Chris Clamp had been working in the family business, Great Britain Tile, for 25 years before striking out on his own as a major retailer of handmade cement tiles.
During his time selling and installing tile, Clamp, 43, had fallen in love with the craftsmanship that goes into handmade cement tiles. With the rise of social media, he saw an opportunity to sell the hand-crafted product around the United States and internationally. The result is Cement Tile Shop, which recently opened its new studio and headquarters in Seminole Heights.
“We always sold tile, but as I started getting more educated over the years I started getting exposed to more products,” Clamp says. “I really took a liking to hand-made products in general. That led to selling cement tiles.”
Clamp and his wife Jennifer started the business about five years ago, and it quickly became a leading U.S. supplier of handmade cement tiles. Business was so good they outgrew their shop in Lutz.
Clamp says he had the Tampa neighborhood of Seminole Heights in mind for a new company headquarters and design studio. He found the building that suited his needs at 6506 N. Florida Ave. Cement Tile Shop
“quietly” opened over the summer, with an official opening in September.
“I’d been wanting to get up in Seminole Heights for quite some time now,” he says. “I think the area works with our vibe, it being kind of an authentic neighborhood.”
The renovated building, six months in the making, was redesigned by Tampa-based Junto Design Studio
. The south wall of the building pops out at north-bound drivers thanks to a cement tile-themed mural painted by Pep Rally Inc.
Cement Tile Shop’s new headquarters offers customers a well-lit studio where they can peruse hundreds of designs and colors that the company can order up quickly. The shop is interactive and enables customers to see in-stock product as well as to mix and match colors to create custom tiles.
“We were able to get this building to put a design center in so our local customers could come see, feel and touch,” he says.
A wall facing customers toward the back of the shop briefly explains the process of making tiles by filling custom-made metal molds with concrete. Each tile has three layers of concrete.
Unlike other types of tiles, the surface colors and designs are not painted on; they are made from concrete colored with mineral pigment, marble dust and natural colorants. The liquefied mixture is poured into different sections of the mold to make the designs.
Two more layers of concrete are added to give the tile its strength and thickness. A hydraulic press is used to compact the mixture. Unlike other tile products, cement tiles are not fired in an oven, making them more environmentally friendly, Clamp says.
Cement tile manufacture, which started in the 1880s, continues in mostly small factories around the world. Clamp gets his product from two factories, one in Asia and the other in England. He declined to reveal the nation where the Asian factory is located.
The company has a warehouse in Tampa stocked with numerous patterned tiles to supply the eastern side of the country. A warehouse in Phoenix supplies the West Coast. The company also has a European Division based in the United Kingdom.
Clamp, a native of Birmingham, England, graduated from Jesuit High School in Tampa. Jennifer is a graduate of the University of South Florida and handles customer service for the company.
Cement Tile Shop’s product has been featured on a number of popular television shows such as HGTV’s “Fixer Upper,” “House Hunters Renovation” and “Property Brothers.” Some of the company’s international projects include Qantas Lounge at Hong Kong International Airport, celebrity chef Todd English’s Olives in Abu Dhabi, and J. Crew in London.