Case Studies

Contempo Ceramic Tile Inc.

Customer Commitment Carved in Stone with Carefully Selected Products

Over the last 37 years, Contempo Ceramic Tile Inc. (Contempo) has become one of the largest distributors of high-quality porcelain, ceramic, glass and natural stone tile slabs in the Mountain West. The Salt Lake City-based company imports from industry leading global and domestic suppliers, stone quarries and surface designers, delivering the best selection of material to contractors, tile setters and retailers throughout the west.

Contempo was established by Jan Kucera in 1976. As a Czechoslovakian immigrant, Jan started up the small business from his garage. “He started the Salt Lake City Contempo campus and the company eventually expanded to the five other locations we have now,” shares Mike Baker, president of Contempo.

Today Contempo has two Salt Lake City locations and others throughout Utah, along with an office in Boise, Idaho. Mike, a Utah-native himself, joined the company after running his own business for many years. “I was running my own CD-ROM manufacturing business and had just taken nine months off when a recruiter from Contempo tracked me down,” he recalls. “Since I’m from Utah, it seemed like a good fit.”

Straight from the Source

Contempo may be Utah-based, but Mike says one of the company’s key advantages is its global network of trusted suppliers. “We’re strictly an importer and distributor,” reveals Mike. “We don’t do installations because that would cut into our customer base. We do, however, have exclusive relationships with domestic vendors and others around the world.”

The company’s stone and tile experts’ travel the world to hand-pick the best product lines from the most trusted brands. Contempo is proud to offer products from American Olean, Crossville Inc., Caesarstone, Oceanside Glass Tile, Eleganza Tile, Richards & Sterling, Roca, Stone & Pewter Accents, Walker Zanger, and Vetrazzo Recycled Glass as well as world renowned European manufacturers.

“Porcelain and marble comes directly from our traditional, fine-quality Italian suppliers,” notes Mike. “We source natural stones from Turkey, India, China and Brazil. Certain colors of slabs are indigenous to a specific area -if you want to offer a broad pallet and selection you need to go straight to the source and import globally.”

Contempo also prides itself on remaining on-top of the latest design trends. “Our Italian suppliers are always coming out with new and unique products; right now the concrete and wood-look-a-likes are popular,” shares Mike. “We offer Vetrezzo, a sustainable tile made from recycled glass vodka and beer bottles. We’re also working with a company from Israel that supplies man-made quartz slabs. Unlike natural stone, these slabs are very consistent in color and texture. “

Mike says Contempo focuses on going the extra mile to deliver the best-of-the-best for its customers. “Our customers wants and needs really determine what we’re sourcing,” he explains. “On the commercial side, our contractors and tile setters are the bread and butter of this business so everything we do comes down to the best material and the right people to deliver it.”

“On the retail side, we offer six show rooms and a variety of show room specialists to offer design assistance and support,” adds Mike. “Our employees know how to cater to customers. Out of the 85 people we have working throughout our locations; many of them have been here for 15-years-or-more.”

Riding out the Perfect Storm

Even with an experienced team and the best materials, Mike reveals Contempo has made a switch into more commercial business to combat the affects of the recession. “Before the housing market tanked we were importing lots of high-end European products, doing about 65 percent imported and 35 percent domestic,” he notes. “We’ve had to switch to the opposite of that because we were overstocked with high-end inventory that we couldn’t sell.”

“People wanted more value engineered products,” he continues. “It was a perfect storm- when the housing market went down, the lending market tanked and people lost equity in their homes so it was the survival of the fittest and we’re happy to say we’re still here.”

Mike says the shift in markets and established relationships helped Contempo ride out the storm. “Our relationships with vendors and customers have sustained us,” he adds. “It’s been an interesting ride and now we’re back in a growth period but we’re going to be smarter now because we’ve learned from our inexperience. Cultivating relationships and retaining them are a huge part of our future growth strategy.”

Mike sees a place for Contempo in other Pacific Northwest markets in coming years. “We’re doubling our footprint in Boise and I think we’ll migrate to the Pacific Northwest either through acquisitions or startup branches,” he reveals. Contempo Ceramic Tile Inc. continues to be a cut above the rest in the Mountain West, delivering the highest quality natural stone and ceramic products.

Published on: February 25, 2014

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