Fabricator Case Studies

Family operation isn’t relenting to economy

July 2, 2012
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More than 80 years ago, in 1930, Matt Dale was laid off from his job as a tile setter and mason. With a family to support at the beginning of the Great Depression, Dale had the immense pressure on him to make ends meet. Dale’s son, William, who had recently graduated high school and was studying as an apprentice learning masonry, was also looking for work. For William J. Dale, it seemed that there were some early formulations of a plan that was laid out for the family’s future. Today, the Dale family is still in the business, and it just opened a state-of-the art facility — Minnesota Tile & Stone (MTS) in Minnetonka, MN — under the Dale Tile Co. umbrella.

A history in the trade

To carry the family through the Great Depression, William J. Dale and Matt Dale started earning an income doing masonry work around their neighborhood. Like the rest of the country, the Dales struggled through this period. However, in spite of this, the Dales were able to lay a foundation and establish a growing business. It was in the 1930s that Dale Tile Co. was founded, operating out of the Dale home.

Eventually, the Great Depression ended, the economy started to turn around, and Dale Tile Co. grew. “While things were changing and the company was more easily able to grow, they bought the store during [World War II],” explained Alan Dale, current owner of Dale Tile Co., and the third generation of the Dale family to join the company.

As time passed, the company moved to a storefront in Brooklyn Park, MN, which brought a lot of business to the Dales. By the 1960s, it was one of the largest stone businesses in the area until the demand died down a bit that same decade. However, business picked back up in the 1970s.

Growth continued over the next decades, and in 1998, Dale Tile Co. opened two additional retail branches under the Minnesota Tile & Stone name — one in Woodbury and another in Lakeville, MN. In 2011, the Brooklyn Park retailer was relocated to Plymouth, MN.

Current processing operations

More than 80 years after Dale Tile Co. was established, it took a bold step forward with the addition of a manufacturing facility named Minnesota Tile & Stone (MTS) in Minnetonka, MN. The 40,000-square-foot facility is located in an upscale market area of Minneapolis/Saint Paul and houses a state-of-the-art stone fabrication shop and a design studio of approximately 8,000 square feet. Here, the company fabricates stone countertops (granite, quartz, marble, limestone) and sells a variety of veneer cut stone, ceramic tile and mosaics.

The process for opening this facility started in 2010, when Alan Dale purchased Pollux Manufacturing Inc., a well-known stone manufacturer that was feeling the pressures and the effects of the economy. This was done at a time when not many businesses were investing in risky expansions. “The most recent recession has taken away about half the business of the company and I thought ‘Oh, the heck with it, I’ve got to do something for this business and pursue the acquisition,‘ “ Alan Dale said. So with the same mentality his father had more than 80 years ago and his family pride, he took the risk and invested in the vision that he had for the company in spite of the economy. What Dale envisioned was a facility that would house a tile and stone retailer along with a fabrication facility, essentially creating a one-stop shop for designers, contractors and homeowners.

After the acquisition of Pollux, the company purchased, renovated and moved into the facility in Minnetonka. At this point, the company decided to make a major investment in technology. “We abandoned all the equipment we had from Pollux and bought all new,” Dale said. “That allowed for a new floor layout that takes up half as much space with double the capacity and room for the studio.” The new floor plan is in a straight-line configuration with overhead bridge cranes to optimize material flow.

The production capacity of the facility is about 3,000 square feet per week.

The shop is equipped with a range of equipment from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN. Cutting is done on a dual-bed CNC Fusion bridge saw/waterjet, which allows the company to cut complex shapes in a range of materials. Once the slabs are cut to size, the edges are processed on a Titan CNC stoneworking center or a Velocity straight-edge shaper. Meanwhile, a Fastback edge polisher is used for backsplash work.

To optimize production, the company also invested in a Pathfinder with Slabsmith software from Park Industries, which digitally captures precise fully calibrated slab images to create a visual library of slab inventory. The digital slabs optimize the nesting layout, reducing material scrap while also giving customers a clear digital picture of their finished countertop.

Looking to the future

After being open for a few months, Dale says that his biggest challenge lies in the future and reaching their potential. “With the new design studio and increased fabrication capacity, our challenge is to grow our business in a manner that is systematic, orderly and customer-friendly,” he said. “The economy is showing improvement, and our business is growing, so now we are positioned to take advantage of a growing economy and add market share.”

With such a focus on customer service, the Dale Tile Co. makes sure their employees perform at the level the Dale family expects. Including all four branches, the company’s 40 employees are cross-trained and are able to do multiple tasks and jobs. “Our fabrication team has had minimal turnover and averages about nine years of service,” Dale said. “We are hiring design consultants and customer service managers that are trained both by our managers and through an employee ‘buddy system.’ Most new hires come to us through our Web site or by referral.”

The Dale Tile Co. is a family business that can be aged in generations. With Alan Dale’s son now joining, the business has aged a fourth generation and is ready for the future. With a concept that is revolutionary to the stone market, the opening of MST has marked a milestone in the Dale family business. “We really believe that as an open-to-the-public kind of business, we are the only one in the area where a customer can come in and pick out their materials, look at matching components, lay out their plans, make design decisions and then have them made on site,” Alan Dale said. “It is a real customer-friendly environment. We have been getting great reviews, traffic has been heavy, and the design community is really excited about it.” 

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Dale Tile Co.

(Minnesota Tile & Stone Facility)

Minnetonka, MN

Type of work: residential work in natural stone and quartz surfacing; sales of veneer cut stone, ceramic tile and mosaics

Machinery: Dual-bed CNC Fusion bridge saw/waterjet; Titan CNC stoneworking center; Velocity straight-edge shaper; Fastback edge Pathfinder laser template station — all from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN

Number of Employees: 40

Production Capacity: 3,000 square feet per week

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