ROXBURY, NJ - February was a special month at Standard Tile of Roxbury. The store celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Standard Tile chain, a business formed in February 1920.
Although the Roxbury store, at 159 Route 10 East in Succasunna, isn’t a century old (it was built in 1963) its success can be attributed to the same ingredient that allowed the chain to continually expand for 100 years: Personalized customer service.
Standard Tile’s one-on-one, caring approach to assisting patrons helped the chain thrive despite the emergence of “big box” home-improvement stores, said Brandon Curtis, the managing partner of the Roxbury store.
There’s also the fact that - despite its longevity and growth - Standard Tile remains, at heart, a family operation.
The chain was founded by Philip Spina in Brooklyn, N.Y. He opened for business at 854-862 Rockaway Ave. and chose the name Standard Tile after Standard Oil, a successful Brooklyn business that was the largest in its industry at the time, one known for top-notch quality.
Spina felt the name would associate his new business with a similar connotation of quality.
Time to Look West
Spina and his nephew, William Spina, worked in Standard Tile’s Brooklyn location for 25 years. But they were not satisfied with staying small, and as the economy boomed after World War II, the Spinas made their first move toward expansion.
They realized that Paterson was the only big city in New Jersey that lacked a major ceramic tile distributor. In 1952, they decided to fill that void by opening a store in the Paterson suburb of Totowa.
William Spina’s brother, Chris Spina, and daughter, Marie Spina-Breuss, joined the company around the time the family cut the ribbon on its first New Jersey store: Standard Tile Supply Co. Inc., at 385 Union Blvd. in Totowa.
That was in May 1952, and it didn’t take long for the Totowa establishment to gain a foothold. The store became very successful as a local distributor for the many area contractors trying to keep up with the rapid growth taking place throughout the region.
Changing With the Times
The business thrived on high-quality service and a wide range of material availability. But after a decade at the Union Boulevard site, William Spina saw the need for another expansion.
He wanted a place with more exposure to homeowners and do-it-yourselfers but he didn’t want to move too far from his existing customers.
At the time, the world of tile sales was changing. The introduction of pre-mixed tile adhesive was making it increasingly possible for non-professionals to tackle a tile job themselves.
Spina changed with the times and bought property on nearby Route 46 in 1962. It was still in Totowa, but it enabled an expansion of services that accommodated the do-it-yourselfers along with the contractors.
A Wave of Change in Roxbury
In the next four years, Standard Tile opened two more stores in New Jersey both east and west of Totowa. The Roxbury store, established on April 15, 1963, was one of them.
Spina’s son, William Spina Jr., ran this store, situated on a parcel that had housed a fruit and vegetable stand.
Roxbury, particularly the Succasunna area, was evolving from a quiet place surrounded by farms into a hub of commerce and residential development. In establishing a store there, the Spina family was targeting the trend of homeowners moving to Western New Jersey for less expensive housing.
Curtis, a Succasunna resident, became the managing partner of the Roxbury store in 2004. He’d started working for the Spina family at the Totowa store in 1999. He liked working for the company and the Spinas like his work ethic.
“I worked closely with owners Bill, Don and Sergio during my time in the Totowa store,” said Curtis. “They taught me the ins and outs of the tile industry and what it took to run a retail store. It was a lot of hours and hard work, but it paid off. I was only 23 years old, but they had the confidence that I could run a store on my own and decided to make me their partner in Roxbury.”
The Succasunna store is one of Roxbury’s longest-running businesses.
Filling in the Gaps
However, the family did not abandon its Eastern New Jersey roots. On Oct. 10, 1966, a store at 3527 Kennedy Blvd. in Jersey City became the third home of the rapidly expanding company.
On top of trends and opportunities, the family, in 1979, expanded the Standard Tile operation to include selling wholesale to other tile retailers.
After many years of importing tile from around the world for their own stores, the group decided to open Standard Tile Imports which would supply the whole Northeast. To handle the new venture, the Spinas enlarged the Totowa store.
Ten years later, realizing the value of positioning Standard Tile stores on major highways, the group bought a lease from Chicago Jeans Co. on Rt.10 in East Hanover. This allowed Standard Tile to position itself between its existing stores in Totowa and Roxbury to capture even more of the retail business.
Further expansion came in the spring of 1992 when the group bought land on Route 1 in Edison and established Standard Tile Edison. Moving farther south broadened the company’s horizons and allowed access to Central Jersey.
With these expansions, the Spina family decided to build a state-of-the-art showroom and add more warehouse space in Edison, being that it was the farthest store from the main warehouse in Totowa.
But Standard Tile wasn’t finished growing. Its next addition was a site between the Edison location and the North Jersey stores: Standard Tile Watchung opened in December 2000 in the newly opened Watchung Square Mall.
Standard Tile is now a fifth-generation business, with many members of the fourth and fifth generation currently managing and operating its seven locations. The 20th century faded into history as the 21st century arrived, and Standard Tile - built on family values and still operating on the same values and opportunities provided to them by its predecessors - stands as a 100-year-long success story.