Leadership Letter
 
November 1st, 2006

November-December 2006

Although my term of office in CTDA does not end until the official start of the new year, this is my last TileDealer Leadership Letter. It seems like only yesterday that I was greeting you from this page for the first time and talking about the opportunities ahead.

This has been a banner year for CTDA. We took the lead in delivering educational seminars at Coverings 2006, continued to grow TileDealer into the industry-leading publication it has become, finalized our Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson program, added a variety of stone materials to our educational offerings, and, of course, packed up our industry expertise and knowledge for a whirlwind trade mission to Istanbul, Turkey, to learn more about Turkish tile, culture and doing business with another group of industry leaders.

We got to know each other and our counterparts half a world away much better. But perhaps the best part about CTDA is the way in which it helps us initiate and nurture those elusive networking links that allow us do more business and do it better. As president of CTDA I have enjoyed a front-row seat to that.

In late August the CTDA Board of Directors gathered—as it always does—for a summer meeting. In addition to tackling the business of the association, we discussed our varying views on the marketplace based on the drop in home sales and our varied perspectives from around the country. We also talked about what our goals would be for another trade mission in the future. And that was just in the course of the meeting. The informal conversations, suggestions, and shared experiences added considerably to the event.

CTDA offers all of us a number of important links to the rest of the industry. Our sponsorship of Coverings and our participation in Surfaces are just two of them. Our cooperative roles with other industry associations are another.

But perhaps the most important links are the informal ones—the opportunity to pick up a phone or introduce yourself to a counterpart at an industry event and ask about a product or a process. Knowledge is everything and the collective knowledge of the generations of tile industry professionals assembled in CTDA is formidable.

If you aren’t a member of CTDA, I encourage you to join. If you are already a member, I urge you to step up your participation. Volunteer for a committee, sign up for CCTS or offer to help staff the association booth at Coverings 2007. Whatever you give in time and effort will come back to you, multiplied, in benefits to you and your business.

Finally, everyone likes to “end on a high note” and that’s certainly the case with the 2006 Management Conference. Educational opportunities have been designed to reflect the topics that are most important to us right now. The Distributor’s Forum offers attendees a session on do-it-yourself problem solving. Guest speakers are there to educate and motivate.

None of this would have been possible without the help of so many dedicated members and volunteers, professionals who have taken time from their demanding business lives to attend committee meetings, participate in conference calls and share their energy and expertise in so many ways. You truly are the heart and soul of CTDA. Together you make CTDA a remarkable team effort.

My sincere thanks to all of you for your contributions throughout the year, for the commitment you have made for the future, for your support and trust in me.


From the Editor’s Desk: Turning a page on the calendar
 
November 1st, 2006

by Janet Arden, Editor

November-December 2006

This is the time of year when we turn a page in the TileDealer editorial calendar—looking ahead to what we will feature and write about in 2007.

It’s always a challenge to finalize the calendar. We solicit advice from many stakeholders—and they all have advice to offer. Then we try to assemble everyone’s ideas into a workable whole that covers traditional topics—what’s new in various product categories like glass, porcelain, underlayments, and grout—as well as those issues the industry is following: mold, standards development, style trends like large format materials and the increasing role of stone. We know these are topics our readers want to read about. But there are also issues that arise suddenly, that demand our attention or that we think should get yours. These include topics like the slowdown in the housing industry, the cost of energy, and growing attention to green building. These topics are just as relevant to our businesses and deserve our attention from a tile dealer’s point of view.

So what can you look forward to in 2007? More innovations in tile, setting materials, and even tools; interior and exterior trends; One-on-One interviews in every issue and more. And don’t forget the TileDealer website, www.tiledealer.org for archives of past issues, a peek at what’s ahead, links to advertisers and resources and, of course, the current issue. About this issue:

This issue has two features that I have been looking forward to. First, Winning Entries takes a look at some of the big winners in design contests. What makes them winners and what does it take to get there? In this case, winners tell all. More importantly, they share the benefits of winning. Satisfaction. Recognition. A subtle gain on their competition. Perhaps most interesting, although most of us think in terms of well known competitions like Spectrum, local home shows and design contests can actually offer you greater exposure to the consumers you’re trying to reach. Have you been part of a great installation as a designer, supplier or installer? Perhaps it’s time to show it off.

“Windows of Opportunity in Glass Tile” takes a close look at the surprising start a number of glass tile lines got and the way their engineering and artistic genealogy has shaped the tile lines today. Writer Jeff Steele has been a huge fan of glass tile since we first asked him to look into the product category, and you’ll sense his enthusiasm in this feature. Finally, I took another look at CTDA’s experience in Istanbul to see what the trade mission participants are now thinking about Turkish tiles. I came away with a range of ideas, not just about Turkish tiles, but about imports in general. Imports drive a significant portion of the ceramic tile business, so I consider this feature an introduction. We’ll be returning to this topic again in upcoming issues.

As always, I hope you find this issue of TileDealer to be “good reading.”

See you at the Management Conference!


Innovations
 
November 1st, 2006

November-December 2006

TIBER GLAZED PORCELAIN FROM MARAZZI

Tiber, Marazzi’s newest glazed porcelain, embodies the strength of ancient stone found along its namesake Italian river. Undulated edges along with dramatic shade and pattern variation in a 12″x12″ module bring fascinating visual movement to floors and walls in multi-use settings. Sensuous layers of color, soothing yet slip-resistant surfaces with a simple maintenance routine counterpoints popular architectural elements like metal, glass or stone to personalize residential or commercial installations. The majolica-inspired Mosaic Listelli interjects creative flair when used either as strips or cut and used as inserts. Cascading, tumbling, winding its way from the Appenine mountain range through Rome and into the Mediterranean Sea the Tiber River brings life to all the diverse regions through which it flows. The greens of Romagna, the reds of Tuscany, the golds of Umbria and the browns of Lazio comprise Tiber’s palette. www.marazzitile.com

IKOM EMBODIES CRISP, CLASSIC

New from Tile of Spain branded manufacturer, Pamesa, is the Ikom series. Tile of Spain branded manufacturers introduce a spread of new products that provide the perfect foundation for a simple yet sophisticated modern space. ‘Crisp Classic’ design combines clean lines with natural materials to soften the look while exotic woods, weathering steel, glass, slate and concrete complement monochromatic collections. Pure, organic fabrics such as wool, linen, cashmere and flannel soften the space which is balanced by crisp lines and meticulous attention to detail. ‘Crisp Classic’ is a reflection of a more conscious culture; one not concerned with fluff, but dedicated to pureness of design and execution. A through-bodied porcelain that embodies the essence of cement, formats from 12×12″, 16×16″ to 20×20″ are suitable for bathrooms, kitchens and exterior facades. Colors include: Gris, Negro, Blanco, Arena, Noce and Bambu. Complimentary pieces are available. Another tile that captures the characteristics of concrete is the Cemento Manhattan Series, a white bodied rectified tile by Tile of Spain branded manufacturer, Porcelanosa. Formats offered are 12.5 x 12.5″ for floors and 12.5 x 18″ for walls and facades. www.spaintiles.info

EcoCycle™ is Certified for Meeting Recycled Content Criteria

Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) announced recycled content certification for the new EcoCycle™ Series—eight Porcelain Stone™ tile products manufactured by Crossville, Inc. Certification of the EcoCycle™ Series confirms that Crossville meets the necessary criteria for recycled content claims based on internationally recognized standards and guidance established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED™ Rating System. The eight products in the EcoCycle™ Series have a certified recycled content of 40 percent. “We’re pleased to be able to offer our customers tile made with recycled content,” says Tim Bolby, director of technical services for Crossville. “The key for us was designing a collection and treatment system that captured feedstock from one industrial process for use in another—diverting material from the landfill and providing recycled content material for our EcoCycle™ Series.” According to ISO 14021 on “Environmental Labels and Declarations,” as well as USGBC’s “LEED™ 2.2 Rating System for New Construction,” pre-consumer recycled material is defined as “material diverted from the waste stream during or from the manufacturing process.” The new EcoCycle Series has the rustic elegance of natural stone with surface color that continues through the body of the tile. Crossville Porcelain Stone® is slip resistant, refuses to scratch, stain or fade, never needs sealing or waxing, and cleans with just hot water. Its eight colors take their inspiration from nature: Wetlands, a medium warm beige; Marshland, a mid-tone gray; Earth, a reddish brown; Pine Barren, a deep green; Night Air, black; Grand Canyon, a noce; Plymouth Rock, a deep gray; and Storm EC001, a gray mingle. All are 5/16″ thick and available in 12″x12″, except for Storm EC001, which is available in 8″x8″ only. All have an unpolished (UPS) finish; Storm EC001 is also available in the Cross-Tread Surface Pattern. Coordinating bullnose, base coves, left and right corners are also available. www.crossvilleinc.com.

Elevations™ from Oceanside

Oceanside Glasstile’s Elevations™ is the perfect material to create strong architectural statements, especially on expanses of floor or wall. Elevations takes design to a new dimension with its clean lines and modern aesthetics. From the bold relief arches of Extrados field tile to six modulating 10-inches wide field sizes to geometric textured liners, Elevations creates visual impact adding depth, texture and color to any project. Like all of Oceanside Glasstile’s eight product lines, Elevations is handcrafted from hand-cast molten glass into luminous glass tile that is both beautiful and sustainable, made from silica sand, an abundant natural resource, and up to 86% recycled material. www.glasstile.com.

ACTIVANT PROPHET 21 VERSION 11 AVAILABLE

Activant Solutions Inc. announces the availability of Activant Prophet 21™ version 11.0. “As one of the leading enterprise software solutions for the distribution industry, Prophet 21 offers distributors a fully scalable solution with proven ROI,” said Steve McLaughlin, senior vice president and general manager of Activant’s wholesale distribution group. Version 11.0 includes advanced inventory management and customer relationship management (CRM) functionality. Eric Pargmann, technology utilization manager of Abatix, has been an early adopter of Prophet 21 version 11.0 and has this to say: “With new functionality such as Customer Master Inquiry and Advanced Demand Forecasting, Prophet 21 version 11.0 is going to streamline processes and help us take better advantage of the data in our solution. As early adopters, we’ve had about 100 users hitting it everyday and the solution has been very stable.” Activant® put its more than three decades of wholesale distribution experience into building the solution, which combines the familiarity of Windows with the depth of SQL Server to provide distributors with an intuitive solution to access business data to changing market needs. Features include order management, inventory management, warehouse management, purchasing, financial management, customer relationship management, business reporting and analysis, PDA integration, and e-business. All of Activant’s solutions for wholesale distributors go through rigorous quality assurance and field production testing before wide release. An innovative implementation program that includes a customized training agenda ensures that distributors new to Prophet 21 can start benefiting from the solution as soon as they go live. Ongoing solution, technology, and e-business consulting and specially developed Web- and Classroom-Based Training courses allow distributors to continue expanding their knowledge of their solution and training their employees. Support programs, including an online solutions database, a feature-rich Customer Web Site, and online and one-on-one networking programs allow distributors to implement the best practices for their business. www.activant.com

WarmlyYours offers Spa Package

WarmlyYours has unveiled the very latest in home comfort solutions: its new Bathroom Spa Package, combining popular bathroom floor warming systems and its new line of premium Towel Warmers. The new line of Towel Warmers offers the next level of self-pampering and spa-like comfort for the home. For K&B professionals looking to maximize personal comfort in project design, the new WarmlyYours Spa Package is a great way to offer a broader variety of luxury comfort solutions. Lightweight and easy to connect with no visible wires, the new WarmlyYours Towel Warmers are manufactured from high carbon steel with electrostatic coatings for long lasting quality. Heated by an embedded double grounded electric cable for faster heating with only a fraction of the power of comparable liquid-filled models, each towel warmer comes with an attractive, wall-mounted soft-touch control with on/off and economy (half power) modes. All WarmlyYours Home Comfort solutions are backed by an exclusive 24/7 installation support service and lifetime technical assistance plan for maximum customer confidence and convenience. www.warmlyyours.com


Winning Entries: Is Your Product or Installation a Winner?
 
November 1st, 2006


November-December 2006

Whether it is for the glory or the money, everyone likes to be a winner. The trouble with most contests is that the odds are so stacked against the individual that many contests are hardly worth the bother to enter. With the lottery, for example, they say that you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than to win. So what’s the point of even trying? Well, for one thing, you can’t win if you don’t enter. For another, you can forget about odds when the contest isn’t one of chance but one of skill and talent.

In the case of tile design awards, entrants can flaunt their innovative and beautiful new installations to win a bit of money. Perhaps even more valuably, entering design competitions gives designers, architects, and even manufacturers recognition among their peers and provides a showplace for many people to see the installation. This, along with all the media attention surrounding the contests, has the potential to bring in additional business.

Binnie Fry is a specialized-tile dealer who provides tile, glass, materials and advice for public art projects through her company, Specialty Tiles, located in Washington DC. She has won many awards, most recently a Spectrum Award of Merit in 2005. Although she hasn’t been able to quantify her win to direct sales, she says, “It definitely translates into reputation.” Of the three times she’s entered the competition, she’s won twice, once in 1998 and once in 2005. “I really don’t see any drawbacks to entering,” she says.

Within the tile industry, there are several international design awards that are available for entry by distributors, architects, and designers. These awards sometimes have just a few dozen entrants or less.

Of course, those who do enter have put time and energy into presenting their best projects, so the fact that there are only a few competitors certainly does not mean that winning is guaranteed. Still, the entry process is pretty straightforward. For those who are already designing gorgeous installations and photographing them, it’s worthwhile to go ahead and submit to one of the many design competitions and see what happens.

There are many different competitions available with the largest and most prestigious being the Spectrum Awards, the Prism Stone in Architecture Awards, the Tile of Spain Awards, and the Ceramic Tiles of Italy Design Competition.

The Spectrum Award

Spectrum Awards are sponsored by Coverings and coordinated by five sponsoring organizations: Assopiastrelle, ASCER, the Tile Council of North America, the National Tile Contractors Association and the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association.

According to Spectrum’s promotional material, “The Spectrum Awards competition celebrates creativity and achievement in the use of ceramic tile in residential and commercial projects.” Along with the Prism awards, the Spectrum winners are announced on the opening day of Coverings and large images of the winners’ projects are on display in the lobby throughout the show.

“I think of all the awards, Spectrum provides the best publicity and is the most open of the design competitions. When you win you get lots of PR,” says Fry.

Guidelines for entry to the 2007 Spectrum awards are expected to be similar to past years, as are the entry process and fees of $100 for the first entry and $85 for additional entries. Forms will be available online starting in November. Electronic copies of the identification sheet and project descriptions will have to be submitted in addition to the usual hard copies. There will also be some enhancements to the entry forms based on recommendations from last year’s judges.

In addition to the ID sheet, and the electronic submission, there must be at least four printed 8×10 photographs of each project, both printed and submitted on a CD. The deadline for entry is February 2007.

According to Wendy Diep, Marketing Specialist for National Trade Productions, “The required project description sheet will incorporate added questions such as, ‘How did the material used enhance the quality of the project’ and ‘What other materials were considered as well?’”

Diep adds, “The prize money for the grand prize winner will most likely remain $10,000 and the prizes for the sub-categories would be similar to the 2006 program.” In addition, first prizes for the residential and commercial categories are $2,500 each and awards of merit in the residential and commercial categories are $1,500 each.

This year’s grand prize winner, artist Mike Mandel, of Watertown, MA, won for his dramatic mosaic tile design in the Charlotte Arena. The 27 foot tall public art project represents the history of basketball in the Carolinas using half a million unglazed porcelain and opaque glass tiles.

Even though Mandel has won Spectrum awards twice before, (once a commercial award, and in 1999 another grand prize,) he almost forgot to enter in 2006. “I went to the website and found out that it was only ten days before the entry deadline,” says Mandel. “So I hurried to get the photographs and enter at the last minute.”

“I am not connected to the tile industry. I’m an artist,” says Mandel. “So the fact that I’ve won, and won now more than once, indicates to me that the jurors are really interested in rewarding what they consider to be creative tile projects. I’m an outsider, but I’ve gotten recognition, so it isn’t about who you know.”

The Prism Stone in Architecture Awards

The Prism Awards recognize excellence in the use of architectural projects where stone was an integral material. These awards are sponsored by the Marble Institute of America and Architectural Record and are promoted along with the Spectrum awards. Categories, entries, and the awards are all similar to the Spectrum awards.

This year’s grand prize went to Conventional Stone and Marble Corporation for their work on 90 West Street Building in New York. The award acknowledged the thoughtful renovation of an historical landmark following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

The Spectrum and Prism awards will be presented at Coverings in 2007, April 17–20 at Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center. See Coverings.com for more information about entering the Spectrum and Prism awards, or for the show.

Tile of Spain Architecture and Interior Design Awards

Sponsored by the Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association (ASCER), the annual awards honor the creative use of ceramic tiles from Spain in architectural and interior design projects. There is also a degree projects category aimed at young architects. This year the jury awarded first prize to Pedro García Martínez for “Interchange at the Glorieta de Cuatro Caminos (Madrid)”.

In the fourth year of the competition the jury considered approximately 50 entries in all, which came from professional architects, interior designers, structural engineers, landscape architects and decorators of various nationalities. Prizes for the Architecture and Interior Design categories were 18,000 €. (approximately $23,000) each in 2005. The winner of the Degree Projects Category won 9,000 €. (approximately $11,500.)

There is no entry fee or form for the awards. Submissions must include a minimum of 3 photos (maximum of 10) showing the quality of the project. Images must also be submitted as slides (Size 6×6 cm minimum) or digital photos 300 dpi. Submissions must also include a plan of the project (digitally and on paper), a brief explanation, including the type of products used and the names of manufacturers (600 word maximum), and the credentials of the designer or designers of the project.

The deadline for submitting entries and the required documentation is October 31, 2006. The full rules and regulations can be viewed on spaintiles.info. Winners will be announced at an international press conference at Cevisama 2007 in Valencia February 6–10, 2007.

Work eligible to be entered for these two categories must have been completed between January 2005 and October 2006. It is a prerequisite that any work entered must have made use of ceramic floor and/or wall tiles made in Spain, and that these feature significantly as a material in the visible part of the building.

Ceramic Tiles of Italy Design Competition

Sponsored by Assopiastrelle, the Association of Italian Tile Manufacturers and the Italian Trade Commission, this design competition awards the best projects using Italian ceramic tile in projects from the past five years. According to the entry form, the jury bases their decision on “Overall design of the space as well as how the tiles meet their function and technical requirements.”

This competition had 50 submissions in 2006. The winner in the residential category was the Line House by Hufft: Projects which used over 3,000 sq ft of tile in a modern home located in Springfield, MO. Architect Matthew Hufft found out about the contest from an ad in a magazine.

“It took about 4 to 6 hours to put together the book for the submission. We already had the design, the drawings and the photographs,” said Hufft.

The Institutional winner was the San Diego County Regional Airport authority for their use of porcelain to match existing limestone. The commercial winner was Rusico Studio for the Place Fleur de Lys shopping mall in Quebec City, Canada. There was also a special recognition for mosaic excellence award for Rene Gonzalez architect for the Cisneros Fontanals Art fountain in Miami. This fountain used over one million tiles in 107 different colors.

Italy is good at publicizing the winning entries, garnering loads of positive publicity for the winners. In 2004 they published a soft cover book honoring the winners from the first decade of winners, Ten Years of Design Excellence: Ceramic Tiles of Italy Across America, which they handed out at Coverings.

This year, the prize is $5000, a trip to Coverings and a five-day trip to Bologna, Italy to attend Cersaie 2007. Another feature of the Italian competition is the additional $1000 that will be awarded to the winning contractor and distributor team. The deadline for submissions is February 9, 2007. For more information, contact Novità Communications at info@novitapr.com

Winning

Apart from just entering, what does it take to win an award? Basically, having a stunning project using quality tiles in a creative way. According to the Spectrum entry brochure, “Certainly vision is important. Talent and skill to pull off that vision. A strong knowledge of materials in order to specify the right tile and install it properly. And, it doesn’t hurt to have a great client.”

This last part can be tricky, especially in residential installations. Kristin Powers of Trikeenan Tileworks says, “Entering isn’t always up to you. The homeowners have to agree to allow their home to be photographed.” She explains how Trikeenan provided the tile for a beautiful home that included eight rooms full of tile, but the homeowners refused to have the house photographed for entry into a contest.

It’s never too soon to plan for the future. Last year Hufft considered submitting the Line House only after construction was finished. Now he’s working on another home and he’s already thinking about entering it in a tile competition. “We have a house in New York that is still in the design phase. We’re two years away from being able to submit,” he says.

Awards that come to you

Some awards can’t be entered—they find you. Assopiastrelle hosts the American Distributor Awards, which rewards North American distributors “For their dedication to the promotion and use of Italian ceramic tiles in the North American marketplace.” This decision is based on several factors: competence as importer and distributor of Italian tile, a preference for Italian ceramic tile, fair-trade practices, and best showroom and corporate image. This year’s winner was New Jersey-based Wayne Tile.

Mapei hosts a competition called the “Grand Prix of Reference Projects.” This international contest is in its fifth year and the winner is announced at Cersaie. The contest awards unique use of the product, and as corporate communications specialist Diane Choate describes it, “Using the right product for the right job.” Company representatives enter their clients in the contest and fill out the forms. There is no cash prize for the architect, designer, installer or contractor. “Just the bragging rights,” says Choate. “We also have the photographs of all the entries on our website, and industry magazines publish stories about the winners.”

Trikeenan Tileworks won a “Best-in-Show” award at Coverings in 2005 for best booth under 500 square feet. “You don’t even know that they’re looking at your booth until the third day when they announce the winner. It was a great surprise and honor,” said Powers.

What’s in it for you?

Powers says winning awards is helpful for business. “People are responsive. They’ll say, ‘We saw this on the website.’ I’ve found that people tend to like to work with products that they think others appreciate.”

“Winning contests helps with exposure. Anytime you enter contests you get exposure and getting recognized is always good for public relations,” she says.

According to Mandel, “Did winning at Coverings help my business? I don’t think so. But all these things together have a cumulative effect. Sometimes it takes a long time, but it is always good to be recognized.”

“I don’t think the contest directly helped the business,” says Hufft of his Tiles of Italy win. “But it certainly helps indirectly with resume building and with publicity. I would absolutely do it again, of course. This is a great avenue for architects and designers to publicize their works.”

Everyone likes to be a winner, especially if the victory honors hard work and accomplishment. If a bit of publicity or a cash prize come with the honors, all the better.


Industry Insights
 
November 1st, 2006

November-December 2006

NEW ALPHA REPRESENTATIVE

Alpha Professional Tools® is pleased to announce an addition to their sales team, Mr. John Ryniak. John will be responsible for the Mid-Atlantic Territory, which consists of Delaware, Maryland, Southern NJ, Central and Eastern PA, Virginia and Washington D.C. Ryniak has several years of outside sales experience in related industries and has covered these areas in his previous position.

BONSAL AMERICAN EXPANDS SALES TEAM

Bonsal American® has added Ferdinand Muniz to its sales team as international sales manager, responsible for managing Bonsal American’s international sales expansion for all product lines and establishing new dealers and distributors outside the U.S. Muniz has extensive sales experience in Latin American markets, holding numerous sales management positions for Armstrong World Industries.

The company also announces the addition of Ken Walden as an area sales manager for Bonsal® branded tile and stone installation products. His responsibilities include establishing and developing sales campaigns, forecasts and budgets for South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and Maryland. “I’m very pleased to have Ken join our team,” said Kevin McFadden, director of marketing for the Bonsal tile division. “His energy and enthusiasm will make him a great asset to the company.”

NRI INDUSTRIES AND KINETICS NOISE CONTROL SIGN PARTNERSHIP

NRI Industries, North America’s largest fully integrated manufacturer of recycled rubber products, has signed a partnership with Kinetics Noise Control, the recognized leader in designing products to control sound and vibration. Under the agreement, the companies will co-market sound control membrane under the brand names “EcoSoundmat” and “EcoSoundmat High Bond.” The natural fit between NRI Industries and Kinetics Noise Control will help to round out the latter’s already broad offering of products that provides sound control solutions for floors, walls and ceilings. The strategic marketing and distribution alliance will open new North American markets for both companies “NRI Industries is continually looking for ways to expand its market presence, and we’re excited about the opportunities that Kinetics Noise Control brings,” said Andy Pattenden of NRI Industries. “We want the EcoSoundmat line to be the sound control membrane of choice and look forward to opening new doors for each other.” Matt Swysgood of Kinetics Noise Control said, “The unique physical properties of NRI’s recycled rubber mat will allow Kinetics Noise Control to better serve the expanding market for sound control in multi-family dwellings. We are very optimistic about the sales opportunities this partnership brings to the table.”

HAMILTON PARKER COMPANY

Milton Lewin, Chairman of the Hamilton Parker Company in Columbus, Ohio, passed away on September 21, 2006 after a four year courageous battle against lung cancer. Originally known as the Hamilton-Parker Fuel and Supply Company, it was purchased by Lewin’s family in 1936. It was incorporated as the Hamilton Parker Company in 1960, the same year Milton Lewin joined the company full time. Milton Lewin diversified the business, adding brick, tile, garage doors, and prefab fireplaces. In 2001 Adam Lewin was named president.

ROCA POSITIONS FOR FUTURE GROWTH

To meet increased demands of the ceramic tile market, the Roca Tile Group will open four new regional distribution centers in Long Beach, California; Savannah, Georgia; Houston, Texas; and Miami, Florida. Current warehouses in Suffolk, Virginia, and East Sparta, Ohio, will be expanded. This network of regional warehouses will provide one of the largest ceramic warehouse capacities in the United States, encompassing more than 750,000 square feet. The regional distribution centers will house all Roca Tile Group brands, including Laufen, United States Ceramic Tile Company, Roca, and Incepa. To strategically position the company for future growth, the U.S. Corporate Headquarters will move from North Canton, Ohio, to Miami in the first half of 2007. Donald E. Olsen, president of U.S. operations for the Roca Tile Group since 1995, has left the company after 21 years. Agustin Lopez, senior managing director of the Roca Group Tiles Division, has assumed his responsibilities.

WALTON NAMED GENERAL MANAGER AT ORCHID

Orchid Ceramics, Inc. announced the promotion of Donny Walton to General Sales Manager. Walton will have the primary responsibility for the development and execution of Orchid Ceramics sales strategy to the floor covering industry. Walton joined the company in 2002 as a Regional Sales Manager covering the Central US Territory.


Seven New Standards Added to ANSI A108/A118/A136.1
 
November 1st, 2006

November-Decmeber 2006

Seven new standards have been added to the American National Standard Specifications for the Installation of Ceramic Tile (ANSI A108/A118/A136.1). Published by the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), the ANSI A108, A118, and A136.1 standards are used in tandem with the TCA Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation for specifying and installing ceramic tile.

This publication reflects the work of the TCNA, the ANSI A108 Committee, and many subcommittee participants. There are seven new standards and several key revisions:

New Standards:

1. A108.01 – General Requirements: Subsurfaces and Preparations by Other Trades

2. A108.02 – General Requirements: Materials, Environmental, and Workmanship

3. A108.14 – Installation of Paper-Faced Glass Mosaic Tile

4. A108.15 – Alternate Method: Installation of Paper-Faced Glass Mosaic Tile

5. A108.16 – Installation of Paper-Faced, Back-Mounted, Edge-Mounted, or Clear Film Face-Mounted Glass Mosaic Tile

6. A108.17 – Installation of Crack Isolation Membranes for Thin-set Ceramic Tile and Dimension Stone

7. A118.12 – American National Standard Specification for Crack Isolation Membranes for Thin-set Ceramic Tile and Dimension Stone Installation

“Several of the changes simply make the newly revised document more user-friendly, such as identifying both the standard number and page number at the bottom of each page, expanding the table of contents, and going to a one-column format,” stated Sharon Jones, ANSI Co-Secretariat and Director of Research and Installation Standards.

Technical Revisions and Additions

Previously, references to deflection stated, “Floor areas over which tile is directly bonded to subfloor shall not have a deflection greater than 1/360 … when tested per ASTM C627….” This text was revised, and the reference to 1/360 was taken out. In the new text, regarding deflection in wood subfloors, the deflection criteria references the international building codes. The codes refer to l/360 but also specify load conditions, which are more useful to a design professional.

The new deflection text can be found on page 6 of the 2005 document. (Note that the standard goes by the year in which the revisions were approved. Therefore, the newly revised edition is the 2005 edition.) The new deflection criteria also recommend that the building owner communicate in writing the intended use of the tile installation to the project design professional. This is intended to reduce failures resulting from floors which may have been “under-designed” or where an owner ends up using the floor in a way for which it wasn’t originally designed.

The 2005 edition also contains several new standards including A108.01 and A108.02. These new standards contain text previously found in the Foreword (‘AN’ section) and the General Requirements (Sections ‘A-1’ through ‘A-3’) sections of the previous edition. In the previous format, the text contained within those sections was not formally part of the balloting process. By submitting the text to ANSI to create new standards, these sections have gone through the official balloting procedure and formally become part of the entire A108 series of standards.

New glass tile installation standards have also been added to the document. These address installation methods for mosaic glass tiles. There is also an installation standard and a material specification standard for crack isolation membranes incorporated into the 2005 revision, as well.

“The Tile Council plans on reviewing the ANSI A108/A118/A136.1 standards on a more frequent basis; standards were previously reviewed every five years. We are looking at cutting that period in half—say every 24 months,” commented Eric Astrachan, ANSI Co-Secretariat and Executive Director of the Tile Council.

To order a copy of the new ANSI A108/A118/A136.1 standards ($25.00 plus shipping/handling), contact the Tile Council at 864-646-8453, or visit the publications page on www.tileusa.com for an order form.


Windows of Opportunity in Glass Tile
 
November 1st, 2006

November-December 2006

By Jeffrey Steele

Not long ago, Rita Levine was discussing glass tile’s rapidly growing acceptance in the design community. Levine, the marketing director for Diamond Tech Glass Tiles, observed that in the eyes of both design professionals and end users, glass had become “credible” as a viable tile alternative to ceramic, porcelain and stone.

Of course, as Levine and others who create, install or simply love looking at it know, glass tile isn’t just credible. It’s also incredible. The looks, colors, shapes and textures of glass tile are just about limitless. And the ways glass tile can be used are as big as all outdoors—or indoors. It’s beautiful as an accent in a field of other tile, and just as exquisite in fireplace mantles, kitchen backsplashes or showers, pools and spas.

No wonder Levine says, “Glass tile is really luscious stuff.”

This issue of TileDealer takes a close look at some of the big and small tile makers helping to ensure glass tile’s many attributes are visible to everyone.

Levine’s company, Tampa-based Diamond Tech Glass Tiles, was founded by Dan Daniels who started out as a manufacturer of power and hand tools to create stained glass, as well as his own unique stained glass creations. About four years ago, he and Levine simultaneously conceived the notion of creating their own stained glass tile selection.

The flagship line was the Stained Glass Series, Levine recalls. “We took the sheet stained glass, and molded it into 2-by-2s, 4-by-4s and 2-by-6-inch tiles with soft beveled edges,” she said. “It looks like a ceramic tile, but is made out of glass. And it has the same colorful swirls and streaks of actual stained glass.”

The response from customers was so favorable that the company soon added more lines. After many requests for a smaller-format tile, Diamond Tech unveiled its Mosaic Series of ¾-by-¾-inch tiles. Next came the Dimensions Series, which features transparent glass above fused enamel color in an 8-millimeter tile that appears three-dimensional once it’s mounted. “With our Stained Glass Series, the color is throughout,” Levine reports. “But with the Dimensions Series, you almost get the sense that you’re looking through a magnifying glass at the color.”

Diamond Tech Glass Tiles’ products are used primarily in residential bathrooms and kitchens, she adds. But growth is taking place in commercial installations, where designers are becoming much more creative and adventuresome with glass tile.

“People in the commercial side are finding funky and unusual ways to use glass tile,” says. Levine, who recently visited a restaurant in Tampa’s exclusive Bayshore Boulevard area and found its designer had utilized Diamond Tech’s glass tile in an unusual way. The tiles had been mounted upside down, revealing the hash marks on the back of the tiles. The result was a unique, opaque look like a basket weave, Levine recalls. “The more people see glass tile, and the more familiar they are with it, the more they want to use it, whether it’s in their foyer, as room dividers, wherever they use tile… Even though glass tile has been out there for at least 15 years, it hasn’t yet been widely used. So there’s no familiarity yet. But thanks to wonderful magazines out there finding applications and promoting glass tile, it has been validated as a credible alternative to ceramic and stone tile.”

Another Sunshine State provider of glass tile products is Clearwater-based On the Wall. Founder and owner Tracy Kowalchuk entered the tile industry as an employee of a large flooring company after graduating from the Art Institute of Philadelphia, where she earned an architecture degree.

Her immersion in the tile industry led her to gain an understanding, she says, of “what was missing.” That insight, along with her extensive design background, spurred her to start her own company, whose most recent introduction has been glass tile.

“The concept of On the Wall is we have a little of everything,” she says. “It’s not handmade, it’s not that level, but it’s not so factory-made that it looks like everything else. It’s made with our specifications, and our designs.”

Kowalchuk’s creation is a shiny and matte-frosted, four-

millimeter-thick glass tile in 1-by-1, 1-by-2, 2-by-2 and 4-by-4-inch sizes that boasts a Core-25 palette.

“In glass tile today, a lot of the factories in China have 200 colors available, but no one knows what to do with them,” she says. “Core-25 is the best 25 colors for the U.S. market, ranging from soft taupe to sage, as well as a gorgeous red, a vibrant purple and pastels like cobalt blue and turquoise.”

A “greeny-white” Coke-bottle color is also a part of the palette, as are two darker shades to create blends. “And things like the sage and taupe, you have color options down the color scale from those,” Kowalchuk says. “Everything works in tandem with everything else in that Core-25. We’re going to add glass liners in the core colors, and in that color palette we will continue to add blends. So at all times, you can use a blend as an accent or a deco, but you always have your base line to work with as well.”

Trikeenan Tileworks, a highly-respected artisan tile company founded by Kristin and Stephen Powers more than 15 years ago, is yet another glass tile innovator. The Keene, New Hampshire, firm has established a well-earned reputation for developing cutting-edge products.

In 2002, Trikeenan pioneered a new glass tile technology known as glass-fused ceramic, says spokeswoman Ola Lessard. The company’s Glass Windows line uses the technology, which features fused glass above a high-fired stoneware back to create a crackled, highly refractive glass base that throws off considerable light.

“What we hear back from dealers and designers is that this is a very different tile, one that is unlike other glass tile,” Lessard reports. “A lot of light refracts back from the tile, so [Glass Windows is] aptly named. And it’s a beautiful tile.”

Glass Windows tile comes in five sizes, ranging from 6-inches square to as small as a 1-by-6-inch liner. Some 15 recycled glass colors are offered, from milkweed, a soft, grainy color, all the way to a stunning red color called poppy. What’s more, the tiles are modular in nature and are designed to fit together to create larger patterns.

The 37 available modular patterns help make this a “very designable” line, Lessard observes. Customers can take the palette of glass colors, and use designs to create as large or as small an installation as they want, in whatever configuration they choose. As a starting point, they can utilize the free pattern book on the Trikeenan Web site. Glass Windows is being used in both commercial and residential applications for large installations of glass tile or as a decorative insert or liner.

Meanwhile, a chance discovery in Italy led to the establishment of glass tile maker Domani U.S.A., based in Minneapolis. Co-founder David Spencer travels to Italy annually to buy plastics for his OGI Frames business. Touring a Milan plastic manufacturing plant two years ago, he was shown a plastic that unfortunately could not be used for eyeglasses because its PVC base reacted poorly with skin, but it boasted exceptionally vibrant colors and featured an almost three-dimensional look.

“He called me and said, ‘You’ve got to see this plastic!’” David’s brother and company president Craig Spencer relates. “We developed a process of laminating [the plastic] onto a single piece of glass. The Italian plastic is on the bottom, the glass on the top. We then started manufacturing glass tile in various sizes.” The process for lamination the Spencers developed for the single-layer process is patent pending. “No one else out there can duplicate what we’ve done,” he says.

The company primarily uses iron-free Starphire glass by PPG in its tiles. The tile is devoid of a green tint, and also benefits from higher light transmission, allowing the three-dimensional characteristics of the Italian plastic to shine through.

The Italian line of glass tile features 24 colors, and in a custom line of glass tile, Domani U.S.A. offers more than 100 colors. Standard sizes are 4-by-4 and 8-by-8 inches, but custom sizes can also be manufactured in any size larger than 4-by-4. In addition, the company can offer rectangular or subway tiles, or squares up to 20 inches.

Ultraglas Inc. was founded as a provider of stained glass in 1973, and in 2002 transitioned into full production of hand-made glass tile. CEO Jane Skeeter reports the move was a natural line extension for Ultraglas, and allowed the company to bring color to glass tile.

Ultraglas tile uses glass pigments that are fired into the glass, rendering them integral to the body of the glass. As a result, colors don’t separate, chip or fade, won’t react to setting materials and are resistant to chemicals. Tiles are offered in 31 standard luminous colors, with custom colors available for a nominal fee. The tiles’ standard thickness is 5/16-inch, making them ideal for use with ¼ and 3/8-inch materials. In addition, they’re versatile enough to be utilized in interior and exterior applications, and are perfect for pools, spas and showers.

Glass Art Tile Companies

A substantial and growing portion of the glass tile produced in this country is the product of upstart glass art tile companies from New York to suburban Seattle.

Among them is Boulder, Colorado’s Adagio Art Glass. Founders Mary and Rick Barron parlayed Mary’s 30 years of experience in glass and fine arts and Rick’s marketing skills to create a commercial line of products that includes fused glass tiles, knobs and pulls, mirror frames and sconce lights.

The Barrons started making glass tile with the idea every customer would want typical sizes ranging from 1½ to 6 inches square, but soon realized they would be more likely to serve their customers’ needs by making every order a custom order.

One of Adagio’s first lines was Rhapsody, which features layers of glass fused together to form a variety of color combinations and shapes. The other was Fantasia, characterized by a more random array of fractures and streamers, resulting in tiny chips of glass of indeterminate shape being embedded within the tile.

“One thing that makes our tile quite distinctive is you can see each layer of glass on top of one another,” Rick Barron says. “In other words, we maintain the definition of the glass. When you fuse glass, you normally melt it in a kiln. But we don’t melt it completely, but only to the point where you can still see the definition between layers.”

Adagio’s glass tiles are often used as accents within a field of other tile, such as onyx or slate, Rick Barron says. Another frequent use is as a liner that crowns the top of a field of tiles. They are also used as any other tile would be utilized, in bathroom walls, in kitchen backsplashes, as fireplace mantle accents, in exterior décor and in swimming pools, he adds. And even though each order is custom made, every one is shipped within two weeks.

Glass tile now represents about one-third of the product line at six-year-old Scottsdale, Arizona-based Arizona Hot Dots. With a background in jewelry, metal design and sculpture at Miami of Ohio, Kristin Traynor was well equipped to establish a company focused on pewter accent pieces.

About three years ago, Traynor located a Phoenix-area artist skilled in specialty glass sculptures and with her developed the Immersion line of glass tile. This line of hand-made, kiln-fired glass tiles in 2-, 4- and 6-inch squares has grown steadily, and today boasts a palette of 30 different custom colors. Its versatility has made the two-inch tiles most popular with customers, who use them as diamonds and borders.

Speaking of her product line, Traynor says, “We have decorative accents we call halos, created with an air bubble in the middle of the tile that produces a kind of tunnel. Then we have matching field tiles corresponding with those halos. And in addition, we also offer matching liners or borders.”

Suitable for both residential and commercial applications, the Immersion line is most often used as accents to create a focal point in a residential room, Traynor says. “Typical applications are kitchen and bath, but we have noticed installations are going beyond the traditional, moving into borders for mirrors, borders for fireplaces and around the edges of swimming pools.”

The story behind seven-year-old Art Effects Glass, based in the Buffalo suburb of Lockport, New York, is as intriguing as any in the glass tile industry. Company president Catherine O’Connor began her career as a math teacher, but gave up teaching to become a potter. After about 15 years in that field, she developed an allergic reaction to the mold in clay.

“I then read about adding heat to glass, and experimented with my kiln, making tiles and wall art,” she remembers. That led to producing custom glasswork for a wide variety of design professionals, among them architects and decorators.

Today her company’s primary line is glass tile. Design professionals provide her with specs, and she produces custom tile for their projects. After these custom pieces have been created, she adds them to her existing standard line of products.

“You would be amazed at the different varieties I have,” O’Connor says. “I create different patterns, textures and colors. And we add precious metals to the tiles—such as gold, silver, palladium and copper—as well as stainless steel.”

She also performs sculptural casting. Castings begin as wax or clay sculptures, from which molds are created. After the molds gain customer approval, they are, she says, “tweaked.” The sculptures are then turned into glass tiles.

Her creations are often used in spas and pools, and as accents in residential and commercial settings. “We do custom coordinates for the various types of marble and stone,” O’Connor says. “And I’m now working with a local lighting company to create tiles that are specially backlit, for use in swimming pools.”

Calling Art Effects Glass “part of the boutique movement in the tile industry,” O’Connor notes that because the company is small, it produces all its products to order, and also handles “a lot of specialty work.”


One – on – One…Kristin Traynor
 
November 1st, 2006

Designers Are Pushing the Boundaries of Typical Applications

By Jeffrey Steele

November-December 2006

When it comes to working in metal, Kristin Traynor has proven her mettle. This Renaissance woman created sculpture as a kid, earned a college degree in sculpture and design, and over the past few years has carved out a niche in tile. Her company’s bronze and pewter accent pieces have won acclaim, as has her innovative glass tile.

TileDealer recently caught up with the busy Traynor at Scottsdale’s AZ Hot Dots, the company she founded six years ago. In the following in-depth interview, she opens up about her transition from jewelry and sculpture to tile, reveals how her unique bronze, pewter, glass and ceramic with metal inlay tiles are made, and lends insight into the ways the newer tile materials and designs are helping expand the marketplace.

TileDealer: What is your educational and design background?

Traynor: I grew up in Ohio and graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in 1996, with a degree in sculpture and jewelry and metal design. I’ve always enjoyed working with metal in various forms, sizes and compositions. Even back to Shrinkie-Dinks, I was making them into sculpture. And I actually continue to design jewelry that sells locally.

TileDealer: How did you get started in the tile industry?

Traynor: After my graduation, I moved to Flagstaff, and I worked in jewelry and design there. Then I moved to the Phoenix area from Flagstaff in 1998, and settled in Scottsdale, working in jewelry and design. And it was in 2000 that I actually founded the company, AZ Hot Dots, with a partner.

The process of jewelry I was interested in was casting metal, so from casting jewelry to small decorative tile wasn’t that big a jump. And so in starting, we focused our efforts on pewter and bronze tile. We started actually marketing locally with only 25 tile designs. Things were well-received, and we focused a lot on building relationships with salespeople, and took their suggestions of what would do well. For instance, people asked for more decorative and nautical pieces.

We focused on the feedback we received. And shortly thereafter we doubled our catalog of tile designs, and started expanding outside of Arizona. Our goal was to grow the product line and produce a new catalog each year with fresh ideas and options. My husband Dan, a sculptor and graphic artist, and I took full ownership of the company in 2005. Dan actually designed most of the tiles available now in our new Expedition catalog that we introduced in March, 2006.

TileDealer: Why produce metal tile?

Traynor: Pewter and bronze each offer a unique look, distinctly separate from one another. Pewter has a clean, contemporary appeal, whereas bronze has a rich, old-world feel. And I think it’s important to offer our dealers a variety of options to profit from, depending on their customers’ individual styles. In addition, we offer multiple finishes for each metal. We have six different finishes for our pewter products, ranging from finishes that match stainless steel appliances to antique copper and bright copper. We offer 12 different finishes for our bronze products, our most popular bronze finish being an antique brown, a finish with an old-world feel to it.

TileDealer: How are your pewter and bronze tiles made?

Traynor: Our pewter contains fine silver, the same type that is used in the jewelry industry. It’s lead-free, which is environmentally friendly and prevents tarnishing. Our bronze tiles are made from the same metal you’d find fine art gallery sculpture cast from.

Both of our pewter and bronze tiles are created from start to finish by hand, and the metals are hand-poured, hand-cast and individually finished.

Our orders ship within three to five business days. So one day we’ll pour the metal, the second day we do tooling—where you clean the metal up and polish it—and then the third day we put the patina on the surface and then seal the metal. We do let the patina settle into the metal, and then the clear coat does take a 24-hour drying period to seal it. Then we package and ship the orders.

TileDealer: Can you describe the product line?

Traynor: In addition to our wide variety of metal, we also offer a diverse selection of glass, stone and ceramic with metal inlay. Our focus is to have accents that suit a wide range of personal tastes and décor, making add-on sales easy. With our glass tile, we have more than 30 colors available. And they are available in matching sets of decorative glass and field glass. The glass is actually kiln-fired, with separate sheets of glass fused together to create our own custom colors. For instance, we layer different shades of pink to create our own custom shade of pink. You fuse different sheets of glass together so that when they’re fired, it creates a deeper, richer color.

In our ceramic with metal inlay tiles we offer more than 40 colors. You can inset any of our decorative metal tiles into ceramic field tiles. Customers can choose any of our pewter or bronze tiles and have them inlaid within the ceramic field tiles. We also offer pewter letters and numbers that can be inlaid as well within ceramic. Customers can spell out “coffee” or “tea,” making for great kitchen backsplashes.

TileDealer: Do customers need to do anything to maintain the metal tiles?

Traynor: No. Each of our hand-made metal tiles are treated with an industrial clear coat used in the automotive industry. This seals the metal from aging and prevents the metal from discoloring. To clean the tiles, a mild dish detergent and a soft sponge or cloth is recommended.

TileDealer: What are some of the factors behind your company’s success?

Traynor: We attribute the loyalty and continued business from our dealers to our customer service. You can have the greatest product on the market, but if you’re unavailable to answer questions and ship orders in a timely fashion, then you’ll lose the repeat business. And we focus on building solid relationships with our dealers. We’ve got eight other people in addition to myself. But I’m the one who answers the phone. I like the customer interaction, and it allows me to maintain or control the quality of service.

TileDealer: How has AZ Hot Dots been received in the marketplace?

Traynor: Fantastic. We fill the need for easy-to-incorporate specialty items that personalize any installation. Having no minimums and a quick turnaround allows customers to achieve that high-end installation look in an affordable manner. We have set designs that we offer, and in that sense it is a manufactured product. But the appeal is that each piece is created and finished individually. And we have hundreds of different designs, to try to appeal to a variety of personal styles and preferences.

TileDealer: How do you assist dealers in selling your products?

Traynor: We supply full-color catalogs that feature all of our products, and offer a variety on installation applications. In addition, our newly redesigned Web site, www.azhotdots.com, allows dealers and consumers to print our catalog either black and white or in color. No pricing is printed in our catalogs or on our site, so dealers can share the information and design ideas with their clients, and then supply their own markups. We also offer discounted sample displays for each of our product lines.

Showrooms can pick their designs for the displays, as certain designs will sell better depending on the different demographics of each location. I think it’s important to be flexible with the dealers, depending on their showroom needs. Therefore, we also offer loose samples, and can customize a display to any size or financial investment.

TileDealer: How do you suggest dealers maximize their profitability in selling your products?

Traynor: Showrooms that display our master set, which is the five-board showroom display unit, tend to sell the highest volume of our products. It’s no surprise, because the bigger presence with product in the showroom, the bigger the sales will be. In addition to this, mixing accent pieces with tiles helps plant ideas in the customers’ minds. Customers see a unique or artistic tile application, and they want to recreate that in their own home. We also discount our product to encourage showrooms to include us in their vignette designs.

TileDealer: Where do you think the next growth marketplace will be for accent tiles?

Traynor: Our focus has always been to provide salespeople with fun and innovative designs to incorporate into everyday installations. Showroom personnel enjoy working with new designs and keeping everything fresh. At AZ Hot Dots, we are introducing several new product lines in late fall that have been in development for the last year. We’ve actually spent a long time designing these lines, mixing materials such as stone and glass, and pewter and shell inlay. These new lines are completely unique and original; we’re excited because they’ve been extremely well received in test markets.

TileDealer: What’s next?

Traynor: The designers are pushing the boundaries of typical applications. And definitely the incorporation of new materials, such as glass and metal, has really expanded the market into new directions. I see no risk of taking on new materials, especially with all the new materials like metals and glass being used as accent pieces. All they do is enhance the installation, and allow for personalization on the part of the homeowners.

 


Ceramic Tile Industry & TPFH Helping Rebuild Gulf Coast
 
November 1st, 2006

November-December 2006

A little more than a year ago, Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast region, destroying countless homes and lives. While much of the region is still recovering, there are signs of rebuilding—thanks in part to the tile industry.

Industry members have donated for 67 Habitat for Humanity homes in six communities—Jackson, MS; Bay St. Louis, MS; Gulfport, MS; Gautier, MS; New Orleans, LA, and Houston, TX. Many other projects will need tile in the coming months in these communities and others—and TPFH needs your help for them as well. To date, industry partners have supplied materials for 8 homes in late April and 20 homes this fall for Habitat projects in Jackson. Crossville, Inc. and Orchid Ceramics donated tile, Laticrete supplied setting materials, James Hardie Building Products supplied backerboard and MD Building Products supplied tools. Bart Bettiga, executive director of the Jackson-based National Tile Contractors Association, Gerald Sloan, director of training and education, and Bob Brown, membership director, will train Habitat staff and volunteers to set tile in the homes.

On donating for hurricane relief projects, Laticrete North American President Ed Metcalf said, “We have people there that were affected by the storms, people who themselves are involved in rebuilding on a very personal level. We’re committed to rebuilding so that all of the people of this historic and beautiful place can come home and help it to regain its characteristic strength and unique vitality.” The Metro Jackson affiliate is coordinating projects in Hancock County. Nine homes will be tiled with materials from Orchid Ceramics and Custom Building Products. CBP New Orleans-area Territory Manager Scott Nalesnik also coordinated and led an installation training session for AmeriCorps members in Bay St. Louis. Nalesnik and CBP Technical Service Representatives David Segura of Little Rock, Arkansas, and Vann Clayton of Birmingham, Alabama, worked with volunteers to install tile. Nalesnik, a New Orleans resident, reflected on what it was like to help:

“Living outside of New Orleans for all of my life, you take everything for granted around you. When Katrina hit, we went from Beaumont, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana, and finally wound up in Thibodaux, Louisiana. For three and a half weeks, we could not return to our homes. In the weeks after returning home the things that you take for granted like Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and gas stations were not open…These were the things we had to deal with but they are minor compared to the people who had nothing to come back to. Spending time at the Habitat homes was really great.” The affiliates in Harrison and Jackson counties share resources, including materials from Dal-Tile Corp., Orchid Ceramics, Laticrete, North American Tile Tool Company and Easy Pull Tile Spacer.

Tiede Zoeller, a contractor in Gulfport, donated installation labor for one home in Gulfport and has pledged to lead an installation training session for Habitat staff and volunteers. XPress Global Systems donated freight to move the 2,400 square feet of material donated by Dal-Tile from Oklahoma to Mississippi. Orchid Ceramics General Manager Kurt Graves said, “It is a real honor for Orchid to partner with Habitat through TPFH. Orchid Ceramics is part of ‘Organizacion Corona,’ a Bogota-based company with a tremendous track record of helping to mend the social fabric in the communities where they do business. Habitat makes us a better company by giving us the opportunity to give back out of the richness we have received, lessening the natural tendency in all of us to be self-centered while making a real contribution to the lives of others. And that is not just good business; it is good for us as individuals too.”

The New Orleans affiliate intends start tiling homes before the end of 2006. Laticrete Senior Technical Sales Representative Jack LeBlanc of Baton Rouge led a training session for Habitat staff and volunteers. Orchid Ceramics, Laticrete, James Hardie Building Products, and NATTCO donated materials. Houston Habitat has built more homes for hurricane relief than any other individual Habitat affiliate—nearly 75 in one year. They will build an additional 30 homes between November and early 2007. Orchid Ceramics and Texas Cement Products will partner with them on several homes. The affiliate anticipates building a total of 80 homes between now and the end 2007.

Industry partners donated for several other projects this year, notably in Jacksonville and St. Petersburg, FL and Bentonville, AR. Crossville, Inc., Master Tile, Creative Touch Interiors, Elite Building Products, Tile Outlets of America, Orchid Ceramics and Laticrete have all donated materials for these projects. For more information on upcoming projects, please contact Tile Partners for Humanity Executive Director Allyson Fertitta at 770-416-0200 or ally@tpfh.com.


Sales & Marketing: The Challenges of International Trade
 
November 1st, 2006

By Janet Arden


November-December 2006

When CTDA traveled to Istanbul in June for its first trade mission, the participants—like the association itself—were a mix of large and small companies, some with extensive importing experience and some with much less. Some of the participants had been to Turkey before and, of course, many had not.

TileDealer recently talked with some of the trade mission participants to take their pulse about doing business with Turkey as well as other countries. Almost without exception, the overwhelming sense of these conversations has been that the value of the trade mission was in the personal connections that can only come from visiting the country and the factories, getting to know the people and the culture.

The participants I spoke with all had extensive experience importing tile, most often from Italy, but some, like Tom Kotel, president, Mid-America Tile, Elk Grove Village, Illinois, import from a substantial number of countries including Italy, Turkey, England, Spain, Mexico, Japan, Korea, China, and Thailand. In fact, Kotel says, Mid-America Tile has been doing business with Turkey for 15-20 years directly and indirectly.

“Turkey manufactures a quality product at a fair price,” said Kotel. “Now that I have experience [with] the country and the people, I feel more comfortable doing direct business if the category permits itself to being exclusive.”

Gail Schovan, president, Turner Distributing Co., Inc., Detroit, Michingan, approached the trade mission from the other end of the experience continuum. Although she has imported from Italy for 18 years, Schovan says she had never had any experience with the Turkish manufacturers before the trip. “I went on the trip with no expectation and had very little knowledge about their tile. I guess I look at their products differently now that we got to meet them all face to face and understand their format for doing business.”

Mike Robbins is president of Tuscany Tile & Stone, Inc., in Memphis, Tennessee. The company has not imported product from Turkey in the past, but he said, “We were very impressed with our hosts and found their tile product of interest.” Robbins says his criteria for importing will be style and/or a price point not available from current suppliers, domestic or imported.

Like many CTDA members, Schovan learned much about tile and importing from working with the Italian manufacturers and their agents and representatives. “They made me learn about the import business,” says Schovan, “and the questions you need answers to when dealing in that field. Most of my experience with them was built on comfortable relationships, so I feel I learned as the years passed.”

Tuscany Tile & Stone currently imports tile from Italy, Mexico and Spain as well as travertine stone from Italy. “Overall our experience has been positive,” says Robbins. “We have products that have a particular style or color that is unique to us or at a price point that helps us be more competitive in the market. We continue to look for sources all over the world and will import product that meets our needs.”

In general, the trade mission participants—and others who did not travel with us to Turkey but who spoke to me about imports—agree that importing from Italy, Spain, Brazil and Argentina is often simpler thanks to experience. Those manufacturers and their representatives have a better sense—more defined in some countries than in others—of what works in the American marketplace. US businesses are increasingly knowledgeable about doing business with these manufacturers.

But that does not necessarily mean that importing is always a simple, straightforward experience. As Robbins points out, importing requires additional delivery time, freight costs, port entry delays and the costs of inventory. “When we are out of product, it takes six to eight weeks to get replacement product. Freight costs have increased significantly over the past two years,” he said. “We have looked at importing tiles where the landed cost is as much as or more than the tile cost.”

Inventory turns are very important to a distributor, says Robbins. “When we import tile, we try to buy enough inventory to last until the next container arrives. That is easier said than done. If the product doesn’t sell, we have to discount it to move it out. If the container is delayed at the factory or the port, then we have potential problems with our customers who are disappointed with us when we are out of stock.”

Barbara Vasquez, president of Vasquez Enterprises in Tempe, Arizona, believes the tile import business has changed significantly in just the four years since she joined her husband in the business. “Independent agents are less and less and factories are looking hard at the USA market and whether or not they can produce what is needed for the East coast and then the West coast, which is so different.”

Although Vasquez did not have previous experience buying tile from Turkey, she did have some experience with Turkish stone importers and in those cases did not always get what she expected. “If you are a small player in this market, you will not necessarily get the product you order.” After meeting with the tile companies, however, she believes their approach is “more professional.”

Vasquez also does business with Egypt and China. Here also, she says, you are dealing with a different culture that indeed affects how the business is transacted. For example, says Vasquez, “You must make sure that they understand what you are saying and that they do not just say ‘yes’ to please you.”

Sometimes, the problems are the result of the way other countries view production. For example, they may not have warehouse procedures to indicate that production from the same “dye lot” is really coming from more than one day. In the US marketplace, the variations that would result from that could—and often do—impact a job. Another variation may come in the way some countries define porcelain. Once again, it’s important to know who you are dealing with.

The import business does vary from one part of the country to another, says Vasquez. What sells on the East Coast is not what sells on the West Coast or in the southwest. Transportation costs vary significantly from one end of the country to the other. Geography definitely plays a role. It’s simply easier to get Italian tile to New York and Chinese tile to California.

So what’s the key to making the most of your import business?

Robbins says that once a buyer has selected a vendor and a freight forwarder, the order process is fairly simple. But as with all lines—domestic and foreign—you have to do your homework and make sure the vendor is reputable, the landed price is what you expect, and the product is something that will sell once it arrives.

It’s growing a trusting relationship with whomever you deal with—agents, manufacturers, etc. Taking the time to get to know them, understanding their business model and working with it are important.

Schovan’s advice is straightforward and applies to any importing proposition. “I think you learn by doing. If you deal with American manufacturers, you can deal with European manufacturers. Make sure you are comfortable with the rep and that he is honest. Ask for references and take the time to call some of them. Even if you don’t know them personally, a phone call can save a lot of time and money. Find out how close their other customers are to you and who else has their lines in your state.”

Kotel agrees. “If I was asked to advise someone on buying internationally, the best advice I could give someone would be to handle the business the same way you handle any relationship. You usually get out what you put in. If you put in more than you get out, get out!”

Foster and Clark Real Estate
CTDA - Online Education
CTDA - Membership