Established in Montreal in 1950 by Giovanni Battista Ciot, the company grew from a terrazzo manufacturer and installer to a major importer of natural stone and ceramic tile products. The company offers one of the largest stone and tile selections in Canada, importing products from almost every country in Europe, Asia and South America. With the market for mid- to high-end products continuously increasing, the third generation of this family-owned business expanded Ciot across Canada and in the U.S. with seven showrooms in Montreal, Brossard, Toronto, Mississauga, Vaughan, Quebec City, Detroit, and fabrication shops in Montreal and Quebec City.

The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Michael Panzera, Vice-President and CFO, about the company’s success in the North American market, and plans for further market expansion.

“Giovanni Battista Ciot started the company as a stone and tile installation company. Giuseppe Panzera, his son-in-law, took over the company in 1967, and started to focus the company on import. In the early 1980s the retail became more important, and we started to focus on distribution. Now we have growth to seven retail locations in four cities, and two fabrication facilities,” says Panzera.

It is an ageless truth that no two pieces of stone are ever alike, and Ciot strives to bring stone and ceramic tiles, and natural stone slabs from around the world, to provide Canadian customers with distinctive design solutions. Ciot brings impressive, and often exclusive, products to the Canadian market; stone such as marble, granite, slate, limestone, onyx, quartz and semi-precious stones. Indeed, Ciot strives to bring customers the best and the latest products, transforming interiors and exteriors of Canadian homes, public buildings, office towers and hotels.

“We import ceramic and stone tile, and stone slabs. We do fabrication for our customers’ projects, but we also distribute slabs to other fabricator. We deal with consumers on the retail level, and we deal with the general contractors, developers, designers and architects,” says Panzera.

Stone and ceramic tiles come in virtually any shape, size, colour and texture, offering a durable, easy to maintain and economical solution with endless beauty and design potential. Indoors, customers use stone for kitchen countertops, backsplashes, tabletops and vanities, mantels, floors, walls, showers and much more. Outdoors, stone can be used for steps, patios, flower boxes, etc.

Ciot offers several divisions to satisfy its broad target markets: Habitat line of stone & ceramic tiles and stone slabs for retail consumers in its seven high end showrooms, Tecnica specification stone & ceramic tiles and stone slabs for architects and designers, and Fabbrica for the customized orders in marble, granite, quartz, limestone, onyx, and other types of stone.

The company focuses on the mid- to high-end customer, but its versatility and experience allows its professionals to find solutions for projects from the smallest, to projects reaching millions. With over $25 million in inventory, Ciot’s 350 skilled artisans and selection experts help customers create the best solutions, supporting the whole process — from the stone selection, to coordination and installation.

“Ciot is quite unique in how we do things. Our competitors will provide some of the services, but we are a one stop shop – we import tile and slabs, we have a plumbing division (Quebec only), we offer installation … our competitors do some of these things but we do them all. So we have competition in different segments, but nobody competes on the scale we do,” says Panzera.

To keep up with the latest market and fashion trends, Ciot representatives visit fairs around the world –Italy, the U.S., Brazil, and Asia – just to bring in the best and the latest on the market to the customer. “We keep up to date with the latest products coming to the market. The latest fashion has been in recycled products called Vetrazzo — highly polished product made of recycled cement and glass components for countertops. These slabs are a unique high-end product. We have access to all products available in the world. One of our strengths is in the relationships that we have built with suppliers worldwide,” says Panzera.

As to the expansion plans, the company takes an opportunistic approach to business, taking on opportunities as they present themselves. The latest in company expansion has been the opening of the Ciot showroom in Detroit, because the company has been involved in specification-based U.S. projects, dealing with architects in cities such as New York, Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas. “We are also looking to open another retail location in the near future. We have not decided on the location yet, but we are always looking. Our plan would be to open new locations in different cities.”

Besides new locations, the company works to increase productivity in its fabrication department through with continuous investments in modern fabricating equipment. Ciot also plans to expand its mosaic (custom fabricated mosaics) department, and is always looking for new product lines such as the Vetrazzo.

The most recent notable projects executed by Ciot are the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Toronto, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, W Hotel in Miami, and Carnegie 57, 75-storey skyscraper currently under construction in Manhattan, right across from Central Park.

As the company grows its market presence, Ciot management also prepares for passing the torch onto the next generation of the Ciot family — young blood that will drive the company in the 21st century. As it did in the past, Ciot plans to rely on absolute dedication to meeting the customers’ needs as a path to future business success.