After 72 Years, Retail Positions Youngstown Tile for Future
CANFIELD, Ohio – Juanita Sherba, former co-owner of Youngstown Tile & Terrazzo Co., is enthusiastic about the direction that the company founded by her father is taking under its present ownership.
Joshua Cohol bought the flooring supplier and installer from Paul and Juanita Sherba five years ago, she said. Her father, Attilio Bertolini, founded the business in Youngstown in 1948 and she and her husband took it over in 1981, and she worked there until Cohol bought the company.
“My husband and I took it as far as we could and he has evolved it in a whole new direction,” finding a “different niche than we had” while “keeping the old,” she said.
“We only used to do commercial buildings and now Josh does everything,” she added.
Cohol started with the company in 1994 as a self-described “field help grunt,” he recalled. “The previous owner’s son came to me and asked me if I would be interested in working in the field.”
Cohol has been with the business ever since. He came on full time after graduating from Youngstown State University in 2000, starting as an estimator and working his way up to president.
One of the major changes undertaken was opening Youngstown Tile, which had focused on commercial installations and supply, to retail sales in 2016. Though commercial work still represents about 75% of the company’s business, retail is growing, Cohol said.
The company hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday to mark the grand reopening of its expanded retail design center, which occupies the space formerly used by the commercial estimating department. When Youngstown Tile took over the lease for the entire building, it moved the commercial operation to the structure’s west side.
The retail showroom occupies about 1,400 square feet of the building’s total 8,500 square. That “doesn’t seem substantial, but when you’re standing in here and you’re looking at all of the different options, we have a great selection in the square footage we have,” Cohol said.
Sherba and Cohol, as well as Youngstown Tile’s vice president, Jeff Mason, remarked on the changes in the tile industry since Bertolini started the business.
Terrazzo is made from different material now and tile has taken on a “whole new aura,” Sherba said. “People want it for so many reasons, not just utilitarian,” she said.
“You see a lot of glass tiles, a lot of different metal looks,” Cohol said.
“We had a metallic look that was out in the late ’90s, early 2000s, that has changed the way that appearance is,” he continued. “We’re seeing a lot of 3D images, a lot of porcelain tile wood has that look and feel like a hand-scraped tile.”
Mason, who started with Youngstown Tile in 1990, said the construction industry has changed drastically over time, with deals that used to be “done on a handshake” now requiring “reams of paperwork” for even small jobs.
Materials have “improved drastically,” he said, both in terms of price and usability, he added. Wood grain and wood plank tile are popular.
Also, technology has allowed tile sizes to increase. “We can do tile as big as one meter by three meters,” he said.
A lot of customers today also are looking for quartz countertops, Cohol adds.
“There’s been a big increase in countertop business,” he said. “On top of that, you have backsplash. You have some nice glass pieces, some glazed ceramic, even water jets being added to the backsplash.”
Sales spiked following the shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Cohol reported. “Everyone’s sitting at home thinking about things they don’t like – their backsplash, their countertop – and seeing that it’s time for a change,” he said.
Youngstown Tile has seven employees working in office and another 18 in the field, and the schedule is full, Cohol said. The business employs members of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers Local 8.
“We also have terrazzo mechanics,” he said. “We do polished and stained concrete as well as tile installation. So we’re looking for guys who are eager to learn” and install products “in a clean and professional manner,” he said. In addition, he is looking for a retail sales associate.
“We make it look as appealing as possible and nobody applies. It’s a tremendous business,” Mason said. “There’s a lot of opportunity in construction.”
Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.