Why interior design, materials firm opened showroom in West Palm Beach

Palm Beach County is coming into its own as a center of interior design and materials. Just ask Eric Schigiel, founder of Opustone Stone & Tile Concepts.

The supplier of fine natural stones and tiles recently opened a West Palm Beach showroom to meet the demand from Palm Beach County customers. For years, they have made the trek south to his warehouses in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, the company’s headquarters.

The 25,000-square-foot West Palm Beach showroom, at 1333 N. Jog Road, is just off Florida’s Turnpike. Schigiel said he looked for three years until he found the right space. Now he’s hit the right timing.

Housing is booming and customers are building out designer-ready homes or renovating bathrooms and kitchens. About 60 percent of his business is from designers coming to find something “unique and different,” he said.

Moving north up the coast has become a natural progression for Opustone, which sources stone and tile from all over the world. Materials offered at Opustone include coral stone, dolomite, granite, limestone, onyx, quartzite, shell, travertine, volanic stone and many more.

Schigiel said he started Opustone in Miami in 2001, after working with his father in the construction industry. He began the business with a partner, but the partnership didn’t work out.

At that point, Schigiel said he faced a choice: Sell the business or continue on his own.

“At 23, you don’t know anything. But I knew I wanted my own business, and I decided this is what I’m going to do,” he said.

Schigiel said he made some mistakes along the way, but learned quickly that the most important element to a successful business is having the right people around him. It took some time, but now he has experienced teams in place for sales, management and the warehouses.

A few years ago, he expanded from Miami and opened a warehouse in Fort Lauderdale.

“I was worried we were going to lose the business from Fort Lauderdale that comes to Miami,” Schigiel said. “But we just got more business.”

That lesson taught him he could thrive in Palm Beach County, too. He’s already hearing positive feedback from customers: “They know about us because of Fort Lauderdale, and they were all very happy we were opening in West Palm Beach.”

Schigiel said he can accommodate buyers with generous budgets, or buyers who are bottom-line conscious.

If customers don’t find a slab or tile they like at the West Palm Beach warehouse, it’s no problem. They can select online from items at the Fort Lauderdale or Miami warehouses, which then will be shipped to Fort Lauderdale for customers’ review.

“I have a big touch screen for customers if they want to search our inventory,” Schigiel said.

Schigiel said the Palm Beach County market still is wide open for vendors such as him. Many stone and tile purveyors left or closed during the recession in 2009.

With the county’s continued growth and the new housing popping up, Schigiel is optimistic about Opustone’s future serving not only Palm Beach County residents but also residents in counties to the north who know his products and have been driving south to his warehouses.

Name: Eric Schigiel

Age: 39

Hometown: (where you grew up and where you live now); Grew up and resides in Miami

Education: Florida International University

About your company (revenue, clients/caseload, employees, mission): Opustone Stone & Tile Concepts was founded in 2001 by Eric Schigiel. The company has showrooms in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Beach and Jacksonville. With over 115 employees in total, Opustone has earned a reputation of quality and offering exclusive products in through the state of Florida. Clients range from interior designers and homeowners, commercial projects to architects and builders.

First paying job and what you learned from it: Worked for my father growing up doing many areas from warehouse and labor to office work. I learned how to appreciate what you build on your own.

First break in the business: We learned how to accelerate quickly during a fast pace of South Florida rapid growth and opened several showrooms to keep up with the extensive demand

How your business has changed: Design trends have moved towards creating many design options for tile concepts, so we expanded within this category quickly and rose to the top for selection and quality.

Best business book: Good to Great

Best piece of business advice you ever received: Move forward and don’t look back. Learn from mistakes and make lessons count.

What you tell young people about your business: Always have integrity in doing the right thing for customers, employees and vendors. Don’t burn any bridges and never take shortcuts. It may take longer to succeed but it lasts longer.

Many successful people learn from failure. Do you have a failure you can share and what you learned from it? It’s important to offer what others don’t offer.We learned the value of creating demand based on being unique and exclusive.

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