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Artisan Tile Inc.: A woman-owned business for 29 years

Jennifer Panning and her team bring excellence to southeast Michigan

Artisan Tile Inc. (artisantileinc.com) has been through ups and downs over the years, supported and driven by strong women. In 1995, Jennifer Panning created her business in Brighton, Michigan. Her father joined the team shortly after to do estimates. Two years in, Panning’s husband joined as well. They all worked together for over 20 years; in the first seven years, they doubled their sales every year. 

Jennifer Panning Artisan Tile, Inc. Brighton, Mich.

Specializing in commercial work, the team is used to doing large projects. Some examples include the Little Caesars Arena, the North terminal at the Detroit Airport, some area hospitals and a nearby university. Artisan Tile also learned how to do terrazzo, since many bigger projects they were seeking specified that material. 

NTCA: education and commitment

Panning has been a part of NTCA for at least 10 years. Education has always been a value to Artisan Tile, and NTCA has benefited the company in that sense. “We’ve always promoted education in the trades, even with our installers,” Panning said. 

In addition to the educational aspect of NTCA, Panning also believes being a part of the NTCA community shows their commitment to the tile industry. “With the contractors knowing that we’re engaged in the industry, they know that they can turn to us for a resource, because we are part of something larger,” she said. 

Using tile, terrazzo and precast, Artisan Tile completed this mural at the Little Caesars Arena in 2018. The project won the CAM Project of the Year award.

Artisan Tile is in a unique position since it is a union shop, and has been since the beginning. “We first joined the TCAA around 1996 and then the NTCA around 2010,” Panning said. While serving on the TCAA board I attended an NTCA conference in Palm Springs to explore the benefits of NTCA and to consider how we could partner together at conventions. 

“This partnership between the NTCA and TCAA has been incredible,” she added. “It richly benefits the industry in so many ways – the education, personal connections and practical industry experience you couldn’t get anywhere else.

“Together we form partnerships, share knowledge, expertise, war stories and find solutions!” she said. “We even have some fun.”

In fact, Panning and her team helped develop the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) certification curriculum. They’ve also hosted the testing in their warehouse. Four of the Artisan Tile team were some of the first installers to take the ACT test. Her team includes two journeymen, both certified in mud walls, floors and showers and one in GPTP. 

This bathroom in the Pistons Performance Center in the heart of Detroit’s New Center area features materials from Rossetti Tile on floors and walls. The Pistons Performance Center is not only the practice court for Detroit’s NBA team but a community destination for first-class hosted events. It’s also the home of the Center for Athletic Medicine by Henry Ford Health.

With the post-COVID supply chain issues, Artisan Tile has more work on their end now internally. Managing orders and suppliers has become more tedious, so the company reaches out to educate their partners about alternative options for materials that are hard to obtain. Also, with work booked about five years out, they need to educate and cultivate partners who are flexible. 

One of Panning’s biggest challenges is making sure that her installers are skilled and educated. Artisan Tile deals with tight construction schedules and, in turn, has to manage the quality of work coming from its installers and contractors as well. 

Education doesn’t stop with her staff and crew. Artisan Tile also brings its clients up to speed on what it needs to do the job right. “We spend more time on the front end educating the general contractors and construction managers about what we are going to require and what we won’t accept,”
she said. 

One of the greatest joys Panning gets from being a tile contractor is that her company’s work becomes integrated into her city and state. She said, “I think doing the work becomes a part of the landscape, not only in southeast Michigan but all over the state.”

Rebounding from loss 

A large part of owning a business, and life in general, is loss. Unfortunately in 2021, Panning suffered the loss of her father and husband within months of each other. “Both my dad and my husband were sounding boards to me,” she said. 

Both men were large parts of her life and business, so there was a lot of change that followed. Fortunately, members of her team stepped up to the plate to take care of things on the operative and administrative end. “In a close-knit business like we have – and the fact that you spend more time with the people you work with, sometimes more than your own family – it was a significant loss to everyone,” Panning said. 

(L. to r.) Morgen and Jennifer Panning

Despite the darkness, light shone through the situation. Some of Artisan Tile’s longtime partners offered a helping hand. In addition, it gave the team the opportunity to educate themselves on the technological end and seek ways to improve. 

The loss of Panning’s father and husband led to the gain of her daughter Morgen in the business. She said, “I think she felt like she wanted to help and contribute. I don’t know if she’d have stepped into the business otherwise. It brings a fresh perspective with somebody that is young and looks at things totally different, with a high level of education.” 

Morgen Panning grew up with a mother who was successful in the trades industry and a supportive father “elevating her [mother’s] success;” she believes that part of her success is because she didn’t change herself as a woman in order to fit into this male-dominated industry. 

“I view my mom as a successful business owner,” she said. 

Both Morgen and Jennifer Panning believe that part of having women in the trades in the future is educating them earlier in their lives. Jennifer said, “We need to engage women at a younger age so it’s something they’re comfortable with.” She thinks educating women at a younger age about the opportunities in the trades will continue to increase their comfort level with choosing trades as a career and expand roles for women in construction

”Women, we look at things differently,” she continued. “We think differently than men and there’s a lot of value in having a different approach in how you look at things.”    

Amanda Mourelatos
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Amanda Mourelatos, daughter of John Mourelatos, Owner of Mourelatos Tile Pro, is a 19-year-old student in her second year at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., where she is majoring in journalism with a communications minor. 

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