Heuler’s firms provide high-end floors

The three companies owned by Jim Heuler – Heuler Tile Company, Ceramic Tool Company and Stone Dimensions – have their fingerprints all over some of the most prominent structures in metropolitan Milwaukee, as well as many other high-profile commercial properties around the nation.

Heuler Tile does not make the tile and stone it installs. However, Ceramic Tool Company and Stone Dimensions are both manufacturers, and Heuler often installs components made by the other two companies, Heuler said.

“Stone Dimensions fabricated all of the stone for the Milwaukee Art Museum,” he said. “And Heuler Tile, under a separate contract, did the installation for all of the Italian white marble in the museum.”

Heuler Tile Co. was founded in 1959 and specializes in installing and renovating stone and tile floors in large, multi-million dollar commercial buildings such as shopping malls and airports. Locally, Heuler Tile installed stone and tile in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Calatrava addition, Mayfair Mall, the law offices of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren S.C., and the Bradley Center.

The company also installed stone and tile in the Denver, John F. Kennedy (New York) and Dallas Fort Worth international airports. It has also done work in large shopping malls such as the Mall of America and many more.

“We’ve done shopping centers all over,” said Heuler said. “We’ve done projects in every state in the U.S.”

Ceramic Tool Company was founded 25 years ago, when Heuler saw a need in the stone and tile business for prefabricated expansion joints and other pre-made accessories. Traditionally, expansion joints were created when tile was already laid, and workers needed to wait for caulk to dry.

“Our expansion joints are made here,” he said. “We’re the innovator of (the technique) and we’re the only company in Wisconsin that makes anything like it. It eliminates a step in the installation. Installers can buy the caulk molded and cured and just place it where it’s needed.”

In addition to expansion joints, Ceramic Tool also makes several types of metal trim and related products used in areas where tile and stone floors border with carpet, wood and other materials.

“Ceramic Tool was formed to bring new products to the marketplace and to serve an industry where some of the things that were needed were not offered,” Heuler said.

Stone Dimensions, a manufacturer of granite and marble countertops, office furniture and shower basins, was also started because of needs in the marketplace, Heuler said.

“It was clear that granite and marble were becoming more popular,” he said. “Part of our business (in Heuler Tile) was installing it. But we did not manufacture or fabricate it.”

Stone Dimensions was started in 1998 and began making granite and marble products under the brand name Buffalo Natural Stone Products. In 2002, the company introduced the Buffalo Natural Stone Shower Basin, a shower basin carved from a single piece of granite and intended for use in high-end hotels, bed and breakfasts, condos and homes.

“The shower basin is intended to provide a better alternative to ceramic tiled shower floors,” Heuler said. “Grout joints lead to mold and mildew and other problems.”

Heuler Tile has extensive experience with tile shower basins. The company asked repeatedly if it could develop a stone shower basin for customers.

“We set out to develop an alternative that has no joints, is impervious (to mold and mildew) and would be much cleaner (than tile),” Heuler said. “It will also last a lifetime – we believe that saying that our basins will be in use for our lifetimes is conservative.”

Shower basins produced under the Buffalo Stone brand have been installed in the University Club in downtown Milwaukee, the Millennium Center and Holiday Inn Merchandise Mart in Chicago and Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, N.J., Heuler said.

Under the Buffalo Stone line, Stone Dimensions also makes countertops, bathroom partitions, interior and exterior signs, fireplace surroundings and tub decks.

Stone Dimensions also makes several lines of office furniture. Its Colab line of office furniture which features adjustable desk heights, was developed seven years ago for Michael Jordon’s office in Chicago, Heuler said.

Although Heuler Tile, Ceramic Tool Company and Stone Dimensions are separate companies, they all operate from the same facility in Pewaukee and utilize the same front-office staff, Heuler said.

“They’re three separate entities and the correlation is that they all work in the same industry,” he said.

The three companies employ about 50 workers – about 30 in Heuler Tile, five in Ceramic Tool, and about 15 in Stone Dimensions. And together the three companies had about $15 million in revenues for 2007, up from about $12 million in 2006. The growth largely came from increased sales of the Buffalo Stone shower basin, Heuler said.

The three companies anticipate more than 10 percent growth this year, largely because of significant investments in people and machinery, Heuler said.

“(This year) we’ve increased our sales force by 30 percent,” he said. “And last year we replaced some of our machinery (for Stone Dimensions) with state-of-the-art machines that use less water and power that produce products more efficiently and economically.”

In 2007, the three companies moved to a new 40,000-square-foot space at W237 N2872 Woodgate Road in Pewaukee. The company is now in leased space, which could allow for expansion, Heuler said.

To fuel its expansion, Stone Dimensions is now working on a new product in partnership with another large Milwaukee-area manufacturer. Heuler declined to name the company’s partner.

“It’s based on our competencies in natural stone and can be used in any kind of commercial building or construction,” Heuler said. “(Developing) new products in stone is an ongoing process for us.”

 

Rock solid growth

Stone-related companies owned by Jim Heuler grow through new products.

Heuler Tile Company

Industry: Tile and stone floor installation in large commercial buildings.
Employees: About 30
Web site: www.heulertile.com

Ceramic Tool Company

Industry: Manufacturer of prefabricated products for stone and tile floor installation.
Employees: About five
Web site: www.ceramictool.com

Stone Dimensions

Industry: Manufacturer of stone shower basins, signs, countertops and furniture
Employees: About 15
Web site: www.buffalo-stone.com

Revenues: About $15 million (all three companies combined)

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