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Fireclay Tile News: A Fond Farewell to our San Jose Showroom

By Paul Burns

Fireclay Tile News: A Fond Farewell to our San Jose Showroom

After 30 years, the doors to our San Jose showroom are officially closed. "San Jose was the seed and we are the fruit, " says our founder Paul Burns of the inevitable closing of our first location. Our showroom in San Francisco was always his goal and with that dream fulfilled and our factory in Aromas booming, we're only better equipped to do what we do best.

Below, Paul Burns, tells the story of our beginnings and how we came to start out in San Jose:

In 1985 I left the employment of Stonelight Tile, which was the company that my uncle founded in his basement in Berkeley in 1953. The following year, I recruited Jeff Alvord (a college bio-engineering roommate), Martin Zepeda and Albert Batista (both employees at Stonelight Tile) as my partners in founding Fireclay Tile.

We looked at possible locations up in the Gold Country where there is good clay near by and state economic development money available. In the late 80's there were 84 economic development regions in California that were in areas of the state that needed help to develop a stronger economic base. Since we were starting a new business we thought it would be a good idea set up in an area that the state had designated as needing help.

It turned out that an area of downtown San Jose was economically depressed and designated as an economic development zone. The electronics based economy had not spread to downtown San Jose and the area was full of boarded up buildings, pawn shops and used car lots.

Image: Entry way to the San Jose showroom (the doors are from an old church).

We found 495 West Julian through a real estate broker in 1986 and were able to buy in 1989. A good location for many reasons: it was close to freeways and easy for customers throughout the Bay Area to come and purchase tile and it was also zoned as industrial so we could make tile there as well. However, it was not the best location for our purposes and we always knew we'd eventually have to move on. In 1991 the construction began for the SAP Center "Shark Tank." The city developed a master plan which included widening Autumn Street and most likely making us move out by using the eminent domain laws. The city master plan was never executed but the concern led us to set up our factory in Aromas, California. We needed to be prepared for the inevitable...Some day we would be forced from this location. I sold the property in 2009 when we experienced a financial downturn and needed some breathing room to survive. And even if we still owned the property today, the neighborhood has moved on as we have moved on.

Image: The San Jose Showroom.

From our first days in San Jose I dreamed about having a showroom in the design area of San Francisco. Friday was the day of the week when most interior designers from San Jose went to San Francisco. It was easier for San Jose designers to look at furniture, fabrics and tile in the same area in San Francisco then make a trip to see us. We now have the beautiful showroom in the design district that I had hoped for, along with a great manufacturing location in Aromas.

You can still visit us at our San Francisco showroom. Need some help? Simply call, chat, or fill out our Design Assistance Form and one of our talented Design Consultants will get back to you shortly.