Santo (Sam) Giunta
Australia in 1950’s was a rich country experiencing rapid growth – an opportunity. Migrants from every corner of Europe came to work on major construction programs, on the land on the Snowy River Irrigation Scheme. The family that arrived in Sydney from war torn Italy seeking a better life was the Giunta family.
Like many before and since, The Giunta saw Australia as a land of promise, with work determination and imagination would allow them to create a better life for children. These values were not lost on the young members of the family, especially Santo (Sam), who started his first job as a paper boy, aged 11. Sam left school at 14, at the age of 17 had worked in a variety of jobs, from bell boy and photographer’s assistant, waiter and carpenter, often having to start work as early as 4am.
In 1965 Sam became an apprentice tiler, becoming a tiler tiling supervisor, then a merchant in quick succession. In 1969 he found CLASSIC TILES P/L, trading export locally manufactured tiles. Even at this early stage in the industry he had a vision and singular determination to eventually make a mark on the ceramic tile industry.
Sam undertook his first trip to Italy’s Cersaie Tile Fair in 1971, and has not missed one since. Upon returning to Australia, Sam founded CLASSIC CERAMICS IMPORTERS in 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 ceramic tiles. Initial market reaction was ambivalent – both fascinated by, and apprehensive new and exotic products. Fascination soon overcame any lingering apprehension and operation began to expand interstate, with Sam driving around Australia visiting retailers with pallets of tile samples in the back of a van. Gradually his perseverance and unorthodox marketing strategies transformed the attitude of consumers, and helped increase the awareness and appreciation of Italian ceramic tiles in a market that was now forever changed.
First invitation to the Cersaie Fair in Bologna 1971
2013 invitation to the Cersaie Fair in Bologna
By 1978 Classic Ceramics had established itself as one of the most recognisable importers and distributors of quality Italian and European tiles. Having outgrow the original commissioned a leading architect and an Italian designer to create new, bigger 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 showrooms in Australia. It was a place, according to Sam to, ‘’stimulate the imagination’’.
The showroom was officially opened in May 1979 by the Senator, The Honourable Margaret Guilfoyle.
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 vanguard in all aspects of the industry, Sam introduced new and existing products to the designers and architects, builders and renovators, commercial and residential stakeholders alike were fascinated by what the company had to offer.
During the 1980’s and ‘90’s Classic Ceramics established showrooms, offices and warehouse in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, as well as distributors throughout Australia. Sam continued the evolution once again by putting a stamp on the retail sector by leading the way in re-creating the design and image of the ‘tile shop’ of the seventies, to the ‘tile showroom’ of the eighties and the ‘Tile Design Studios’ of the nineties and of two thousand.
Sydney Showroom 1972
Sydney Showroom 1980’s
Sydney Showroom 2000’s
Sydney Showroom 2015
Brisbane Showroom 2013
Melbourne Showroom 2013
Sam receiving the Assopiastrelle Award 1997
It was not surprising then that Sam’s vision and commitment was recognised at the end of the 1990s when he was awarded Italy’s prestigious Assopiastrelle Award on behalf of Classic Ceramics, making him one of the first ever non-European distributor to receive the coveted prize – and the only Australian distributor to have won it since.
A key factor in the company’s successful operation has been to identify future trends, helping shape the trends and perhaps most importantly, always be that one step ahead of competition. It manages this by working closely with its manufacturers (some of them for over 40 years), and listen to the needs of its customers, to determine the right blend between Italian aesthetic flair and the Australian way of life.
There is an old saying, ‘’Start as you mean to go on’’. With San Giunta at the head of Classic Ceramics means to ‘’go on’’ as he started – driven by a passion for excellent design and service, achieved hard work and a willingness to be unorthodox.
Since its establishment in 1972, Classic Ceramics still remains strong and as a leader in the market.
Classic Ceramics carefully select product ranges based on functionality, technical excellence, appearance and innovative design. Our commitment to quality involves rigorous testing of all products – no matter where they are produced to ensure all product meets the highest possible standards.
We have a highly trained and skilled team providing sales and after sales support, technical support and design assistance to our customers.
Classic Ceramics has a state-of-the-art warehouse management system that efficiently manages the supply chain from our international suppliers through receipt of product into our warehouse until delivery to end users throughout Australia.