Founder's Story

Classic Ceramics

has been a pioneer in the Australian ceramic tile industry for the last 50 years, and this is where it all began…

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 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, and 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.

SamG

Santo (Sam) Giunta ‘age 9’ when
he arrived in Australia.

Classic Ceramics 1970’s Showroom.

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.

Classic Ceramics 1980’s Showroom

Classic Ceramics Showroom opened by Senator Margaret Guilfoyle 1979.

Onwards and upwards

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 50 years), and listening to the needs of its customers, to determine the right balance between Italian aesthetic air and the Australian way of life.

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 50 years), and listening to the needs of its customers, to determine the right balance between Italian aesthetic air and the Australian way of life.

1990

Classic Ceramics Showroom

2010

 

Brisbane Showroom

tile showroom in Melbourne

2017

Melbourne Showroom

2020

Sydney Showroom

Proud Moments

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 the first-ever non-European distributor to receive the coveted prize, and still today the only Australian distributor to have won it.

As late as September 2022 Sam (Santo) Giunta was awarded the prestigious Loyalty award “Fedelta”.

Sam was recognised for his ongoing and continuous attendance, and support, of the Cersaie Ceramic Tile Industry for over 50 years. As per the entry tickets, Sam has been to Cersaie since 1971 and he has never missed a fair, representing over 50 years of continuous attendance. He has retained the precious momentos since 1971 and more recently 2022.

ICCIAUS (Italian Chamber of Commerce in Australia Inc.) is also happy to recognise and celebrate its longstanding Member, Classic Ceramics, whose founder, Santo Giunta, received the ‘Pioneer Award’ during the CERSAIE trade fair in Bologna.

The ‘Pioneer Award’ was presented in its second edition by the governing body of ceramics in Italy, Confindustria Ceramica, in recognition of the loyalty to Italian ceramics industry.

Santo Giunta was also awarded for the 50 Fairs had attended during his career. Classic Ceramics is one of Australia’s leading importers of prestige ceramic tiles and natural stone from Europe and around the world.

2022

Sam Giunta receiving the ‘Pioneer Award,’ in its second edition.

the-award

1997

Sam Giunta receiving the prestigious Assopiastrelle Award.

As late as September 2022 Sam (Santo) Giunta was awarded the prestigious Loyalty award “Fedelta”.

Sam was recognised for his ongoing and continuous attendance, and support, of the Cersaie Ceramic Tile Industry for over 50 years. As per the entry tickets, Sam has been to cersaie since 1971 and he has never missed a fair, representing over 50 years of continuous attendance. He has retained the precious momentos since 1971 and more recently 2022.

Sam’s entry card, Bologna, to the first fair he attended 1971.

 

Bologna

2022

Keeping it in the family

“Patientia consequitur”

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. 

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