An Italian-American Family-Run Tile Business Returns Home
Since its founding in 1978 by Anthony Saia Sr, Tony’s Imported Marble & Tile has become a thriving multi-generational business and key distributor of ceramic and porcelain tiles in the New England area. Since its inception, the company has established its dominance in the industry due to its exceptional family-run team that, through personal experience, knows the needs of contractors and homebuilders and the wants of consumers. The company prides itself on its Italian roots and eagerly offers a wide assortment of high-end Italian ceramic and porcelain products in its showroom. We spoke with Francesco Saia, Sales Associate and 2022 Young Distributor Award recipient, who attended Cersaie 2022 with the North American delegation this past fall.
When was your company founded? What have been some key moments since its beginning?
Tony’s Imported Marble & Tile was started in 1978 by the late Anthony Saia Sr. The company was amongst the first distributors to penetrate the market in New England and most of the east coast region. Word-of-mouth over the first ten years of Tony’s Tile business quickly spread, thanks to the three original men who started the business – Anthony Saia Sr, Frank Saia, and Tony Saia Jr; and Nancy Vigorito, who joined not long after and played a key role in the company’s operations. They created one of the first places in New England for contractors and designers to go and view a plethora of Italian brand names.
What are your company’s guiding principles?
Our guiding principles emphasize quality, setting industry standards through Italian name brands, and prioritizing commitment to our clients. These are just a few essential qualities that make Tony’s Tile what it is today. We believe fostering success comes from within the business and its employees. Culture and creativity are essential for the business that we are in.
Who are your main clients and what types of projects do they work on?
Tony’s Tile’s main clients are contractors and home builders. This includes projects relating to new construction, renovations, spas, condo complexes, and much more.
What type of tile products does your company carry and how are they utilized in projects (i.e. flooring, wallcoverings, countertops, custom furnishings, etc.)?
We offer a wide array of floor and wall tiles. We currently do not sell countertops via retail but work closely with a sister store fabricator that has many selections to choose from.
What specific qualities do you look for when sourcing new Italian tile products? Is sustainability a contributing factor?
When sourcing new Italian products we look at the people behind the business. The main Italian brands we do business with have shown that their offerings are incomparable to any other brands out there. They have been able to produce new lines of tile year after year that are timeless works of art. We also look closely at sizing options. When taking on a new line it’s important for us to make sure what tile formats and styles people are looking to buy. This is important when distinguishing what is a trendsetter or a fad.
Lastly, sustainability is something we have always factored in. Fortunately, almost all of the brands that we work with keep sustainability top of mind and pride themselves in the environmental safety of their products. From using recycled materials to recycling their own materials to be used again in their products, Italian manufacturers are by far the leader when it comes to offering ceramic and porcelain tiles that are a safe choice for the environment. We are proud to be able to sell their products that keep on giving in more than just one way.
How do you think Italian producers differ from their competitors?
Italian porcelains are made differently than other tiles. It is made from dense clay and is manufactured at a higher temperature than its competitors. It is known for its strength and ability to be used in high-traffic areas without suffering from wear and tear. Italy has long been a pioneer in sustainable tile production and technology. Because of this people often recognize Italian manufacturers as “trailblazers” of the porcelain tile industry. Lastly, Italian producers differ from their competitors because of their designs. There is a noticeable difference in design and beauty when looking at an Italian line of tiles.
How can Italian companies raise their approval level within the North American distribution system?
Italian brands can raise their approval level by marketing their company separately from competitors. One way to do this is for manufacturers to emphasize their “Italian made and Italian manufactured” qualities. This I believe will stand out to more distributors in the North American market and be a key selling point for future consumers.
What is the current state of the U.S. construction industry? How does Italian tile perform in this market?
The U.S. construction industry is expected to grow 5.5% year over year from 2022-2026, signifying strong demand to keep up with the supply of new construction projects. The only tough point in the construction industry is that costs are poised to increase. It is estimated that construction input costs will rise this year and in 2024. Even despite reductions in material costs and supply chain, you can expect overall consumer prices to increase. For the Italian tile market, this means that the cost of imports will increase due to the trickle-down effect of these short-term issues. But in a favorable view, the Italian tile market will remain strong due to the ongoing demand for high-quality porcelains in new projects across the U.S. We have not forecast any slowing of the Italian tile market at this time.
What was your favorite part of Cersaie 2022?
Last year was my first visit to Cersaie. I have been in the tile business for a few years now and the experience of Cersaie allowed me to expand my knowledge to new depths. My favorite part of the show was the ability to take in and see all of the new lines that the manufacturers had to offer. Seeing so many recent trends and brands flexing their creative muscles at this show was an experience that everyone in the industry must see. I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best Italian brands the industry has to offer, and having the chance to meet the managers themselves, rather than on the phone discussing distributions, was a worthwhile experience. Cersaie offered a whole new in-person experience that has paved the way for continued success in the industry.
List of Italian brands distributed: Century, Cerdomus, Emilceramica, Ergon, Ceramica Fioranese, Italgraniti, Marca Corona, Ceramiche Piemme, Polis, Ceramiche Refin, Vallelunga, Verde 1999, Unicomstarker.