Member Spotlight – August 2016

custom-sponsorHutcheson Tile & Stone
Eagle River, Alaska

A quality job means executing a well-thought-out plan of action

By Lesley Goddin

spot-01Hutcheson Tile & Stone in Eagle River, Ak., prides itself on working directly with end users and helping them through the “sometimes difficult process of a renovation,” said Don Hutcheson, owner. The company has done commercial work, but Hutcheson explained, “Our pace and goals are more suited to assisting homeowners and designers execute a well-thought-out plan for a functional and aesthetically pleasing project.”

Hutcheson started out in 1997 with Local 1236 right out of high school. This was a soft-good union, but it didn’t take him long to recognize he needed a more artistic challenge than soft-goods installation could provide. With the motto, “stick with what you know,” in mind, Hutcheson focused in on the tile trade, starting his own business in 2003 and his own tile company nine years ago in 2007. “Tile was a part of the trade that required more skill than just a warm body,” he said. “You cannot – in our line of work – do a better job by just adding more people. Finishing a job does not require you to turn up the radio and sweat more; it takes a well-thought-out-plan of action and an understanding of what the last cut will look like before you set your first tile.”

Don Hutcheson with daughters (l. to r.) Elizabeth, now 6 and Emma, now 2. The new addition to the family this year is Evelyn, born May 17.

Don Hutcheson with daughters (l. to r.) Elizabeth, now 6 and Emma, now 2. The new addition to the family this year is Evelyn, born May 17.

Continuing with his ethic of quality, Hutcheson joined NTCA two years ago after seeing the positive reviews from respected people on internet forums and social media who were promoting the values of being a member. “I always was confused about how to best tell someone how, or why to do something a certain way,” Hutcheson said. “Well, it is all there, right in the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. I realized I had been doing some things wrong, but now I had a book that wasn’t just the text on a computer screen from who-knows-what-source, or [questionable] experience level of the person offering the information, but manufacturers and leaders of our industry who care greatly about the success of our industry as a whole.”

Hutcheson said that “One of the biggest benefits from the NTCA is the connection to other members who are equally, if not more, involved and concerned about the current state and future of our industry. The educational resources offered are amazing; with a little bit of digging around on the website, you will likely find more information than you were looking for. One of the greatest features to me, a small one-man show looking to expand, are the new training modules offered for an apprentice. Having gone through a union apprenticeship, I see value in training team members to be familiar with standards and expectations of our industry. That is a hard thing to do when you are trying to finish a shower for Mrs. Jones, but these are online classes that can be taken at any time. I think after a few years of this new program being out there we will see a significant increase in certified installers, and quality installations.”

spot-03spot-04Hutcheson is NTCA State Director for Alaska. He explained that “NTCA seems to be a good motivation for me to make myself, my business and my industry better – but there is no doubt that it can get lost sometimes in the daily grind of what we do. So after speaking with some folks who were State Directors and how that had helped them in their career, I asked about becoming the State Director for Alaska.”

The value is immense. “It is a great source of networking and I get to speak with other contractors that I meet at supply shops and tell them about the benefits of the NTCA,” he said. “I will get phone calls from suppliers or shops with questions. Those calls and conversations can come at any time and they are a great boost to morale and a reminder that we aren’t just installing a backsplash today – we are representing an industry and trying to make it better.”

Hutcheson just passed his certified installer exam on June 18th, making him the #1238 Certified Tile Installer in the country and the only one in Alaska. “It was a stressful test,” he admitted. Knowing a little about the difficulty from others who have taken the test, Hutcheson learned, “it was no walk in the park. I think that is a credit to NTCA and the CTEF for not just handing out participation awards.”

spot-06spot-05Being a tile setter is no walk in the park for Hutcheson, either. “Some days I hate this trade,” he honestly exclaimed. “Manufacturers of tile, product manufacturers, clients and peers all have different ideas what a great tile install should be. Those things are always in the back of your mind. I have never left a job that I was 100% satisfied with; I doubt I ever will. But I have never left a job that the client wasn’t happy with, either.” Hutcheson added, “When our clients are happy, they tell their friends about it and that is good for our industry. When our clients are upset with a job, they tell everybody, and those are the things that I try to avoid by being an informed member of the NTCA.”