Written by: Simonette Berry
“You remember your struggles, the things you work the hardest for in life,” says Peggy Stafford, owner and founder of Stafford Tile. A fearless entrepreneur, she dared to dream big and got something even bigger in return. Her mission was to bring a world-class selection of tile and stone products to Louisiana; what she received was a host of meaningful relationships with staff members and clients and a chance to reestablish her roots. What started as a tiny shop on Oak Street in New Orleans is now a Louisiana icon, exclusively distributing several nationally recognized product lines and offering a dizzying selection of tile, stone, glass, and ceramic products. Architects, designers, homeowners, contractors, and developers fill the gleaming showrooms of Stafford’s two locations, one a bustling Magazine Street staple, and the other, the newest hot spot in Baton Rouge’s Southdowns Village.
A Louisiana native and graduate of Newcomb College at Tulane, Stafford moved to Boulder, Colorado, after college and got her start working in a small tile shop. By the 1990s, she had a successful interior design business that specialized in “finish” work for high-end residences. “At that time, contractors and homeowners would send me to San Francisco to find tile and stone for their projects. Even Denver did not have the selection of tile products that I was looking for in my designs. The higher-end tile and stone showrooms of San Francisco were my stomping grounds,” she says.
Though Stafford was happy and successful in Boulder, she realized how much she missed the vibrancy and cultural variety of New Orleans when she traveled to Mexico to build a house. The lively Latinos reminded her of the southern and Caribbean roots of her early years. She was deeply inspired, and soon all the signs started pointing to a new business venture in the South. “I decided to leave my comfortable, well-established business in Boulder and return home to start a new endeavor. I drove a U-Haul truck, the trailer packed with samples, by myself from Boulder to New Orleans. When I passed through Houston, I finalized my contract with Walker Zanger to distribute their products along with my own.” Once home, Stafford secured a location on the residential end of Oak Street, “the side you need a road map to get to,” she laughs. The first incarnation of Stafford Tile and Stone was barely 700 square feet and opened in the rough days following 9-11. “It was crowded if we had more than one customer. When I finally got two other employees, we really had to squeeze together. If someone made a phone call, they had to talk in the corner of the building so as not to disturb the rest of us.”
Two years after setting up shop, Stafford Tile had fast outgrown its tiny abode. Stafford was driving in a downpour one day when she saw a “For Rent” sign in the window of a corner shop on Magazine Street, a prime location. She saw the space that day and felt like she had hit the jackpot. From there, the business flourished as Stafford gathered an expert staff, an ever-growing client base, and an impressive portfolio. “After Katrina, we went through a lot with our clients. Helping someone rebuild their kitchen or their bathroom is a very personal thing. Home is where the heart is,” she says. After rebounding from the storm, a Baton Rouge location was the next step in 2008. By 2010, that store outgrew its small confines and was moved to a larger location in Southdowns Village, where sales promptly doubled.
“I call the staff my little rock stars,” she giggles. “They are what make me prevail. All of the salespeople have design degrees. Heather Trahan and Meredith Grover in New Orleans have been working with me for over seven years, and Kimberly Guillot and Daniel Baer in Baton Rouge are a fantastic addition to the team. We have so much collective experience that there’s nothing we can’t do. We could handle twice the workload of what we have now, easily. We can take a pattern from a dress, piece of stationery, a rug pattern, anything, and turn it into a mosaic. We look to all sorts of sources for inspiration, and we have fun working with products from all around the world.” “Our specialty has become creating the most fantastic spaces that our budget will permit. We love to work with custom mosaics and designs, but those are not our everyday work. We do lots of commercial projects as well,” she says. Stafford most recently completed the pool for the Monteleone Hotel and has also done hotels in Curacao and Aruba.
“Our numbers have grown in leaps and bounds, and I cannot thank the Louisiana community enough for the support we have received over the last 10 years. As I have been reviewing my client list, I am amazed at how many people we have touched with our products over the years. It is a real treat to think that these customers have such beautiful things in their houses, gardens, and pools, and I know how much enjoyment they get from our designs,” she says. To show their appreciation for Louisiana’s loyal support and service, Stafford Tile is throwing a small cocktail party at Preservation Hall to thank their vendors, followed by a larger customer appreciation party the following night, where Treme brass band will perform. “I’m just so happy to be a part of this city again,” she says. “When I was on my way back to New Orleans from Boulder, interviewing with Walter Zanger with my U-Haul truck in the parking lot, they asked me why they should sign on with me. I told them, ‘Because I can spell and pronounce Tchoupitoulas correctly, and I know what it means.’ They didn’t understand, but I did.” Stafford knows what it means to miss New Orleans.
5234 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70115
4269 Perkins Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70808