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Frank and Lelia Friedlander founded TuffSkin in 2007 when they designed a new product specifically to protect stone countertops. According to Lelia, their product, much like a screen protector for your cellphone with a superior hard coat, prevents etching and staining. After many years, the product can be removed and replaced with no damage to the actual stone. The satin acid and stain-free formulas have increased the durability and longevity of marble, limestone, onyx or travertine in hotel rooms, lobbies, restaurants and bars by eliminating the issues caused by alcohol, coffee, water, juice, oils, perfumes and more. The company works with both residential and corporate customers, but their largest clients are in the hospitality industry — including Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International, Hilton Hotels and many others.
And now their client list includes a "hotel on the water."
Two years ago, the senior interior operations specialist for Holland America Group visited the TuffSkin booth during the Hospitality and Design trade show. Holland America Group was having issues with etching and staining on countertops, tables and vanities in the rooms of their cruise ships, and TuffSkin seemed like it might be a viable option, Lelia said. So TuffSkin sent samples to Holland America, and in September 2018, they sent a team to Vancouver to install an actual sample on one of Holland America's ships. After seeing the product in place and watching how it wears, Holland America placed an order with TuffSkin in January.
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So in May, Frank, Lelia, their son Jake (Master TuffSkin Installer), daughter Katie (Sales Director) and a crew of installers traveled to Genoa, Italy, where TuffSkin protection products were applied to natural stone tables and countertops in public spaces as well as en-suite vanities on one of their Seabourn Odyssey and Encore cruise ships — a first-of-its kind project for TuffSkin.
While in Italy for the job, the family and crew were given a VIP tour of Carrara, Italy, the harvesting spot for Carrara marble, one of the most popular types of marble used for kitchens, bathrooms, flooring and other home surfaces. Led by Daniele Milani of Walker Zanger Italy, the tour filled them in about the history of the stone and the process used to extract it.
"We got a sense of the history of the stone and importance of this beautiful white marble, and — in history and currently — the desire for it in the hospitality industry and why it's so loved. It's exquisite and beautiful," Lelia said. "It taught us about the marble and where it comes from, which teaches respect and a greater understanding of the cultivation process."
The tour and trip as a whole also provided business development opportunities. Connecting with Walker Zanger, an international supplier, gave the group a better understanding of the kinds of jobs available and the market there is today for natural stone. The TuffSkin team also made connections at several high-end hotels that use natural stone counter tops and may have a need for their product and visited a Luxury Stone Collection slab yard that carries the Carrara marble.
"Anywhere we go, we make it educational for us so we become better at what we do, can better support people in the industry and ultimately help the end user," Lelia said. "Anything we can do to improve ourselves and understand other people's needs, that's what keeps us going. If we understand people in the industry better, we can serve them better and be more sustainable in a service-oriented capacity."
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The TuffSkin team is looking forward to possibly expanding into the Italian market as well as the cruise ship industry. They will be following up with the people they met at the Italian hotels, and if Holland America is pleased with how these first two ships turn out, there are 10 more they would have TuffSkin protect.
"We hope this sets a precedent for our products in the cruise line industry," Lelia said. "These are the first of many ships we hope we can protect in order to enhance the guest experience for many companies."
Lelia believes the trip was a glimpse of great things to come for the company.
"I think it solidifies even more the need and desire for TuffSkin in the hospitality industry to support the guest experience," she said. "We're making a mark in a new field and we're proud to be leaders in our field."
The company also will continue to expand in the U.S., Canada and other international locations. They have added five new network dealers in the past few months, including a division in Southern California opened by Frank and Lelia's daughter.
At the American Institute of Architects convention, an industry-only conference held June 6-8 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, TuffSkin will have videos and demonstrations of their products. Convention goers will find them in the booth near the Natural Stone Institute, a member-trade association TuffSkin is aligned with and through which they offer educational opportunities.
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