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2024 Coverings Rock Stars speak out

At Coverings 2024 this past April, a new class of Rock Stars was named, after a 10-year tradition of recognizing young leaders who are moving the industry forward with their passion, precision, excellence, skill, inventiveness and attitude. 

While the complete list of deserving Coverings Rock Stars is available here: https://tinyurl.com/yspmtnzr, we’ve asked a few tile contractor and manufacturer recipients to share their thoughts on this auspicious honor and the industry in general. 

Not surprisingly, the Rock Stars we canvassed were honored to be nominated and chosen for the quality of their work, upbeat attitude and their positive contributions to the industry. 

This gorgeous shower was created by Shanan Hehir, Shanan’s Absolute Tile LLC, Manchester, Vermont.

Shanan Hehir, owner of Shanan’s Absolute Tile LLC in Manchester, Vermont, said that becoming a Rock Star was a result of tile industry members showing tangible support through action when she needed help with her first-ever commercial job and working with a crew. “I reached out to Erin Albrecht at J & R Tile, Inc. Erin believed in me before I believed in myself and without hesitation guided me through my first commercial job. Not only Erin, but the crew that flew into Vermont – Justin Christensen, Ryan Hysell, Dan Parsons, and Denika Coley – all deserve full recognition. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to complete the job. Together they really showed me what a tile family coming together and supporting each other to grow means. It means without their support I wouldn’t be where I am now. Being a Rock Star is family.”

What the industry is getting right

These young leaders have a unique perspective on what the industry is doing well. Aryk Snowberger of Snowbee Custom Tile in Canton, Ohio, lauded the “brotherhood-like mentality,” calling it “a big family and we all…have each other’s best interests in mind.” Sean Gordy, owner of Gordy Tile in Atlanta, Ga., added, “Everyone has a fan or a friend within the trade,” he said. “Also those who went ahead of us who are willing to teach and mentor are a great asset! We become better by working together and understanding we stand on the shoulders of giants.”

This cobblestone bathroom was masterfully created by Rock Star Aryk Snowberger of Snowbee Custom Tile in Canton, Ohio.

Megan Renk, Owner of Mosaix Tile Installation & Services in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, called passion a backbone of the industry. “When people harness their passions within tile, it unleashes a whole new level of quality and work…By default, it raises the bar and people within those areas tend to get better because of it.”

Kali Pharand, Product Standards and Sustainability Coordinator for Schluter Systems, values the ability of the industry to work as a team for future betterment. She credits tile associations with “ways to engage in further education and training,” and loves to see her generation taking advantage of those opportunities and getting more involved in the industry. 

Rock Star Kali Pharand of Schluter greatly values teamwork. Here’s a Schluter event she attended in Germany with members from each subsidiary’s technical department, where initiatives regarding recommendations for various Schluter products and alignment across subsidiaries were discussed.
A stellar shower project by Trevor Hook, Hooked on Tile, Evansville, Wis. Photo: Degnan Design Build Remodel and A&J Photography.

Nathan Merrill, Owner of Vision Stone and Tile in Mogadore, Ohio, said the enduring quality of porcelain tile is reflected in people who work with it. “[There are] a lot of tough trades,” he said. “Tile is one of them. We work with tough product, with potential to last for hundreds and hundreds of years…That’s a definition of strength for sure!”

Hehir is grateful for how the tile industry has warmly welcomed her on her tile journey. “I am really excited to be on the board of NTCA Women in Tile with Elizabeth Lambert and our fellow women board members! The industry shows support all the way around the table for everyone involved.”

Change for the better

Some of our Rock Stars had suggestions for how the industry could improve, from more accessible manufacturer trainings, to more willingness to listen and learn from each other. Trevor Hook of Hooked on Tile in Evansville, Wis., made an important distinction about the tile trade. “Teach more people that tile is its own industry and trade. People just generalize it as a ‘flooring’ trade, and it’s much more than floors.”

Rock Star Markus Dworowy of Blanke Corporation, hands-on with Blanke Permat at an industry training.

Renk championed a better balance between work and home life. “I don’t flourish at work when I struggle at home. We could put more emphasis on mental health education, seminars and trainings.” 

Merrill offered this advice: “Trust that every moment is deserving of focus and acceptance, and the way to shape the future is to shape the individual self. You are the tile industry. I am the tile industry.”

And Markus Dworowy, National Technical Manager for Blanke Corporation and a frequent unifying presence at industry events, said, “Continue showing people we are all a big family, even if you work for a competitor company.”

Qualities of a Rock Star

Megan Renk of Mosaix Tile Installation & Services tackled this shower project earlier this year.

What qualities do Rock Stars possess? Gordy says he maintains his family business’ core values of quality and integrity, while aiming to do good work and be a good person. Snowberger calls his “relentless approach to the tile industry” a determining factor, as he aspires to be an “artisan, a leader” who inspires, follows industry standards and pushes “ the envelope to make myself smarter, better and more competent every day.”

Positivity, passion, a drive to learn and do better while making a difference in the industry was named by other Rock Stars. Hook said caring about the quality of work and maintaining relationships with peers are also important skills. 

Merrill quipped, “We like sex, drugs, and rock and roll, as any good Rock Star should. I have also noticed many of them have wonderfully big smiles. I cannot speak to their day-to-day attitudes, but it would be nice if it were safe to assume we are all individuals motivated by love, or some other ultimate benevolence.”

Parting shots

Gordy spent years trying not to be a “tile guy,” but now he is proud to be one – and a fourth generation tile guy at that! He said, “Let’s all be proud, and let’s do awesome things together!”

This Promenade renovation in Atlanta by TVS Design and Gordy Tile (sub of DCO Commercial) in Atlanta won the 2023 CID Award for Commercial Design and Installation. Photo: 2022 Michael Stavaridis

Hehir praises the industry for paving “the path for a single mom like myself. This industry has done nothing but opened up life-changing doors and [has] given me the opportunity to now teach my kids lifelong skills I never knew I was capable of.”

Schluter’s Pharand observes that the industry “shows appreciation to companies and people who are deserving of such accolades,” and appreciates that hard work is noticed and valued,” she said. 

Blanke’s Dworowy summed it up when he said, “I’m proud to be part of it. I love what I do, and the industry is a significant part of my life.”  

Editorial Director and Senior Writer for TileLetter and TileLetter ARTISAN

Lesley Goddin has been writing and journaling since her first diary at age 11. Her journey has taken her through a career in publishing and publicity, landing her the editor position of TileLetter and its special publications in 2006. Her goal is to educate, inspire, recognize and encourage those in the tile industry -- especially the tile and stone contractor.

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