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More than a “mud-covered handyman”

Tile craftsman NTCA member Robert Angle

Robert Angle

“We call ourselves tile craftsmen and marble artisans, because we believe we can provide a custom product with attention to detail that is above the average service you can get in this area,” said Robert Angle, NTCA member. 

In 2001, Angle started out working under Al Cuervo and his company, Custom Floors in Stow, Ohio. He was thrown right into the big leagues, working in large custom homes with high expectations and the major need for attention to detail. With the housing market hot, Angle decided to take his newly-founded skills and create his own business in Stow, Classic Tileworks LLC, in 2005. Classic Tileworks specializes in mostly residential custom tile work. 

Within the first few years of starting his business, he grew his team by six members. With a larger crew came dependency on commercial work, which is all quantity over quality. This realization made Angle appreciate custom residential work more and want to embrace his artistic desires in tile. To accomplish this, Angle decided to downsize his group to Mark Combs, Matt Catalano and a helper. 

When the pandemic struck, Classic Tileworks’ helper had moved on and Combs had unfortunately passed away; it has just been Angle and Catalano since then. Being in Ohio, they were considered “essential workers” and continued to work. The remodeling and construction market had a huge boom that resulted in a waiting list for customers. 

“This stream of work has not shown any signs of slowing down, even now over three years later,” said Angle. “We believe a large part of this is due to the fact that we are not political, but try to be reasonable and cater to the concerns of the community around us. We were more than willing to wear masks to put our clients at ease. When it became clear that the vaccines were both safe and effective, we wasted no time in getting them and making that clear. While others were acting out and being rebellious, our acts of love and concern for our fellow man helped contribute to our professional image, and we were able to continue to easily find work as others around us struggled to.”

NTCA: changing the perception of skilled tile installers for the better

This project shows a diagonal wood plank and porcelain tile installed in a basket weave-style pattern.

Angle joined NTCA in 2019 and saw joining as “another opportunity to stand out among other area tile contractors.” He learned about NTCA through social media and noticed the value that other tradesmen and women in trade associations have. 

“Many other skilled trades, such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters also have trade associations that they join, and very often there is a measure of trust, professionalism, and clout that comes with being a member of such associations,” he said. “Joining the NTCA was another opportunity to stand out among other area tile contractors and demonstrate that we take what we do very seriously,” he said. 

By joining NTCA, Angle feels he can be seen and help the craft of tile be recognized and appreciated for the trade that it is. He said, “By not only joining the NTCA, but actively advertising the NTCA as OUR trade organization, we believe that educates consumers that tile is indeed its own skilled trade, and demonstrates that this is a craft and skill that deserves to be seen as – at the very least – on the same level as other trades.”

Angle feels society views tradesmen and women such as electricians, carpenters and plumbers as professionals while tile setters are “looked upon as mud-covered handymen.” He believes having an association such as NTCA for the tile trade helps to change the perception of skilled tile setters for the better and to have them recognized for their practice of art. 

High standards spark growth challenges

This bathroom floor with hexagons in the doorway is scribed into 12″ x 24″ porcelain that runs throughout the rest of the room.

The biggest challenge for Angle and his business right now is trying to grow. Because of the high standard they set, bringing on new craftsmen or subcontractors to join their team isn’t the easiest task. He said, “We’re very established and good at finding work, but the market will probably have to cool off a bit before we start seeing calls again from fellow tile setters looking for work.” 

Satisfying the artistic side

The results of a tile job are incredibly satisfying to its creator. The feeling of accomplishment after a finished job is one of the greatest joys of being a tile contractor for Angle. It also satisfies his artistic side that “has tried to manifest itself in various ways, through drawing, through music, through video and theater, and more.” 

In addition to personal satisfaction, there is always that feeling received after the look on clients’ faces with the progression and completion of the projects. 

“Watching them beam and shine with happiness because I was able to take their dream or vision and make it a reality is the ultimate reward for what we do,” he said. This happiness from clients is why the team prefers residential work more than the commercial market.

“It takes a special type of person, paired with patience, time, and experience to make a good tile craftsman,” Angle said, and has shown himself to be one in his own work.   

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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