has been a pioneer in the Australian ceramic tile industry
for the last 50 years, and this is where it all began…
Santo (Sam) Giunta ‘age 9’ when
he arrived in Australia.
Australia in the 1950s was a rich country experiencing rapid economic growth – a land of opportunity. Migrants from every corner of Europe came to work on major urban construction programs, on the land, and on the Snowy River Irrigation Scheme. One such family that arrived in Sydney from war-torn Italy seeking a better life was the Giuntas. Like many before and since, the Giuntas saw Australia as a land of promise, where hard work, determination, and imagination would allow them to create a better life for their children. These values were not lost on the children, particularly 9-year-old Santo (Sam) Giunta. At age 11 he started his first job as a paperboy. He left school at 14, took up various jobs such as; photographer’s assistant, bell boy, drinks waiter at Gulu’s Restaurant in Rose Bay, carpenter, fruit shop seller and selling bread rolls in the markets often having to start work as early as 4 a.m.
PAVING THE WAY
Sam entered the tiling industry in 1965 accepting a tiling apprenticeship when he was only seventeen. He rapidly moved on to become a tiler, tiling supervisor, tile salesman and a tile merchant. He opened his first tile shop in 1969 Classic Tiles Pty Ltd, trading exclusively in locally manufactured tiles. Even at this early stage in the industry, he had a vision and a singular determination to eventually make a mark on the ceramic tile industry. In 1971 aged 22 Sam undertook his first trip to Italy’s Cersaie Tile Fair and has not missed a fair since. Sam founded Classic Ceramics Importers Pty Ltd (CCI) in the Sydney suburb of Leichhardt in 1972 becoming, arguably, the first company in Australia to deal exclusively in the importation, promotion, and wholesale distribution of Italian decorated ceramic tiles. The initial market reaction was ambivalent – both fascinated by and apprehensive of the new and exotic products. People soon became engaged with Sam and his tiles, and the operation began to expand interstate. Sam would drive around Australia visiting tile retailers with pallets of tile samples in the back of a van. Gradually his passion, perseverance, and unorthodox marketing strategies transformed the attitudes of Australian consumers, he increase the awareness and appreciation of Italian ceramic tiles in a market that was now forever changed.
Sam’s entry card to the first fair he attended 1971.
Classic Ceramics 1970’s Showroom.
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS
Classic Ceramics 1980’s Showroom
Classic Ceramics Showroom opened by
Senator Margaret Guilfoyle 1979.
By 1978 Classic Ceramics had established itself as one of the most recognisable importers and distributors of quality Italian and European tiles. Having outgrown the original building, Sam commissioned a leading architect and an Italian designer to create new, bigger, and better premises. It was a showroom ahead of its time in terms of design and was instantly recognised by overseas industry figures as being the most elegant, exciting, and modern ceramic showroom in Australia. It was a place, according to Sam, to “stimulate the imagination”.
Classic Ceramics distributed exclusively on a wholesale basis until 1983, when it expanded into the retail sector by once again designing a state-of-the-art showroom. With his innate eye for design, and unwavering determination to be at the cutting edge of the industry, Sam introduced bold, innovative products. To the professional design and building sector. Commercial and residential stakeholders were excited by what the company had to offer.
During the 1980’s & ‘90’s Classic Ceramics established showrooms, offices and warehouses in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, as well as distributors throughout Australia. Sam continued to shape the evolving face of the retail experience by leading the way in creating the next design identity, which had started in the 1970’s with the ‘tile shop’, becoming in the 1980’s the ‘tile showroom’, and maturing into the ‘tile design Studio’ of the 1990’s and beyond.
A key factor in the company’s successful operations has been to identify future trends, help shape trends and, perhaps most importantly, always be that one step ahead of the competition. It manages this by working closely with its manufacturers (some of them for over 40 years), and listening to the needs of its customers, to determine the right balance between Italian aesthetic air and the Australian way of life.
Classic Ceramics 1990 Showroom.
Classic Ceramics 2017 Showroom.
A PROUD MOMENT
Sam Giunta receiving the prestigious Assopiastrelle Award.
It was not surprising then that Sam’s vision and commitment were recognized in 1997 when Classic Ceramics was honored with Italy’s prestigious Assopiastrelle Award, making Sam one of the first-ever non-European distributors to receive the coveted prize, and still today the only Australian distributor to have won it.
KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY
From an early age Sam’s son Michael showed an interest in the business, he would work school holidays doing everything from making up sample boards and folders in the warehouse to using the cutting machine for the Classic Design Studio. In 2011 he joined the Classic team while studying his Bachelor of Commerce degree. Michael is now a key part of Classics Ceramics, Sam has instilled a belief ‘Persistence outweigh’s resistance’. With his own determination Michael aspires to learn from his dad and take the family business into the future.
– “Patientia consequitur” –