the Greeks the Muse gave native wit, to the Greeks the gift of graceful
eloquence." Horace (65-8 B.C.)
The "graceful eloquence" which the Roman poet and satirist Horace attributed to the Greeks can be found right here on Old Sulphur Spring Road in West St. Louis County, in the workshop of Spiro Xenos,
Master marble Craftsman/Artist. For here precision, artistry, and a genuine love for beauty expressed in marble and natural stones is manifested in the work and person of Spiro Xenos, president of Acropolis Custom Marble and Granite, Inc.
What fun it was to talk with Spiro and his wife Anna in their showroom,
surrounded by gorgeous squares of multi-colored, multi-veined polished marble and granite. And what an interesting tale the Xenos had to tell!
Like the marble and stone with which Spiro Xenos works, Spiro is the genuine article. His conversation is animated as he struggles at times to find the appropriate English words to express his thoughts and feelings about his life and work. A middle child of a family with nine children, Spiro was born on the island of Zakynthos, one of those lovely islands located in the lonian Sea between Greece and Italy. His was not an easy life, as everyone in the family had to work to stay afloat. Spiro remembers doing odd jobs at the age of six. When he was 9 years old, he asked to work in his cousin's shop, where he was to learn a great deal about working with marble. He attended school in the mornings, and worked afternoons. His father had a delivery service, first with a horse and buggy and then with a truck. Spiro remembers his father coming home from work about 9 p.m. each evening, totally exhausted. His impression of his mother is probably a realistic one: "She was washing and
cooking all the time.
Life was simple in those days, says Spiro somewhat wistfully. "We kids all dressed alike, ate the same food, and left our houses unlocked. We could trust people, and a contract was made on a simple handshake," he said. "Would that we could do the same today."
Marble has been used daily for centuries in Greece and perfected by that country's experts. In Greece, Spiro worked with marble and natural stone for a period of 14 years, at which time he was awarded the coveted designation of
Master marble Craftsman/Artist. "There are few Master marble Craftsmen left in the world today," says Spiro, "and most of them live in Europe. In the United States most marble craftsmen train for 4 years instead of 14 years.
Anna Xeros' family went to Zakynthos when she was 17 years old, and she reports that she fell in love with the island and the people during their two-month stay. She first met Spiro on that trip, but did not catch up with him again for a period of three years. She returned to Zakynthos and the couple was married after 9 days' courtship. They are still happily married today and the parents of three children: two daughters, ages 17 and 7, and an 18-year-old son.
Seeking greater opportunities for making a living, Spiro and Anna came to America and settled in St. Louis in 1977, where Spiro worked as a waiter at Stouffer's Riverfront hotel. Unhappy in this line of work which did not afford him an opportunity to use his skills, in 1983 Spiro took his family back to Greece. They had difficulty settling in there, however; after six months they decided to try again in St. Louis. Spiro made a new start, this time going to work for a marble company. It did not take his employer long to figure out what Spiro could do! In 1986 Spiro began working out of his own kitchen, sub-contracting with the marble company. He was offered a 1O-year non-compete contract with them, which he refused to sign.
In 1992, Spiro and Anna decided to start their own business, Acropolis Custom Marble and Granite, Inc. He is in his element working with real marble. "God made this stuff," he says, "and everything that God makes is beautiful."
The new business was a little slow in getting up to speed, but Anna was persistent in using the phone to contact different firms to market her husband's artistic, creative skills. Cutters Kitchens and Bathed was an early supporter and sole supplier for Acropolis, and has stayed with them up to the present time. News of the quality of Spiro's work, his flexibility and creativity, his honesty and integrity, soon spread within the industry. Acropolis has tripled the amount of business the company did in its first year, and is in demand today. (They've been selected as #1 fabricators in St. Louis for the past three years, and intend to keep that recognition for the foreseeable future!)
Four employees, all personally trained by Spiro, work in the shop. There is not any turnover, as the artisans are treated well and are happy in their line of work. What Spiro at first thought was becoming a lost art has had a re-birth in an affluent society. He was called upon to design and install much of the flooring in the west wing of the St. Louis Art Museum in 1986; met all deadlines and supervised all the marble work during construction of the St. Louis Galleria; designed and installed the beautiful marble in the Hyatt Regency lobby at Union Station; and crafted the green marble bases for the signature horses at the Adams Mark hotel.
Marble is a wonderful substance, and it's not a surprise that it is experiencing a resurgence in
popularity, especially among upscale and custom home builders and their clients. It comes out of the earth in veins, and is quarried into 4'x8' slabs. Spiro takes it to a standard thickness of 3/4", and shapes it to whatever configuration is desired by his customers. He is especially proud of the many different edgings which he has created. Marble is attached to a surface with a special glue tinted to match as closely as possible. The advantages of using marble are that it is not only incredibly beautiful, but that it is also almost indestructible. "If used in the right place, it's the most beautiful thing," says Spiro. "With proper maintenance, it will last forever."
Proper maintenance is required to take care of the shiny finish, not the marble itself. According to Spiro and his wife, over-the
counter products are not so great. A liquid marble maintenance product from Germany is what they recommend, as it protects the surface along with maintaining the shine and sealant.
We were the First! Acropolis, according to the Xenos, is the only company in St. Louis that imports pastel colors from Greece. Other sources of marble and granite are Turkey, Spain, South America, Italy, and Thailand. "We never do the same thing twice for the same customer," says Spiro. "We generally work from drawings and love to deliver our product to today's customer who is looking for real quality. Anything anyone wants in marble or granite, we can do!"
The Xenos first joined the HBA in 1992, but dropped out after one year. They rejoined in March of 1996, and have since
benefited from their membership. Spiro is a member of the Remodel Council, and will, in fact, be part of a panel in a future program for the Council.
Acropolis was a good choice for this company's name, it would appear. The word itself means a fortified hill city, and one immediately thinks of the famous Acropolis in old Athens, the home of the Parthenon and the Erectheum. One has to scale heights to reach the Acropolis. The builder, the architect, and the new home buyer could be described also as scaling heights and reaching for perfection of quality, design and detail at comparable cost when they do business with Spiro Xenos and his workers at Acropolis Custom Marble and Granite, Inc.