Crossville: How A Commitment to American Manufacturing, Product Availability, and Sustainable Practices Has Led to 30+ Years of Success
Updated: 1.10.18 Entrepreneurial Success

Crossville: How A Commitment to American Manufacturing, Product Availability, and Sustainable Practices Has Led to 30+ Years of Success

By: Jessica Sommerfield

The Crunch: Macy’s chose Laminam — innovative gauged porcelain tile panels supplied in the US by American manufacturer Crossville — to remodel and modernize its flagship store in New York. Aesthetics in a retail store can improve a customer’s overall impression of a brand, and, for high-traffic areas, durability was important to Macy’s. Thanks to the availability and performance of Laminam, the Macy’s remodel turned out beautifully. Crossville is a family-owned company with a 30-year commitment to sustainable practices, products, and partnerships. And it continues to drive innovation and sustainability by bringing new technology to market that benefits retail and other industries.

As retailers look for ways to keep customers coming into their stores, creative merchandising and mobile integration — not the aesthetics of walls and flooring — often top the list. As the first thing customers see when they walk through the door, visually appealing surfaces can improve a customer’s initial brand impression and enhance the shopping experience.

That’s why, in 2012, leadership at the flagship Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan commissioned top architectural and design firms to put careful thought into the surfacing choices for its comprehensive $400 million remodel.

Macy’s needed materials with the durability to withstand the traffic of 6 million customers annually and the appearance to align with its overall vision. Modern architectural structures would serve as navigational cues throughout the Herald Square’s multiple buildings and levels.

A&D firm Charles Sparks & Company determined Laminam — an innovative gauged porcelain tile from Italy known for its thin yet durable construction and wide format — would be the ideal solution. Drawing from various collections offered in the Laminam by Crossville line-up, the designers created stunning visual transitions to women’s shoes, men’s clothing, and other departments of Macy’s Herald Square.

The designers found Laminam to be a versatile surfacing solution for Macy’s store structures — from floors, elevators, and restrooms to cash wraps and exteriors. “It’s an important product because its innovation is so useful in a retail environment,” said Irene Williams, PR & Social Media Representative for Crossville. “If you need to do a quick renovation, you can install this directly over existing tile or brick. There’s no need for a demo, so there’s sustainability there.”

The Macy’s Laminam remodel was an early, high profile installation of this product in the US. In 2012, Crossville reached an exclusive distribution agreement with the Italian manufacturer to offer a vast array of collections to the American marketplace. The company still produces 80% of its tile products on American soil, but supplying the gauged porcelain tile panel products enables distributors to access the innovative product in a greener, more cost-efficient way.

“This is an example of how Crossville looks at what’s available, what the market needs, anticipates the opportunity, and then brings that opportunity to its market,” Irene said.

Crossville is a leader in the American tile industry that sets an example of traditional values and sustainable practices — while still pushing the limits of innovation and design. These qualities have enabled the manufacturer to bring durable, aesthetically pleasing surfaces to the commerce, hospitality, and retail industries for more than 32 years.

Rooted in Traditional Values with a Focus on Innovative Sustainability

The company is named after Crossville, Tennessee, where its manufacturing facility and headquarters were built in 1986. Crossville is one of the few US-owned and operated tile companies and the first tile manufacturer in Tennessee. “There’s a cultural understanding,” Irene said. “We bring in global perspectives, but in terms of understanding the local workforce, it gives the company a good root system.”

Crossville belongs to a family-owned and operated holding company known as the Curran Group, which also owns three other construction-related businesses. The Curran Group’s leadership and stability have allowed Crossville to weather the economic fluctuations over three decades of business, Irene said.

“There’s a benefit to having the foundation of a company like the Curran Group — it allows room to innovate,” she said. “They understand there’s time between developing something new and it starting to bear revenue. It’s very liberating for staff to function in an environment where they can innovate without pressure.”

Since its inception, Crossville has been committed to sustainable products, practices, and partnerships. Its plant has systems for water reclamation, tile recycling, and regional sourcing of raw materials. And, through certifications, Crossville encourages transparency about how its products are made. “We were the first to attain third-party certification for manufacturing processes,” Irene said.

This meant Crossville was prepared when the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) introduced Green Squared in 2009, a set of national environmental responsibility standards covering five categories. Crossville was the first company whose full US-made product line-up achieved the G2 certification.

Crossville looks for ways to be even more sustainable as it accesses new technologies and capabilities.The company formed a partnership with Toto USA — a sanitary equipment manufacturer headquartered 500 miles from the Crossville plant — after a custom client request revealed the capability to crush and re-use the materials from fired porcelain waste. “Toto was landfilling pre-consumer, fired porcelain toilets that didn’t meet requirements to go to market in perfect condition,” Irene said. “Since we instituted the partnership with Toto, every piece of tile made at Crossville has recycled content in it. No one else does anything like that.”

Whether it’s a recycling partnership with local companies like Toto USA or its unique distributor agreement with Italian Laminam, Crossville is committed to creating partnerships with companies that share the same sustainable values and practices.

Working with Distributors & Designers to Deliver on Client Needs

Individuals and businesses can access Crossville products through its network of distribution partners. The company maintained this traditional model to keep service responsive and personalized. “We know that distributors and those at our regional levels are going to be able to manage the process so much better,” Irene said.

Photo of Irene Williams, PR Representative for Crossville

Irene Williams, PR & Social Media Representative for Crossville, talked with us about the company’s commitment to quality and sustainability.

Crossville stays close to the specification process and offers its knowledge and capabilities to help clients make the right business decisions. Crossville sales representatives work in partnership with distributor sales reps to help clients — often interior designers within a firm — make product choices. “We’re out there telling our product and brand story so we can make direct connections for people who are looking for the right products, and we’ll help get them to the right source to make a purchase,” Irene said.

Crossville’s network of sales reps absorb market intelligence and stay attuned to inquiries from the field, which informs the use of its products and new developments. At times, Crossville’s openness to requests has compelled further innovation.

While renovating 42 floors of bathrooms in the Chicago Federal Building, a green-minded A&D firm asked a Crossville rep if the building’s current sanitary porcelain could be recycled into new tile. Exploring the request led to the discovery of new recycling capabilities — and ultimately a new product line. “The look was so versatile that we expanded it and added colors to it. It became a separate product line that was born out of a custom need for that project,” Irene said.

By staying close to the market and open to evolving its capabilities, Crossville helps meet the needs of its customers.

Responsibly Bringing New Technologies & Global Products to the US

Crossville is committed to bringing new products and practices to the tile industry. While embracing innovation, Crossville also tries to ensure the market uses new technologies efficiently.

When Crossville began distributing Laminam gauged porcelain tile panels in 2012, the US tile industry needed an education on how to use it. “We’ve worked with setting material manufacturers and tile toolmakers to create installation solutions for the unique product category, and we educate installers because we want those who specify the product to have access to qualified labor that knows the nuances of working with the tile panels,” Irene said.

Crossville ensures it can offer innovations to the market that are stable and cost-efficient. That often means when a new tile technology surfaces, Crossville is patient in adopting it.

Collage of Crossville tile in retail locations

“Digital print technology was amazing out of the gate, but we knew it was a technology that would evolve very quickly,” Irene said. “Instead of taking an immediate dive like some manufacturers, we gave it some time. When we invested in this manufacturing capability, it was further along, so what we could do with that technology was exceptional, and we didn’t have to make an additional capital investment.”

Crossville drives the market once the combination of available technology and its manufacturing capabilities can sustain a new product line or innovation. “Over the last few years, wood-look tiles have gone from a trend to a core offering because we do it so well – we finally have that technology. That was something designers wanted all along, and we can bring that to them now,” Irene said.

Whether locally or globally sourced, Crossville’s processes and products continue to be informed by both market need and commitment to sustainability — both environmentally and economically. “There’s a give and take. We’re absorbing from the marketplace, and we create things to educate our sales force and distributors to be wise about what the market needs,” Irene said.