As we launch our new website, we thought it might be fun to interview you about TXD, and current events and issues in the tile industry. You founded TXD in 1990, and since then it has become an established leading ceramic, stone and porcelain tile importer and distributor for Minnesota. Can you talk a little bit about your early days?
Dan: TXD was just a boot strap startup: a basement office with a PC and a fax machine, the kind with thermal paper that came in rolls. This was next to a tuck-under garage that I stocked with samples. I had worked in the industry about 10 years and had made some good business friends---design professionals, tile contractors and manufacturers too. Their support was crucial. My competitors provided the free marketing buzz by declaring “That guy is selling tile out of the trunk of his car!” I am still kind of proud about the audacity of that decision, but it’s not like there was another option. Sometimes you have to do the crazy thing.
What happened next?
Well, I focused on selling porcelain tile to architects and national businesses based in Minnesota. That strategy worked and we started to grow, opening a small showroom in 1995. By 1998 Home Depot was moving into the Plymouth neighborhood and we saw the opportunity to expand just across the street from them. We decided to build a new kind of showroom and opened it in 1999. Within a few years the residential sector was providing about half our revenue.
What was different about your new showroom?
The typical tile showroom had room-sized vignettes, a race-track layout and a hodge-podge of manufacturer displays. This made remodeling expensive and it was difficult to keep things looking fresh. We hired an architect and created the feeling of a garden, with high ceilings and winding paths leading to generously-sized conferencing areas. Display structures were uniform in size and color so that the presentation was more like an art gallery. Of course the concept and the presentation only generate a positive first impression. You need friendly and professional work partners to keep people coming back. I like to read our Reviews, because they remind me why we are here.
What else makes TXD different from other tile distributors?
Well, yes, when you are the new kid in a big family you have to shake things up to get noticed. We took on more challenging projects--like art murals and exterior applications. We invested in professional photography, built a Portfolio and helped our clients enter tile design competitions. There were so many talented designers and skilled contractors in this market and they won a lot of awards. Now that we are well-established we are known for expertise in all kinds of projects, and for being “first-to-market” with the latest trends. Another important differentiator I think was our Environment & Community initiative beginning in 2006. We began as an EPA Green Power Partner because it was the right thing to do and because it reinforced the environmental and health benefits of the products we sell. But it became a keystone for us, leading us to expand staff participation, helping us to build and strengthen our business and community relationships.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to the tile industry today?
Dan: There are many challenges, but I could start with three that we have been working on.
The Labor Shortage---The construction industry is one of several U.S. industries hamstrung by a shortage of qualified labor. There are not enough carpenters, electricians, plumbers or tile setters either. Nor are there enough American workers being trained to meet future demand. We should definitely be investing more in worker training and building bridges for immigrants rather than walls!
Industry Consolidation---Small, locally owned and operated businesses are being replaced by Behemoth Nationals. This is happening in the tile business too and I think there are only about three or four of us left that are locally owned. I’ve compiled a top 10 list of reasons to work with locally owned tile companies and will save that for another post.
Internet Product Selections---We are also seeing more commercial designers selecting products on the internet. This can lead to specifications written to the benefit out-of-state suppliers when, over 90% of the time, the exact same product is available locally. These designers are, unwittingly, creating problems for the owners and contractors on their project and I will also address that issue in more detail in another post.
Locally owned and operated, Tile X Design has been serving Minnesota for almost 30 years. Beginning with the small selection of tile sold from the back of a car, we’ve grown to become a widely celebrated importer and wholesale distributor, providing one of the widest ranges of ceramic, glass, porcelain and stone tiles in the Twin Cities.
From design consultation services for homeowners to training seminars for industry professionals, we provide the support you need and the beautiful products you want. You can learn more about the services we provide here.
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