Salvatori the origins
It was there, in the tiny workshop of six people, that my father learnt his trade
CEO Gabriele Salvatori reflects on the history of Salvatori and the role his father played in building the company
Salvatori’s origins can be traced back to my grandfather. For several years, he and his business partner held the right to fell the trees at San Rossore, the parkland near Pisa that belonged to the presidents of Italy, and they processed the wood in a plant nearby. When, following the war, the marble industry started to pick up they decided to diversify into stone, founding Sacchelli and Salvatori. It was there, in the tiny workshop of six people, that my father learnt his trade.
The company did not do well, running up huge amounts of debt. My grandfather and his partner decided to shut it down, but my father liked what he was doing and asked if he could take it on. Little by little, together with my mother, he brought the company back to profit and started to grow the business.
My father was a very curious man. He never did what other companies were doing, but innovated new ways of cutting stone, new processes and treatments. Even when he started out, producing one of the simplest products in the industry – marble skirting board – he had a novel approach. At the time, in the 50s and 60s, every house across Europe had white Carrara skirting, and my father developed a production line that could cut kilometres in a day.
We became the number one source of stone skirting in the world, and the only company able to produce large quantities.
After a few years the company had grown and we began to produce tiles. While the industry was focused on large stone panels, my father developed a line of small, perfectly cut tiles that could be used like porcelain versions.
Then he looked to mosaic tiles, using technology from glass mosaics, where small tiles are glued industrially onto mesh. I remember as a child seeing my father and the manufacturer of the machines that produce the glass tiles doing test after test, trying to find a glue that would work with stone. Somehow they managed it.
This was followed in the late 80s with a process my father invented to emulate the smooth weathered surface you see on marble in churches and ancient buildings. Just as a pebble is smoothed by tumbling along a riverbed, he developed a machine that rotated the stone in water. It was another great innovation and a great success – we didn’t know how to keep up with orders.
In 1989, we received an award from the Italian Trade Commission for being the most innovative company in the stone industry, and our products are still today exhibited at the Los Angeles Museum of Science and Technology.
By this time I had been hanging around the workshops for several years and I had learnt from my father.
Stone is notoriously difficult. You need to know precisely how to work it, and my father was an expert. It’s down to that influence that I developed my own texture in the 90s – bamboo – which is still one of our best selling surfaces.
My father always spoke of the value of constant improvement, and of the importance of developing a technical understanding that goes beyond marble – most of our production line is still designed and built in house.
Even though the company has grown year on year, this ethos has remained the same as when he took over the company, over four decades ago. Innovation is still right at the heart of everything we do.