by Emmi Micallef July 21, 2023 3 Comments
Above Image: François as a 12-year old boy second from the left in a white hat
Why is One of the Best Showrooms in the Nation for French, Belgian and English Reclaimed Limestone and French Oak Flooring in Western Massachusetts?
The answer to this question is simple - and complicated. The short story - a French guy comes to America and opens up a showroom. However - that is not the full story. And the showroom is not just a showroom. The Pavé Tile, Wood & Stone, Inc. showroom has become an eternal quest for François to bring France to this soil - since his birthplace has eluded him for so long...
The exactitude and meticulousness of François' artistry, self-taught since 19 years old when he first stepped foot in Western Massachusetts, is seen in every corner of our showroom. The Pavé Tile, Wood & Stone, Inc. Showroom is a sacred space that would be a lofty competitor aside any showroom in NYC, LA or London. But he chose to make a life here, to stay here. To stay here would mean only one thing - to bring the very best of Europe here. Every installation, vignette, and board he creates, showcases the length of travel and relationships he seeks, to populate Pavé with the most stunning reclaimed and aged tile, wood and stone materials one could possibly source from France, England, Belgium, Italy and Spain. He has brought the best of Europe here. Why? Here's the complicated answer...
The sacred space of old growth pines surrounding the Pavé Tile, Wood & Stone, Inc. Showroom
Second to the left is François at 12 years old - with his Boy scout Troupe in France.
A Frenchman in the Woods
At 19 years old, with a camping tent, pocket knife and a few changes of clothes, François left Nice, France to the only place he knew in the United States – the woods of Western, Massachusetts. Known to him from a boy scout troop visit at 15, he fled here with a slight command of English, as his only option from the heaviness he endured at home.
Thirty-seven years later, François is unable to reflect on the first four months living in those woods. Camping in his tent, one meal a day, braving weather and long nights – his perception of isolation and loss of his childhood are too palpable in his memory for him to ever discuss.
There are few men who have the endurance and unyielding will to survive like I have seen from François. From boyhood to manhood, he never worked a day in his life for anybody. Gifted with talented hands and a sharp mind, François taught himself carpentry while living in those woods, and began constructing Adirondack chairs to sell by the side of the road. As the months passed and with more confidence in his craft, he earned money by becoming a handyman that soon became a business of building patios and additions for local residences.
At 21, missing the beauty of French aesthetics and building materials, François opened his first tile showroom, called Tile Unlimited, showcasing handmade tiles from Provence. The beauty of the South of France enamored many in this sleepy New England town, and soon François had a crew in tow where he installed kitchens and bathrooms to meticulous perfection.
As the years progressed, so did François. We opened Pavé Tile, Wood & Stone, Inc. in 2000, as a showcase for reclaimed French limestone and French oak flooring. Being from France, François has navigated and developed close and sincere relationships with French, Belgian, English, Italian and Spanish suppliers, who have helped Pavé grow and exceed expectations of clients who understand how hard it is to receive quality reclaimed material from trusted sources. Importing containers and stocking material at our facility FOB West Hatfield, MA, is an added bonus to clients who seek exceptional and rare material already here in the US.
There were many opportunities to move to a big city - to open up that big showroom. However, François remained here. We have often heard the question when meeting clients at Pavé - who have traveled near and far - why are you here? They will never receive a direct answer from him - usually a wink and a smile and a diversion to bring the appointment back to the materials. I chime in - "Well, I have written a blog about it...to why François is here" and send it accordingly. Where François prefers being discrete - I prefer sharing his story - of course with his knowledge and permission. I believe his story matters.
Pavé Tile, Wood & Stone, Inc. is just 30 minutes south of those woods from where the 19-year-old François began his journey. Pavé is François’ mark on this world. Every installation he has done is with exactitude and respect for these noble materials. His bar to reach perfection often means demolishing installations not even 6 months old to be replaced with even more exquisite flooring.
Why did François stay here in these woods? As his emboldened wife, I have my thoughts. It is my conception that the woods surrounding him were his haven to grow-up safely, while discovering himself and his talents. It was his refuge - and he literally survived here. However, with France deeply missed, working with these materials - François unknowingly created a daily bridge to his childhood and French culture that he yearns for to this day. Simply, Pavé keeps France close to François’ heart. However, it is the woods of Western Massachusetts that are so lucky. They have bared witness to a French boy grow-up into a French man, as noble as his materials.
Thank you for your time,
Co-founder Historic Decorative Materials, a Division of Pavé Tile, Wood & Stone, Inc.
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