A Third-Generation Tile Expert
Owner of Corrado’s Design Center, Inc. seeks out innovative product solutions worldwide
Ronald Corrado, the Owner and Operator of Corrado’s Design Center, Inc. in Hyde Park, New York, is always seeking innovative products and practices to build and expand his tile manufacturing, distribution and installation business.
“I’m one of those people who’s never satisfied. I’m always thinking ‘what’s next?’ ” says Ronald, a U.S. Marines veteran who served his country for five years. He credits his military experience with making him a goal-oriented company leader with high standards and tremendous initiative. “My service in the military challenged me to give 110% at all times. This mentality translates to every aspect of my life—and my business.”
As a third-generation tile expert, Ronald’s drive for continuous improvement is also part of his heritage. It all began with Settimo, Ronald’s grandfather, who at 17 left his home in northern Italy and became a union tiler in New York City. Settimo passed down his trade knowledge to his two sons, Donald and Lewis (Ronald’s father), who grew up learning the ins and outs of working with the ceramic, porcelain, stone, cement, metal, baked clay, glass and other tiling products used in both interior and exterior applications.
Like his predecessors, Ronald developed an affinity for the craft at a young age, helping his family with tiling jobs throughout high school. Then, when Ronald turned 18, he enlisted in the Marines.
“I joined the Marines because I’d always wanted to serve in the military. My godfather was a Marine and my uncle on my mother’s side was in the Navy, which inspired me,” Ronald says. He also knew military life would provide the structure he needed to be a productive member of society. However, after political changes began to shrink the nation’s military force, Ronald decided to leave the armed forces and return home.
At 24 years old, Ronald chose to make a career out of tiling. “I had a talent for tiling as well as a tremendous amount of patience for it, which is necessary in this field. I began working for my dad full time, and went through a four-year apprenticeship through my ‘father of hard knocks,’ which is tougher than any institution you could go through. My dad held me to a higher standard than even himself,” Ronald recalls.
His father imparted many impactful life lessons, and the accountability factor pushed Ronald to further hone his talents and increase his knowledge. “He taught me to take pride in what I do and maintain high standards so people will view me as a professional in this field,” he shares. “My dad also showed me the importance of being direct, even with clients, and coached me to do my job well—and to do it better than everyone else.”
Little did Ronald know these teachings were preparing him to hold the family business together when, in January 2000, his lifelong mentor passed away.
A Critical Turning Point
Normally, the end-of-year holiday season is a happy time for families. But for the Corrados, this time of year will always be tinged with heartbreak. In September 1999, Ronald’s father consulted with a doctor about unexplained weight loss. He was referred to a specialist, who in November diagnosed him with lung cancer. He only lived two more months.
“My mom took off from her job to stay home with my dad between September and January, and I was working around the clock to take care of all of our clients. I would check in with my dad every night, and if there was an opportunity, I would go to see him in the mornings,” Ronald recalls. Even with a terminal diagnosis, his father still displayed a tremendous work ethic. “When he wasn’t feeling too bad, he would drive things to the job sites for us,” Ronald marvels.
This example of courage in the face of adversity is no doubt what inspires Ronald, a husband and father himself, to continue the family’s multigenerational legacy in the tile business. No matter the challenge—whether it’s hiring quality employees or navigating the industry’s cyclical market demands—Ronald is resolved to find solutions that keep his company nimble and competitive.
A Diversified Business Model
Ronald was only 31 years old when he assumed responsibility of the family operation, which has been performing installation work in the tri-state area now for over two decades. In addition, the business consists of a warehouse and a fabrication shop as well as a showroom offering a range of high-quality, reasonably priced products to both commercial customers and everyday consumers.
“Clients are always going to get choice-grade products when they shop from our in-house inventory (though we can order builder-grade materials upon request),” Ronald says. “We supply wholesale, distribution and direct sales as well as bulk sales for a single project.” With bulk sales, the product is stored in the company’s warehouse until it’s needed, at which point Corrado’s Design Center will either deliver or arrange transport of the product to the job site. “Bulk sales are becoming more of a focus for us,” he adds. Some of the company’s largest projects include colleges, auto dealerships, luxury residences and apartments.
Corrado’s Design Center helps clients create the spaces they envision by supplying custom tile, cabinetry and countertops as well as hardware accessories, installation tools and other supplies. The business has an extensive inventory of porcelain, marble, stone, mosaic and glass material selections, and also granite and quartz are available. Among its most popular products are Carrara marble and large-format porcelain tile.
“You can’t beat the classic look of Carrara marble, and the product we carry is all color-matched,” Ronald shares. Today’s large-format tiles are appealing to many customers because of the attractive design options available. “Years ago, a lot of tile products were very plain. Nowadays, advanced technology is available to create unique designs. There are also fewer grout joints, which makes them easier to clean.”
The company enjoys much repeat business and has quite a few long-standing clients, including Black Oak Builders in Ancram, New York, and Reed Contracting Services LLC in Vincentown, New Jersey. Among the company’s biggest construction clients are Onekey, LLC, based in Hackensack, New Jersey, and Mid Hudson Construction Management from Wappingers Falls, New York. Ronald is also very proud to supply products and materials to high-end retailers throughout the tri-state area.
High-Grade Design Service
The company’s leadership takes pride in carrying products from around the world. Ronald travels to Europe six times a year to visit the factories from which his company sources its products. He uses this time to carefully consider all available product lines, utilizing his knowledge of consumer demands in his market to select new inventory he thinks will do well. In fact, his company is the sole distributor in the U.S. for two overseas factories—a role earned through his team’s impressive sales performance.
Ronald’s expert staff also provides free design services to help clients make informed choices about the company’s diverse product offerings.
“Nobody else in our region offers this,” Ronald says. “People don’t always know what they want until they see it. A big-box store might have two to three options, whereas we have 20+ options—that’s what you get when you work with our type of business.”
Lunch-and-learns have been a big hit with local architects. “We’ve been doing these sessions for the last seven years, covering a variety of product types,” Ronald says. His goal is not just to educate architects on what’s available, but also on the best applications for each product. “The more information we can provide, the better! It’s important to have face time with those who are designing and building spaces—and to be persistent in getting the info in front of them.”
He strives to hire team members with previous experience in the tiling industry, and also those with unique backgrounds that give them an edge in providing insightful, personalized service. “One designer who works for me is a double art major. Her expertise in color allows her to guide clients in designing their spaces. In other showrooms, people just show you products—they don’t help you narrow down your selections,” Ronald says. “I have other employees with 20, 30 years of experience. Customers appreciate our team’s deep knowledge of industry products and best practices.”
Looking to the Future
With a steady backlog of business, Ronald is looking to take his company to the next level through additional diversification and expansion.
“I look forward to expanding in the future and bringing even further value to my clients. My goal is to offer a broader range of products and possibly open up more locations in the New York state area,” Ronald shares. “Also, we’re not that far off from developing our own designs and products. We already possess the skilled workforce, resources and industry connections necessary to accommodate a range of project types and complexities. However, we are working to expand our capabilities and geographic reach to take on more projects of varying size and scope.”
And as Ronald carves out even greater opportunities for the business, he will surely continue to rely on the foundational wisdom passed down through previous generations of his family.