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Company of the Year (1-15 Employees): Centis Tile & Terrazzo

The company's handiwork can be seen in countless locations throughout the North, from the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre to Science North, to nearly any Canadian Tire in this part of the province.

From Wawa to Toronto, and nearly every point in between, there are few places in Northern Ontario that haven't been graced by the Centis Tile & Terrazzo touch.

For more than 50 years, the company has been passed down through three generations like a family heirloom and has seen more jobs than current co-owner Dennis Centis can even think about counting.

"My father and I would drive around town when I was a kid, and he'd say to me, 'Oh, we worked on that school in 1958, and that hospital in 1961, and we did that building in 1972,'" he says. 

The company's handiwork can be seen in countless locations throughout the North, from the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre to Science North, to nearly any Canadian Tire in this part of the province, not to mention innumerable schools, hospitals and government buildings. 

This tradition of success continues to this day. With their business overseeing five to 10 residential installations per week and any number of commercial projects per day, Dennis and his cousin/co-owner, Robert Centis, are certainly kept busy.

A rough summary of what the company accomplished in 2005 includes the Cloverdale Mall in Toronto and condominiums in North Bay, as well as a laundry list of Sudbury-based work such as the courthouse, Wal-Mart, the Southridge and New Sudbury shopping centres, INCO, Dynamic Earth, and the Sudbury Regional Hospital.

The Centis story began in 1953, when an Italian immigrant by the name of Emilio Centis established the company in Sudbury, and saw it flourish and grow with the help of his nephews, Dino and Albino.

As time went on, their sons – Dennis and Robert – came into the business, officially taking it over in 1997. These days, the two first cousins run the company that bears their name, continuing the proud tradition started by their great-uncle so many years ago.

"With the exception of a few added items, the company offers the same services today as it did 50 years ago," says Dennis. "We're very proud of that."

The only truly new addition is the company inclusion of a re-developed stone division in 1999.  This supplemented their dedication to exterior stone work with the ability to manufacture specialty items such as countertops, sinks and vanities, which are then sold through any of their 11 dealers across Northern Ontario and Michigan, or installed in private residences.

And as technology has pressed forward and evolved throughout the years, so has its role within Centis Tile's regular operations.  Design work can be sped up through the use of computer programs, and its implementation done more efficiently through the use of computer-assisted equipment.  Even the Internet has factored into their business, changing day-to-day communication into something that the founder couldn't have imagined back in the early '50s.
"Everybody's got laptops and Blackberries, because information plays a much bigger role than it used to," says Dennis. "It allows us to access architects and engineers and designers all across the world in a heartbeat. Everything is done via e-mail. It's nothing to be at a meeting where something that would take weeks to hash out now only takes a few hours."

Despite these changes, Dennis says the heart of the company still lies in the manual labour, which has carried its success throughout the last five decades.  This, he says, is one of the great hallmarks of the industry and a true testament to those who do such work.

"We have laser levels, laser-guided equipment and computer-programmed machinery, but the final job is still done by hand," he says.  "You have to take that old-world craftsmanship to make it all work.  At the end of the day, it's still the guy on the cement machine, it's still the guy with the trowel in his hand, right down to the guy who cleans the floor at the end."