Editor's Note: National Floor Trends recently spoke to some of the key executives at StonePeak Ceramics, a division of GranitiFiandre that is making its presence felt in the U.S. market. Graziano Verdi, president of GranitiFiandre Group; and vp, StonePeak; Roberto Franceschin, vp distributor sales; and Barrie Dekker, vp strategic sales StonePeak Ceramics discussed the company's plans.

StonePeak Ceramics opened a plant in Tennessee last year, what was it about the ceramic tile market in the U.S. that prompted this move? Do you feel there is void in this market?

Graziano Verdi:GranitiFiandre Group built the StonePeak factory to better serve the U.S. market and we strategically positioned in a location that enables our trucks to reach 60% of the US population within 36 hours and more remote areas of the country within 48 hours. Along with the obvious advantages in shipping cost, producing in the US reduces raw material costs, even if the quality of the raw materials is excellent and permits to assure the best quality to all our production

In a nutshell, what sets StonePeak apart from the competition?

Verdi:We have several distinct advantages. First and foremost we have access to the phenomenal technology advances developed by GranitiFiandre Group for the production of porcelain tile. We also have the luxury of designing styles using the most sophisticated technology and we can adapt these products to the U.S. market. We also have a wealth of ceramic experience supporting this venture including GranitiFiandre Group's expertise in manufacturing, R&D, technical support and close understanding of global trends. All of this positions StonePeak as a knowledgeable and credible resource for the American market.

Could you talk about your distribution network? Who is carrying the line and what were the criteria for selecting them?

Roberto Franceschin:Our distributor network is nearly complete with the exception of Utah and Nevada, and those states should soon be in place giving us complete distribution in the US market. Our current list includes: American Tile, Beaver Tile & Stone, Bolick Dist., Ceramic Tile Dist., Certified Carpet Dist. Inc., Conestoga Ceramic Tile, Gulf Tile Dist. of Florida, Inland Northwest, International Tile & Marble, John Paschal Tile, Lexco Tile & Supply, Mees Dist., Mees Tile & Marble, Melcer Tile,. Mohawk Tile & Marble, Pacific Clay, PTS (Professional Trade Supply), Rio Grande Flooring Dist. Robert F. Henry Tile, Sikes Tile Dist. Smith Floor Covering Dist., Sunderland Brothers, The Belknap White Group, Tile Inc. of Fayetteville, Tile X Design, Tilestone Imports, Traditions in Tile, Villagio, Wholesale Ceramic Tile and Winco.

We selected our distribution network based on the quality of our partners and their ability to work together in this complicated market.

What has been the initial reaction to your product line? What has been the biggest surprise?

Franceschin:We are here to deliver porcelain products that are unique and suitable for the American market. Our advanced technology enables us to create a large variety of products which is what our partners have been asking for from a local manufacturer. Our distributors have been highly receptive to our glazed products and limestone collection. What is really intriguing about the limestone collection is not just the natural beauty, but the range of sizes available: 24 x 24, 12 x 24, 12 x 12, and 6 x 6.

What is you expectation for 2006 for both your company and the ceramic tile category?

Barrie Dekker:Overall, we are very optimistic about 2006. With our production facility up and running and our distributor network in place, StonePeak anticipates great success in 2006. In order to equip our distributors and their customers with the right tools to sell the StonePeak collection, we plan to offer training related to product specs, installation, tile care as well as sales and marketing. StonePeak will also continue to empower our front-line managers to work in partnership with our distributors and their customers. Interest in porcelain is up significantly. Our goals are simple: Succeed in this market by offering superior products, outstanding service, easily accessible inventory that ensures timely shipment of orders, and, of course, competitive pricing. We feel we have the pieces which is why we are very enthusiastic about our U.S. venture.