turn- time expectations. Bundled estimates are also available for laminate or solid surface projects that include specified areas of quartz or granite surfaces.”

Although the largest portion of L.E. Smith’s projects are commercial work, the leadership team at the company understands that diversity should extend beyond just product and service offerings. As such, it goes to market via various channels, including single- and multi-location kitchen & bath retailers, general contractors and casework companies. The obvious attention paid to not just each product, but also the needs of each customer, goes a long way in maintaining the relationships the company has developed.

Understanding the Client Is Understanding the Market
This idea of placing the most importance on meeting the needs of the customer is one that the company takes very seriously. While solid profitability is important, it doesn’t outweigh the value of relationships.

“Our focus is providing the right product for the customer. When considering upselling, we are conscientious that our goal is to do right by our client. If a higher priced item meets their project and budget goals, that would be considered a success,” said Smith. “On the flip side of upselling, we really focus on the concept of value engineering. Again, we want our clients to increase their profit margins as a result of working with L.E. Smith. Offering high-quality, on-time services is one way we do this. We also offer the expertise to provide alternative solutions when the originally planned material does not fit into the budget. Often this leads to establishing loyal customers who come back to us again and again for their surface needs.”

To be able to meet the needs of its customers, the company has to stay on top of what is trending and make sure it is able to offer them. “We firmly believe that to be successful, we must continue to listen to our clients to focus on continuous improvement in product and support areas that provide value to them,” explained Ivan. “Speed to market, quality products and excellent customer service are important to our clients. Today we offer industry leading turn times that have helped our client improve commercial schedules and meet residential needs. We are committed to providing our client with quality products that are received complete and on time, every time.”

Smith said that continued trends include additional options in decorative edges, specialty laminates, and undermount sinks that allow for seamless integration in laminate, such as those offered by Karran. “These options provide the end customer a high-end look at a more affordable price point,” said Smith. “The movements and finishes of laminate can display a marble or stone look effectively.

“We also continue to see the solid surface product grow in areas that benefit commercially from the ease of maintenance and need for a more antibacterial solution,” he continued on the subject of trending products. “We also see a growth in value engineering of residential and commercial products from stone to the solid surface private collection colors.”

He also explained the company is seeing a move away from some of the traditional colors to newer marble-like veined colors, concrete or other alternative looks such as wave bowls and rectangular sinks.

With so many years of experience giving it the ability to offer insight into a variety of options, the knowledge L.E. Smith’s team can provide goes a long way. However, the company goes well beyond just providing a variety of services, products and ideas, in that it wants to not only live up to promises made, but it also wants the experience to be enjoyable. A large part of its philosophy, as stated on the company’s website, is that “life is just better when we enjoy the people we work with. Thus, we strive to make your workday happier by greeting you with optimism, genuine caring and humor while helping you get to your desired outcome as fast as possible.”

And the company doesn’t take any of its relationships for granted, as Ivan demonstrated when asked what advice she would give to others in the industry. “Gratitude,” Ivan succinctly stated. “Success does not happen without the work, trust, partnership and support of many.”

As a testament to this idea, L.E. Smith has a set of key “sandbox rules” that guide all of its actions, no matter the situation. The foundation of these overall guiding principles is integrity, respect, creativity, optimism and passion. “There are some things that just shouldn’t change. Our core values set the tone for how we want to act in every situation,” said Ivan. “Added together, they capture who we are as a company and what we most value.”

Following these core ideas, that include such things as honesty; quality; continuous improvement; keeping an eye on trends, emerging products and technologies; and overcoming obstacles leads to strong, lasting relationships. It is these elements that have earned the business 69 years of success and expertise, and there is little doubt many more years will follow.

More information on The L.E. Smith Company is available at,, or by phone at (419) 293-5027.