Fireclay Tile has never been afraid to gamble on the future. The Aromas, California–based Certified B Corporation moved from a wholesale model to direct-to-consumer in 2014, a bold decision that ultimately increased sales tenfold. The company has also bet big on sustainability, adopting zero-waste and carbon-neutral practices before brandishing environmentally conscious bona fides was in vogue. Now, Fireclay is taking a leap that the company predicts will quadruple its existing manufacturing capabilities: acquiring Spokane, Washington–based Quarry Tile Company for an undisclosed sum.
The acquisition may not seem like a flashy one. In fact, Fireclay CEO Eric Edelson acknowledges that most in the interior design community likely have not heard of Quarry Tile Company—“which is a shame, because they are an exceptional company that makes beautiful products,” he says. By his estimate, 80 to 90 percent of Quarry Tile’s business is currently in private-label tile production. For Fireclay, it’s a move that—combined with the recently completed expansion of the brand’s 31-year-old California facility—will represent a major increase in manufacturing capacity, parlaying 1.5 million square feet of annual tile production into 10 million-plus square feet per year. The acquisition also shifts the balance of Fireclay’s customer base, which is currently 55 percent residential. In addition to boosting production significantly, the company will also be speaking to a much larger audience of customers in the health care, education and government sectors.
Before talks of an acquisition were on the table, Fireclay collaborated with Quarry on its recent Essentials collection, a line of recycled ceramic tiles in Pacific Northwest–inspired neutral hues—that quickly became Fireclay’s most successful launch to date. “We had already built this really wonderful relationship while creating that line, and we felt like we could really make good partners moving forward,” says Edelson. “[Quarry Tile is] a company that has a tremendous amount of opportunity, and we think that there’s a lot we can do to enhance the offering that it currently has with private label clients, so we’re excited to support that. But we’re also very excited to bring its products and its manufacturing capabilities into the fold and support the clients that we’ve been nurturing and catering to over these eight years.”
Quarry’s 80-person team will be absorbed into Fireclay, but the company will retain operations in Spokane. “They have an awesome factory that allows them to make more commercially successful products, which are, for example, freeze-thaw compliant or larger scale than what we were previously able to produce,” says Edelson.
The acquisition is happening in tandem with Fireclay’s multiyear expansion of its headquarters. Founded in 1986, Fireclay has been at its current location since 1991. “About four years ago, we came to the realization that we were either going to have to make an investment in our current facilities or move our operations,” says Edelson. “Living through a remodel in your own home is hard, but we remodeled our factory while still producing at maximum capacity.” The roughly $23.5 million investment has quadrupled Fireclay’s warehouse and manufacturing capacity. “We’ve created about 100 jobs, which has been what we’re most proud of,” says Edelson. “It’s been a tremendous effort.”
With the factory expansion complete and the addition of Quarry Tile’s production capabilities, Edelson is hopeful that the company has found a solution to the brand’s primary problem: a lack of available product. “We have this mission statement that says, ‘We are the makers who support the dreamers.’ Our preference is always to manufacture products rather than buy and then sell, like how most of our industry works. So this really gives us the capacity to be able to grow for the considerable future.”
Homepage image: A photorealistic rendering of kitchen backsplash walls | Courtesy of Fireclay Tile