“Our goal is to bring you innovative, quality products (tiles) just steps away from home.”
It was a drive in the country – as well as down memory lane – that was the impetus for business entrepreneur Dax Stewart to choose Shelburne as the site to fulfill his long-time goal of owning and managing a flooring store.
Dax is the sole proprietor of Local Tile Co., which sells imported Italian and Spanish tile and ceramics, plus vinyl, hardwood, engineered hardwood, and other wood floor projects. The store is in a reconverted century-old building at 127 Main Street, which, at one time, was a shoe store.
Local Tile Co. is a “boutique” flooring store that offers a range of high-quality products, along with design and installation advice, he says.
That advice is provided by Dax, who has a background in the tile retail industry, and his one employee, interior decorator and kitchen and bath designer Ashley McIntyre.
Asked why he selected Shelburne as the site of his first business, Dax says it all goes back to his youth travelling with his parents as they drove through the town on the way to their cottage in Beaver Valley.
“This town always made me pop up out of my seat and stare at all the store fronts. So, when I was looking to open a store, I took a long drive with my son to show him our old cottage. As we passed through Shelburne, I stopped the car and right then and there decided this is the spot for my yet-to-be named store.”
And where he parked the car was right across the street from the building with a “For Rent” sign which he now occupies.
Of course, the origins of Local Tile go back much further in time than that leisurely drive. During his tenure as an Eatons department manager, Dax learned about colour and design techniques to increase sales. Later he worked, at different times, for two different tile stores where he acquired knowledge about that product line. When the COVID pandemic forced the closure of one of the stores, he decided it was an opportune time to open his own.
As Dax explains it, he didn’t write a lengthy business plan, but knew he didn’t want to be in the city and “did the math” when considering Dufferin County’s population and an intended customer target market.
After taking possession of the store in February 2021, he quickly gutted the interior, a process which required removing three different ceilings, and began working towards establishing the store. “I finally opened in September 2021, with renovations still ongoing – and, in fact, they are still ongoing!”
Business isn’t as brisk as it might be in a Toronto setting, but that’s the way Dax likes it because it gives him the time to provide customers with detailed service which runs the gamut from space planning, to advice on selecting colours and product functionality, to installation recommendations.
Ascertaining what they are looking for, “is a matter of listening and asking questions. If they are still undecided, I will often suggest they take a look at what we have.”
Those customers are comprised of a diverse mix of custom home builders, new home purchasers who want something extra which the builder didn’t provide, and the owners of the many century homes who want to update the look of them, he says.
“Our clients are looking for unique tiles that they won’t find in a big box store and of good quality. We have tiles for any area.”
Some examples include two-centimeter-square outdoor tiles which can be used as pavers, small subway tiles for kitchen and bathroom backsplashes, and ones which look like wall paper and can be used as a feature wall in any room, he says.
To facilitate the decision process, the store encourages all its clients to borrow samples which they can take home to determine how it will look and fit in the room or space they’re considering updating.
“I don’t usually set a timeline for how long they can borrow the samples, as that creates stress. I want the clients to love what they order. So, if that (decision) takes six weeks, so be it.”
By the term “ordering”, Dax explains customers’ orders are relayed to a number of importer suppliers he deals with and then, for the most part, trucked right to the customer’s home or business. Orders can usually be fulfilled within a week. Local Tile doesn’t have a warehouse and the direct shipping avoids potential damage. The tiles are also quite heavy.
A new service and one which “is going very well” is the installation side of the business. Customers who don’t have the time or the inclination to fit the tiles, can have that service contracted out to a recommended custom contractor Dax has dealt with for a number of years.
From its base in Shelburne, Local Tile Co. services a large geographic area extending to Wasaga Beach in the northeast, to Caledon and Brampton in the south, to points north including Dundalk, Markdale, and Meaford.
WRITTEN BY: DAN O’REILLY | PHOTOGRAPHY: CORY BRUYEA | RESOURCES: LOCAL TILE CO., SHELBURNE