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Briland's Brightest: Phil Thompson, Turning Waste Into Wonder
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Page 1 of 1Total of 2 messages
Posted by:Jun 8th 2006, 05:44:14 pm
KimberlyWhat a great writeup, Phil!

Well, Phil comes from a long line of bahamian entrepreneurs ... his father Pork started Thompson's Plumbing on Barracks Street in Harbour Island, and his mother Rica Cleare Thompson is one of the finest chefs on the island, and was part-owner with her husband and several others of Runaway Hill Club until its recent sale.

Congratulations --
Posted by:Jun 8th 2006, 05:29:16 pm
Fig Tree News Team

By Kathy Borsuk

Although the Turks & Caicos still have no formal recycling program in place, one local entrepreneur has taken matters into his own hands: turning empty conch shells into stunning pieces of home decor.

Phil Thompson and conch countertopPhil Thompson, president of Thompson's Conch, uses a patented process in which crushed conch shells are embedded in a laminate matrix to create exquisite countertops, vanities, tabletops, lamps, planters and even furniture backings and arms. The material is ground and polished to a durable gloss finish and an intriguing beauty all its own. As no two pieces of conch shell are alike in shape or color, the product's gleaming surface is a kaleidoscopic array of whorls, shards and chips in countless shades of pink and white.

A native of Harbour Island in the Bahamas, Phil says he's been developing the idea for over seven years after watching fishermen knock conch at a local regatta. "I saw the tremendous number of conch shells that were being wasted and I knew there had to be something useful to do with them." He experimented with a variety of techniques and was eventually awarded a patent and trademark rights to the process.

Conch shell top kitchen tableAs a pilot for Bahamasair, Phil regularly flew to the Turks & Caicos Islands, where he met and married Belonger Rochelle Brown. Together, they built the factory on South Dock Road in Chalk Sound, Providenciales, purchased the first load of conch shells from Bugaloo's bustling conch salad restaurant in Blue Hills, and opened for business in early 2004. Phil soon diversified into woodworking to supply the cabinets and furniture on which the conch shell countertops and inlays are placed.

Thompson's Conch products are sold at W.I.I.F. (West Indies International Furniture), with samples displayed at their showroom in The Saltmills in Grace Bay. During a recent visit there, I saw first-hand a customer's ecstatic reaction to the material ("It's so cool!") and witnessed her plans to use it as a desktop in her home office.

Conch shell top coffeetableW.I.I.F. owner Franck Aubert works with Phil on marketing and sales and is very excited about future possibilities, especially custom designed items. Franck says, "I like to focus on non-standard, high quality, one-of-a-kind pieces. Right now, we're doing some wonderful benches, chairs and coffee tables that use conch inlays with teak wood and fabrics."

In fact, Phil says most of his products are, by nature, custom-made. "For kitchen and bathroom countertops, we have to take measurements and mold a template. The base material can be tinted in a variety of colors to match any decor, although we find that natural tones complementing the conch shells are most popular. If necessary, we’ll come into your home and install the countertops too. The whole process takes three weeks to a month's time."

Conch shell planterCustomers are an equal mix of locals and vacation homeowners, with custom pieces regularly shipped out of the country. (Learning to pack a cumbersome countertop for overseas delivery was one of his early challenges, Phil recalls. His first special-order piece was broken in transit!)

Future plans for Thompson's Conch include expanding the market and coming up with a catchy product name. (Any ideas out there? "Conchite" comes to my mind.) Through W.I.I.F., the conch shell furniture will be exhibited at a popular design trade convention in North Carolina later this year. And in five or ten years, Phil says, "I want to see my creations in a five star hotel in Timbuktu or Katmandu . . . and when someone asks where they came from, I'll be proud to say they were made with Turks & Caicos Islands conch shells."

In fact, Phil is already thinking about procuring enough shells to meet demand. "Between the fishermen and conch farm, I believe the supply is there. It makes me feel good to know that I've taken a wasted product and am helping others appreciate its natural beauty."

For more information on Thompson's Conch, contact Phil Thompson at tel/fax 649 946 8172 or cell 649 242 6770. Samples of conch shell furniture are found at West Indies International Furniture (W.I.I.F.) at The Saltmills, Providenciales, tel 649 941 4662; email; web

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