Arim-Inc founder Nilgun Bandari is passionate about terrazzo—and she most certainly isn’t reluctant to share her enthusiasm for she what says might be the most perfect flooring technology ever created. “I’m not at all surprised to see how fast the terrazzo industry is growing all over the world,” she says. “When you see it used once, you want to see it used everywhere.”
Once a word known almost exclusively in the contracting world, terrazzo has increasingly been found in the architectural and building design spotlight—and a pretty good case can be made that Bandari and her Palisades Park-based company deserve at least some of the credit for the relatively newfound love. At the very least, Arim-Inc has led the way in developing marketing techniques and practices that have shaken up the supply side of the terrazzo aggregate industry. And the company’s recent moves to integrate its robust Web site with popular, easy-to-use apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and more have opened the door for direct retail sales to become a considerable revenue stream for the terrazzo industry—at least for those willing to embrace retail consumers by delivering content where and how consumers want to receive it.
This is hardly the future that Bandari envisioned when she was first introduced to terrazzo at the turn of the millennium. At that time, she was reaping the rewards that come with an engineering degree from the third-oldest technical university in the world, serving as one of six engineers guiding the construction of American Airlines’ new terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport. It was a massive undertaking (the lobby alone was 90,000 square feet) that eventually took eight years to complete and which carried a $1.3 billion price tag.
But Bandari wasn’t around for the official 2007 opening of Terminal 8, the largest passenger terminal at one of the world’s busiest airports. By that time, she already had roughly five years under her belt as a retailer and distributor of aggregates, the “building blocks” of the terrazzo contractor’s artwork. One has to ask: Why would someone with such an engineering pedigree leave that career behind and start anew in distribution and sales?
While Bandari’s decision might have been initially spurred by the levels of intricacy, detail, and color that are the exclusive properties of terrazzo finishing, she also could see that the industry was moribund, one in which a “good enough” attitude regarding marketing and education seemed to be the rule of thumb. Looking at the terrazzo landscape in general and the aggregate industry in general, Bandari was confident there was room for tremendous growth—and she also had a pretty good idea of how to do it.
One of the first steps Arim-Inc took was to take an existing terrazzo marketing tool—sample kits with an array of aggregates—and make them readily available to terrazzo contractors and the general public. “When we introduced our sample kit,” Bandari says, “it created a real buzz in the industry.” For terrazzo contractors whose reputations depend not only on the quality of their installation but also the quality of the components, being able to see the rainbow-like array of Arim-Inc’s aggregates made it much easier to make a call and place a large order. Indeed, the company’s sample kit—which features a breathtaking 112 samples of marble, glass, mother-of-pearl, and crushed stone aggregates, as well as garden rocks—is considered the industry standard.
Another way that Bandari thought the marvels of terrazzo could be spread was through the Web. After securing its supply chains and establishing relationships with aggregate suppliers, Arim-Inc set about launching the first incarnation of its Web site—and like its expanded sample kit, it made many in the terrazzo industry sit up and take notice.
In contrast with nearly all its competitors—many of them with decades of experience in the manufacturing and distribution of terrazzo aggregates—Arim-Inc’s Web site was chock-full of high-res images that conveyed both the lustrous beauty of its marble, mother-of-pearl, glass, tumbled stone, and other offerings. Arim-Inc’s site didn’t look as if it existed because a business consultant told them that all 21st-century businesses were on the Web; it looked like a celebration of art.
But Bandari and company have a much larger vision for its Web site than simply providing customers with another acquisition portal: they want to showcase the quality of their aggregates by partnering with contractors, architects, and designers not only to spread the terrazzo gospel, but also help people stay on top of news involving new applications for this centuries-old technology. “Terrazzo is the only finish which is still made at the job site, not in a factory,” says Bandari. “In our new Gallery, you can see the sublime beauty of the designs crafted by our partners in the contracting and design fields.”
Another feature that set Arim-Inc apart from the crowd is a retail store, where customers can browse every product the company carries and place a small (five-pound) order. As more and more uses are found for terrazzo and its aggregates, including countertops, tables, and home décor items, the Retail gallery is sure to be a hit among both interior and exterior designers and artisans.
The ultimate goal of the Web site, though, is simple: become the go-to source for reliable news on terrazzo, its numerous benefits, and its almost jaw-dropping versatility. “This hand-made product already keeps the flooring industry on its tiptoes,” says Bandari. “Whether people learn about terrazzo through our social-media presence on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, or if they see some of the incredible installations that have been done with our aggregates, we really want to highlight the industry as a whole,” she says. “I honor everyone working in this trade, and we want to be a place that showcases their phenomenal work.”