In 1992 while Bee and Walt Grabowski were building their first home in Beaufort, Bee knew what she wanted for tile but was unable to find it. Bee finally located a handcrafted English tile, but when she went to purchase it, the shop owner was stunned that anyone would buy that quantity, at that price, simply because they liked it. Fast forward to 1998 and Bee, while renovating another home, discovers that Sea Island Tile is for sale. Walt is tiring of corporate life and looking for a change, so it wasn’t long until Sea Island Tile had new owners. In business six years at 391 Sea Island Parkway in Beaufort, and three years at 6-B Plantation Park Road in Bluffton, Sea Island Tile also opened a separate stone fabrication shop in 2002.
Artistic tile in this country has a rich history At the turn of the century many homes were constructed around the tile design with the tiles being handcrafted by skilled artisans. Small, primarily family-owned tile companies turned out distinctive tile until the Great Depression forced the majority of them to close.
With the housing boom that began after World War II and continued through the late 1960’s, tile became a bland mass-produced item offering no character or detail. Homeowners used color, (remember black, white and pink-tiled baths?) in place of design and texture.
That changed in the early 1970’s with tile making a comeback as an artistic medium. A versatile decorating tool, tile and stone now figure prominently in new home construction, remodeling projects, outdoor decor and commercial buildings. “Tile is a true design medium,” says Walt. “There has been a renaissance in tile in this country for the past couple of decades.”
Sea Island Tile also carries a complete selection of natural stone and slate. Representing the best in the business, from Walker Zanger to Bedrock Glass, Sea Island Tile believes that a client’s choices are only limited by their imagination. No matter what the decor, modern rustic to a particular period look, Sea Island Tile offers the widest tile selection in the Lowcountry.
Owning their own stone fabrication shop allows Sea Island Tile to do what the others can’t. Countertops, fireplace surrounds, stair treads, even sinks and stone furniture can all be created at Sea Island Tile. Customizing sinks with relief features matching the surrounding tile has become a popular look and is one of Sea Island’s most requested items.
Sea Island Tile offers clients the convenience of one-stop shopping. Looking for a simple builder’s grade 6×6 tile for the laundry room floor in addition to a granite slab for the kitchen counters? Sea Island Tile can supply an entire home’s stone needs. They also carry a complete line of setting materials and tools.
A big part of Sea Island Tile’s success must go to their wonderful employees. Sadie Hanson runs the Beaufort location and is also the corporation manager. Kevin Yates oversees the Bluffton store, while Bee is CFO and Walt takes care of the fabrication shop.
Walt sums up his business philosophy nicely. “Being involved in this business is fun stuff. We all like offering and creating things that makes people happy.”