Set in Stone

Upon entering the Ciot store in Troy, one is immediately taken aback by the beauty.

In 2008, Detroit’s business climate wasn’t just cold and unwelcoming — it was fatally frigid and nastily forbidding. With auto industry cutbacks, unemployment figures in the double digits, and the highest number of home foreclosures in the nation, the Motor City yielded hard, infertile ground for business growth.

But there was a bright spot amid the troubles of 2008: Stone, tile, and specialty design company Ciot had the courage to open a Detroit-area location in Troy. The company hasn’t looked back since.

Co-owner and architect Benny Spielmann recalls the reactions of friends and associates when he designed the buildings and broke ground. “They asked, ‘What in the world are you doing?’ We were looking forward.”

Spielmann explains: “When I had my tile and stone supply company in Oak Park, I bought from Ciot, and they always stood out by having the finest selection in the industry. As our relationship grew over the years, we decided to open Ciot’s first U.S. location together, in the Detroit area.

“We differentiate ourselves from the competition,” Spielmann continues. “We’re not a typical tile or slab company. Ciot is a fashion-forward, trendsetting powerhouse. We sell exquisite hard surfaces instead of fabric and cloth.”

Color and shape options are seemingly endless.  A close-up look at the many spelndors of stone, from color variations to veining.

Those hard surfaces are gathered from more than 30 different countries. Several times a year, Spielmann travels abroad (to the likes of Spain, Brazil, Israel, Italy, India, and Africa) and works with his team of stone buyers, who help make mining and purchase decisions.

“Our buyers not only need to be geologists, but they (have to) understand design and trends. They also help maintain our great relationships with quarries around the world,” Spielmann says. “We hand-select the quartz, granite, marble — and even semiprecious pieces of tiger eye, jasper, amethyst —  and often buy it in the shape of raw blocks. It’s like jewelry in large scale.” The blocks are sent to specialty processing facilities to be cut and polished into slabs.

The company’s “Fabrica” arm, the manufacturing division of Ciot, is located in Montreal, where the business was established in 1950 by Giovanni Batista Ciot. There, artisans create everything from slabs that can be perfectly vein- or book-matched for walls, counters, and floors to specially designed bathtubs, fireplaces, mantels, furniture, and exquisite mosaics, which are becoming increasingly popular for commercial décor.

“We’re one of the few companies in North America with mosaic artists who have worked on or restored projects in the Vatican, in Jerusalem, and in Italy, and can create any mural or custom project,” Spielmann says.

Several mosaics are displayed in the “Habitat” arm, or showroom, of Ciot’s Troy location — a glittering, stick-wielding, red-uniformed figure of Gordie Howe on the ice; a stunning, subtly shaded full moon that would work as wall or above-mantel art; a colorful, fully studded bathtub designed as a high-heeled shoe; and many hanging pieces.

Mosaic tilework features a variety of motifs, including floral. Mosaics, in fact, are becoming increasingly popular for commercial and residential design, and can be customized.

The showroom also houses the “Tecnica” arm of Ciot, which is for professionals working on large-scale commercial projects. It’s also a one-stop shop for those selecting designs for their home. It features displays of the latest stone, porcelain, tile, and other materials, along with photos — and a knowledgeable staff.

Showroom manager Tony Fyne enthusiastically explains the qualities of Maxfine porcelain slab, which is exclusive to Ciot. “It’s a very popular product used for walls and floors, tabletops, countertops, and as an exterior façade,” he says. “It’s an exciting material that’s light and thin, very durable, (and is) extremely low maintenance.”

Other new products fill the ever-changing displays: glass-like Geoluxe pyrolithic stone slabs for indoor or outdoor walls and countertops, “wood-grained” porcelain planks for walls and flooring, and easy-installation porcelain outdoor pavers. Residential and industrial items arrive daily.

“We don’t just ‘buy’ and ‘sell’ these stone products,” Spielmann says. “We bring the earth’s beauty into people’s homes with the finest selections available.

“The Midwest has been labeled the least daring market when it comes to (making) fashion statements, but I beg to differ. Ciot, with its European flair, has brought the best of everything to the best of cities — Detroit.”

With Spielmann’s commitment to Detroit’s market, he has broken new ground on the property for a larger slab gallery that will become a hub for future expansions.

“My confidence remains here,” he says.

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