California’s Art Tile has Something for Everybody

Oakland, CA, August 17--It's Monday morning. Trucks line the curb of Art Tile in Temescal, where contractors are stocking up on tile for the workweek ahead, according to the Contra Costa Times. The shop, just a few thousand square feet in size, is packed with some 450 kinds of tile from 42 vendors, says owner Kevin Martin. "They can get tiles that nobody else can get," said contractor Christopher Delphi. "They've matched tile for me that I thought would be impossible to match. They are amazing." Art Tile keeps some 70 percent of its tiles in stock at the Broadway store or at a warehouse. Where customers may see tiles elsewhere and learn they will have to wait several weeks for them to be delivered, Martin said, Art Tile staff can get clients' tiles on the spot or within a few days. Art Tile's stock includes the popular Daltile -- favored by everyone from homeowners to Oakland city government -- along with specialty, hand-painted tiles, including tiles made by a couple in Michigan who hand-paint animals on them. The shop also stocks ceramic, porcelain, stone and glass tiles, which are the current favorite, Martin says. "I love this store," said tile setter Steve Flynn. "They have a huge range of tiles and actually carry a good selection of handmade tiles. They are really knowledgeable and helpful, and have everything you need to do a perfect job." Art Tile has been in business for 19 years. Royal Yates, a former employee of the defunct Color Tile chain founded the establishment. According to Martin, Yates had been overlooked for a promotion, got mad and quit, and opened Art Tile -- right next door. Color Tile went out of business, while Art Tile flourished. "I watched Royal grow," said Martin. Martin, an accountant, began taking care of financial matters for the company in 2000. In 2002, he and Yates -- who was thinking about retirement -- began discussing the possibility of Martin buying the store. The purchase was wrapped up earlier this year. "My wife used to say I lived for tax season. I like the rush. This is like tax season everyday," said Martin with a smile. To help him serve the often long line of customers, Martin has four employees working with him at the shop. Two are former tile setters, and another, Patricia Haden, has a degree in design from California Arts Academy. When a client came in earlier this week -- for the sixth time over the past four weeks or so to exchange tiles, Haden helped her with her latest design problem and then administered a little therapy. "You're still smiling, your marriage is not in danger," she said. "We see stress everyday," said Martin. "I've watched couples go through agony. Sometimes I remind them, it's only tile. Slow down." Martin, who recently built a home near the Lake Chabot golf course, understands their stress firsthand. "Purchasing tiles is not an impulse buying experience," he said. Customers can take home tile samples and see how they'll look in their final destination. When a client picks tile, Art Tile employees can recommend tile setters from a list of professionals they know. The handiwork of some tile setters and tile makers is showcased throughout the store.

Related Topics:Daltile, Carpets Plus Color Tile, Mohawk Industries