Steven Stuart Slutzah, of Los Angeles, Calif., passed away March 26, 2023. He was 74 years old.
Steve was President of Westside Tile and Stone, Inc. He entered the tile industry in 1991 working for Color Tile where he was a Regional Manager in the Southwest, Texas, New York and Southern California, managing over 120 stores.
Steve graduated from the Ceramic Tile Institute, Certified Tile Consultant Program (C.T.C.) in 1998. Served on the Board of the Ceramic Tile Institute for three years, became a Licensed Tile Contractor on 2000, and in 2008, passed the Ceramic Tile Distributor Association, Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson certification, one of 200 people in the USA at the time.
Steve was a formidable force in the industry for many years. He started with Color Tile and moved his way out West. Bruce Margrave states he met Steve on a cold sales call in the mid 1990s. “I convinced Steve to join me on the board of directors of CTIOA,” he said. “Little did I know, it was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.” Both men started an outside sales and consulting company together, STMS.
In 2004, his vision for a unique store that would showcase tile like no other store began to take shape. Westside Tile and Stone, Inc. opened in September 2005.
Margrave said, “After a few years Steve decided to expand his horizons and opened his own tile store, mostly to be able to give everyone a little bit of his wit. Steve was an extremely authentic person and always told you how he saw it, regardless of the opinions of those around him. He routinely attended seminars to learn new ways of marketing his business and learning the ever-expanding technical feats of our industry. Steve was always looking to grow the tile industry by teaching others through National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) seminars and finding ways to get people to sign up for all of the necessary certifications. He prided himself on surrounding himself with those who were capable of preaching his work ethic and extensive tile knowledge. His wit and humor will definitely be missed in an industry always looking for those to expand it.”
Bart Bettiga, NTCA Executive Director said, “Steve was a constant presence at both Coverings and Total Solutions Plus, and could always be relied on to support NTCA educational programs and events in California. He was an ambassador of the entire industry, especially as it pertained to the importance of training and education. He was also a colorful character and spoke his mind freely and passionately.”
Steve was awarded the 2022 Affiliate Ambassador of the Year by the NTCA at The International Surface Event (TISE) in Las Vegas, January 2022. This was the first Affiliate Ambassador of the Year ever awarded. The award honors those who assist NTCA trainers as they travel the country to bring free standards-based education and training, and those who provide information and support the industry through the association.
Martin Brookes, NTCA Chairman of the Board, and President of Heritage Marble & Tile in Mill Valley, Calif., shared his recollections of Steve, who he met about 13 years ago, after learning about him from Lindell Lummer and business partner Bruce Margrave at an inspection course.
“Steve had sent Bruce to do the course,” Brookes said, land Bruce shared many things about Steve. “He was apparently a tile distributor who cared about the tile he sold and got installed. Who would believe this! I needed to meet this unicorn!”
During a workshop in California, Lummer and Margrave took Brookes to “Westside Tile in Canoga Park, Los Angeles where I met Steve, a busy guy running two stores, who still had time to talk about installation and the lack of qualified labor. Steve had taken it upon himself to host NTCA workshops and pay – yes, pay – for the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) Certified Tile Installer (CTI) test for installers that purchased from his store. He was passionate about tile and the tile community. And anyone who hung out with him at TISE and went out for the Chinese dinner would know Steve had the secret list of the best Chinese restaurants in Las Vegas…and on trips to Total Solutions Plus, (TSP) he would have a last day treasure hunt of four local fast food establishments he would visit before the flight back home.
“This guy cared about his tile family and always had time to tell stories — of which he had many — some dating back to his life in the music industry, to spending time with new people entering the industry,” Brookes added. “He was smart, sharp, very articulate and charming. He spent equal time in the Contractor Forums at TSP as he did in the Distributor Forums and was not afraid to voice his opinions. Yes, he was one hell of a guy! For the love of tile we will miss you dearly, Steve.”
NTCA Assistant Executive Director Jim Olson added, “Steve understood that training in our industry is vital and he always made sure to schedule a workshop at his company when we would be in California. He knew that not all of his customers understood what it took to install tile and stone correctly and he even paid for many of his customers’ membership in NTCA. He will be missed!”