A notch above

When you think of an organization capable of donating a quarter of a million dollars to charity, you don’t usually think of a family-run cement flooring company. But Bedford-based Nature Stone has done just that, donating more than $250,000 to nonprofit organizations over the past 11 years.

Russell and Antonia Masetta have taken their company’s contribution beyond the boundaries of community giving. And although the economy tipped toward recession last year, Nature Stone had mustered $60,000 in donations by the end of the year. Not bad for a company relying on home improvement expenditures.

The Good Neighbor Program began shortly after the company’s founding in 1989 and designates 1 percent of each sale, or a minimum of $10, for donation to a customer-chosen charity.

“It’s not just a contribution, it’s a solid ongoing commitment to the community,” says Russell Masetta. “Each and every Nature Stone customer participates in the process.”

That generosity is the reason Nature Stone received the Pillar Award for Community Service.

Masetta learned the cement business from his father, Andrew, an Italian immigrant who poured and repaired cement for almost 50 years. The younger Masetta had an idea to repair concrete better and more attractively by allowing water to flow through it. He developed an epoxy to create designs and patterns while correcting unevenness and cracks.

The proposition required homeowners to invest in home beautification rather than just repairs — a novel idea in the late ’80s.

It took 12-hour days, seven days a week to get Nature Stone off the ground. Masetta says he was thankful for every job he got and wanted to share his good fortune, but wasn’t sure how to do that. The stresses of his new business seemed to disappear when he initiated the Good Neighbor Program –“Like a little divine guidance,” Masetta says.

And allowing the customer to choose the charity is as unique as it is generous.

“I wanted them to feel good about it, too,” he says.

As the business grew from two to almost 50 employees, the more than 3,500 annual installations yielded coinciding checks to charities. This year, sales are expected to exceed $6 million.

Although the program has proven popular, the company’s growth cannot be attributed to Masetta’s generosity. Sales reps are not permitted to inform customers about the charitable giving or dangle it in front of them as an incentive to buy. Only when a potential customer becomes an actual customer with a signed contract is he or she asked where to send the donation.

The top five charities receiving contributions last year from Nature Stone were the Leprechaun Foundation, American Cancer Society, Salvation Army, Plain Dealer Charities and the American Heart Association.

J. Thomas Mullen of Catholic Charities says, “Nature Stone sets a wonderful standard for others to follow.”

How to reach: Nature Stone, (440) 786-9100 or www.naturestonefloors.com

Deborah Garofalo ([email protected]) is associate editor of SBN Magazine.