CEO & President of Materials Marketing
Tile and Stone Company Opens for Business in ’09’s Most Iconic Structure
By Antonio Gutierrez
Photography by David Teran
At age 18, Tim Roberts already had his future mapped out, although it was in stark contrast from that of his family of architects and civil engineers, which included his grandfather, who was the director of planning for the City of Los Angeles from the 1940s to the ’60s.
“My business plan at the time was surfing and having enough gas in my VW,” the 66-year-old Southern California native said with a laugh.
But destiny had other plans in store for the then free-spirited Roberts. It began when his family relocated from the San Fernando Valley to Orange County in 1973. And what began as a Saturday gig would set Roberts on his future path in the stone and tile industry to his position today as CEO of Materials Marketing.
“The guy across the street came over one day and asked if I wanted to make $20,” Roberts recalled. “He was a master custom tile setter. We worked in homes in Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and Balboa Island. From that, I found work building a showroom in LA in 1979. Tiles have been in my blood ever since. You never know what your path is going to be.”
Roberts is preparing to board a flight back to San Antonio to oversee company business and the company’s newest enterprise: a stone and tile showroom in Alamo Heights housed in 78209’s most iconic and recognizable structure – the former Mobil gas station with the flaming red Pegasus, flying high in the sky at the corner of Broadway and Austin Highway.
They had their grand opening in December, and Roberts invites anyone in the market for beautiful stone tile to come to see the showroom.
What is it about the stone and tile industry you enjoy so much?
I have a Tile Hall in my home. I have quite the antique tile collection. I have connected with it because art, architecture, and design and so much of building and design goes into the foundation, framing and the structure. But what we live with every day and what impacts our lives every day are the finished surfaces. I’m still passionate about the design and art of it and how it impacts our clients.
Talk about your antique collection.
I have one or two tiles from the late 1400s. It’s an eclectic collection. I’ve collected them during my travels. I’ve purchased them in Turkey, Spain, Italy, and South America. Each one has its own memory.
What are your responsibilities as CEO?
I am the CEO/President of Materials Marketing Holdings Group which includes, Materials Marketing and its eight showrooms around the country; Design & Direct Source, a Portland Oregon based commercial supplier of tile and stone; Productos Mexicanos, our manufacturing facility in Mexico; and A. J. Brauer, our limestone quarry and manufacturing facility in Jarrel, Texas. Materials Marketing is a 60-year-old San Antonio company and has moved from our Josephine location to the Mobil Station in Alamo Heights.
We are the maker and purveyor of natural stone and authentic ceramic tiles. We make architectural natural stone fireplaces, paving stones, mosaics, and moldings at our factory in Mexico. My job is to find great people and put them in the right seats. I try to be a servant leader and ask, ‘What can I do for people to be successful?’
I’m sure your job requires you to fly a lot.
People ask me where I live. I tell them the United Club. We buy a lot of raw materials for our production facility in Mexico, which is on 15 acres. We buy Italian stone. We process that to manufacture everything from moldings, facades, fireplaces, and mosaics.
How did your company end up moving into the former Mobil gas station?
I’ve had my eyes on that building for a long time. It’s a phenomenal piece of architecture. Our building on Josephine Street, where we were for 30 years, was sold. We had to find something. I got to town on a Sunday night. I started cruising around, and, lo and behold, I saw a For Lease sign. I blew up the owner’s phone for 12 hours straight. On Monday, the owner met me, and by mid-week, I signed a letter of intent. The space is stunning. Our plans are to be a solid, long-term tenant. We’re a local company at our core. The building speaks of who we are.