By Clay Importsin Community
Clay Imports is a family business. On National Siblings Day, let us introduce you to founders and brothers Zac and Nick Barreiro.
Zac and Nick were raised in Austin, Texas. Just one year apart in age, the siblings remain inseparable. After high school (both graduated from J.B. Conally) they worked in a variety of construction jobs. Eventually, Zac and Nick were tile installers in the early 2000s and worked together often. Because of the brothers' local reputation as dedicated and reliable workers, homeowners in Austin would hire them for remodel projects.
Siblings Zac, Brenda, and Nick growing up in Austin, Texas.
Today, their company Clay Imports inspires outstanding spaces through customizable tile design and clay architectural products all over the world.
While working in tile installation, Zac and Nick learned about a variety of tile products. Working directly with homeowners, the Barreiro brothers were often tasked with installation and also scouting for hard to find products, often made in Mexico. They were fascinated with the crafts that came from across the border, mostly Saltillo tile and traditional Talavera. Since they are fluent in both Spanish and English, and familiar with Mexico, it was clear to Zac and Nick: They had an opportunity to better inform customers about Mexican handcrafted products. In addition, they were able to save customers money and hassle to get them what they want.
We want people to be able to access something in a very user-friendly way that previously they thought was out of their reach.
-Zac about what drives Clay Imports
Always looking for the right product for their clients, the Barreiro brothers came across a small tile speciality shop on North Lamar. The store owner was about to retire and less capable of filling orders. But he offered what many homeowners were craving: handmade tile made in Mexico. When that store eventually closed in 2010, the brothers took over, acquiring the business and its infrastructure.
The Barreiro's in front of the North Lamar Store in 2016.
Leading a Small Business
Independent tile installers Zac and Nick became small business owners. And one of their first priorities was to master their understanding of the handcrafted tile industry.
While Zac deepened his knowledge in business management in Austin, Nick traveled around the world to connect with makers. The business developed quite organically. People, looking for tile or other handcrafted products, would find Clay Imports, and tell them what they need.
With all this information and research, the brothers were able to trace most aesthetics and production techniques back to Mexico, Turkey, Morocco and Vietnam.
In Saltillo, Austin's Sister City (which Nick leads as chair) ties are strong with the Castillo family. The Castillos have been producing Saltillo tile for three generations. The Clay Imports brothers and the Castillo family have been working together for many years. As partners and friends, they honor the tradition of unglazed terra-cotta tile and develop new standout products together.
Learning about the history of tile in Morocco.
Nick in Istanbul learning about tile production techniques.
While most of Clay Imports’ tile production takes place in Mexico, international travel and the constant curiosity for design and techniques inspire their collections. Specifically, Nick’s connection to Turkey where he went to University as a UT exchange student (he studied Anthropology) was a game changer. His time there helped to make a lot of friends in manufacturing and logistics in Europe and Asia.
It is through trust building and friendship that we have built strong ties between Clay Imports and our partners.
-Nick about his and his brother's relationship with partners around the world.
Making things happen
Suddenly, this small Austin business expanded beyond a “Mexican tile” niche. In addition to selling high quality tile and architectural building products in the U.S., Clay Imports is developing industry leading designs and products and ships all over the world.
Fostering relationships remains a priority in the brother's business. As a result, they find much satisfaction in connecting creatives. Zac and Nick expanded the Clay Imports family by giving designers a platform to flex their talents while trying out a new medium.
The coolest part about this is introducing the artisans and designers to each other, physically traveling to meet each other. That’s inspiring.
-Nick about inviting artists and makers to create fresh tile designs.
For Zac and Nick, Clay Imports is here to make bold tile and clay architectural products to inspire outstanding interior and architectural design.
Nick and furniture designer Allie talking shop in Jalisco, Mexico.
Zac, Chris McCray, and Nick on their way to Mexico to meet with master equipales makers.
Family MattersWe hear it's not the norm but as brothers, working together as a team comes easy to Zac and Nick. Knowing and respecting each other, highlighting their strong points and unquestionable support is the basis of their brotherhood.
While adventure seeking tile scout Nick is always on the go, his younger brother and the owner of Clay Imports, Zac, established Clay Imports’ reputation by providing fair prices and reliable and friendly service. Zac also started his own family. He has two sons (5 and 1) and lives in East Austin.
We hope you enjoyed this story on National Siblings Day! Leave us a comment below if you have any questions or want to share some stories as well.