Industry: Built Environment
Products: Decorative wall tile
Co-owners Aaron Everitt and Luke Schilling are pushing a progressive edge at one of the world's leading manufacturers of recycled wood tile.
While wooden wall tile and craft beer might seem a world apart, Everitt says E&S Tile taps into the same entrepreneurial spirit as Colorado's independent brewers. "We're just trying to make something great," he explains. "We're not doing it with hops and barley, but we're tapping into that same innovation as we look for fresh ways to elevate our product."
E&S Tile's output consists of five lines of wood wall tile -- a commodity Everitt and his cousin and business partner, Schilling, hadn't thought much about until 2011, when Everitt -- a homebuilder -- needed a standout wall covering for a client looking for something out of the ordinary.
Schilling owned a tile store at the time, and proposed cutting up old barnwood into four-by-fours, and sticking it on the client's wall. "That was probably the best house I'd ever built, but nobody wanted to talk about the house -- they only wanted to talk about the tile," Everitt recalls. That's when he and Schilling realized they were onto something big.
"That first year, it was just a side deal, a way to have extra vacation money," Everitt says.
At the end of 2011, though, E&S Tile's barnwood tile had been named Apartment Therapy's product of the year. A few months later, at a trade show in Las Vegas, Everitt and Schilling met Rassan Grant, the sales director who helped the cousins refine their manufacturing process to produce a wholly consistent product for consumers.
"Barnwood," Everitt explains, "is all over the map in how it looks, from jet black to bright gold." Planks from a single barn vary drastically given how -- and if -- they've been exposed to the elements.
Everitt and Schilling learned that lesson firsthand: During E&S Tile's inaugural years, the duo took down barnwood themselves with "a truck and a guy and a saw," Everitt says.
Today the company goes through 1,000 to 2,000 square feet of barnwood a week. "With the volume we're pushing, we no longer have time to take wood down ourselves," says Everitt. He and Schilling source their material from suppliers nationwide, relying heavily on agricultural wood.
The length of the wood doesn't matter, but Everitt notes, "Color is really important." For consistency, he and Schilling need the right mix of gray, gold and brown wood.
Raw wood is processed in E&S Tile's 5,000-square-foot factory, where wood is checked for nails, cleaned with a wire brush system, planed, and sawed into its ultimate dimensions. "From the time it's on the barn to the time it gets in our boxes, each piece of wood is touched 64 times," Everitt says.
The result is easy-to-install wood wall tile available in five formats, including the company's bestseller, Barnwood Rawhide Flats. As E&S Tile has grown, it has looked to other materials, too. "We're in the reclaiming business," Everitt reiterates. To that end, he and Schilling supplement their barnwood stock with a popular line of hardwood tile, too.
"It isn't that we're running out of barns," says Everitt, adding, "Not every project calls for barnwood. For a sustainable company model, we wanted a diverse line."
E&S Tile's Upcycled Hardwood Tile line is its greenest offering, made from pre-consumer trash: wood from, say, door manufacturers or cabinet makers, who toss about half of their supply in the dumpster due to knots, cracks and graining imperfections. "We come along, and we create a three-dimensional product from that waste," Everitt says.
His company also hawks tile made from Baltic birch engineered wood, aiming to capture the design-world darling Scandinavian aesthetic with its Plateaux Series. E&S Tile's newest release is its sleek, black Ember Wood Tile Series, which revitalizes locally sourced beetlekill pine using a modern spin on the ancient Japanese method of shou sugi ban.
"We sell, give or take, 100,000 square feet of tile annually," Everitt says. "Our bread and butter is the architectural world." E&S Tile is popular among high-end architects, and the company has about 250 dealers nationwide, from New York City to Los Angeles. E&S Tile has appeared in international projects, too, in France, Norway, and Dubai.
Challenges: "We've been on about a 50 percent growth curve for a while, and this year we stabilized at 25 percent," Everitt begins. "Getting people to understand our product -- that takes energy, and a lot of effort. . . . Like any good business would say, you can never have enough sales."
Opportunities: "We're consistently on amazing projects, from franchise chains like Starbucks to the Johnson Controls office in Chicago," Everitt says. He and Schilling, then, are always looking for opportunities to insert themselves into marketplaces that will wow architects and designers.
Needs: "We'll always buy barnwood," says Everitt. E&S Tile isn't exactly in short supply, but adds Everitt, "The amount of stuff we go through -- boy! We're always in need of inventory."