Written in Stone

Plenty has changed industry-wise since this company opened its doors 30 years ago, but Beaver Valley Stone’s core values have not.

When Antonio (you can call him Tony) Pacitto launched Beaver Valley Stone in 1989 after working at another established stone company for more than 20 years, he had one goal in mind: offer the largest selection of the highest-quality stone products so clients could find everything they wanted without leaving the stoneyard. And believe it or not, that was an anomaly back then.

“When I started out in this business, people didn’t do a lot of hard landscaping around their houses,” Pacitto says. “Housing prices were so out of control in the Greater Toronto Area that it got too expensive for homeowners to sell their homes, so instead they started to look for ways to expand their living spaces. People wanted to bring the inside out. They wanted outdoor BBQ dining areas, fire pits, outdoor kitchens.”

The thing is, outdoor sectionals and lounging furniture weren’t mainstream back then, says Pacitto’s daughter, Tania, who’s sitting with her father for our interview at the company’s head office in Markham, Ont., one of their three locations. Tania, along with her brother, Mark, and their mother, Hazel, have worked at Beaver Valley Stone either full or part time consistently for as long as they can remember (though Hazel has since happily retired). And, while homeowners found ways to expand their spaces onto back patios, they also started bringing stone indoors, explains Tino Cimone. (FYI: Pacitto and Cimone worked together at the aforementioned stone company and Pacitto invited Cimone to join him to open Beaver Valley Stone, making them coworkers for more than 50 years.)

“They did this by adding kitchen backsplashes, shower accents, fireplace centrepieces and even stone flooring. We pushed the industry forward and helped it grow by carrying the best and largest inventory and material,” Cimone says. “We were the biggest, most influential company in the landscaping industry a few years after we opened.” That’s not to say there were inflated egos or a few hiccups along the way. When asked for an anecdote about a project that didn’t go perfectly according to plan, manager Joe Ponte, who just celebrated his 24th year with the company (you see the common thread here when it comes to family and employees?), prompts Pacitto to share the “Brussels story.”

“We had a customer who ordered custom Brussels block for his home at Lawrence and Bayview Avenues,” Ponte says. “Brussels block looks like regular brick but is purposely tumbled to look rustic. The only problem was that the landscaper who was hired by the customer had never heard of this new product and when he came to our yard to pick it up, he was furious. ‘How dare you try to sell me broken bricks!’ he yelled.”

Pacitto quietly interjects with a knowing smile. “Of course, once his client assured him that this was indeed what he ordered, the tumbled Brussels block, all went well after that.”

What really went well for Pacitto was this: He had a strong (and correct) conviction that would literally change the way people designed their homes in the future. “He encouraged people to mix natural stone in with other products. This was revolutionary,” says Tania. “Landscapers and designers were like, ‘What do you mean? You can’t do that!’ and he said, ‘Yes, yes you can. You don’t have to do all or nothing; you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on all-natural. You can do a bit of both and save that way. And it will look gorgeous.’” It seems a tad obvious now but that’s one of the main reasons Pacitto is a true pioneer in the industry.

When asked about what the next 30 years will bring, those who know him best know not to utter the word “retirement.” Suffice it to say, Pacitto will continue to be a visionary at Beaver Valley Stone, supporting not just his immediate family but his business family and friends as well, and pursue his philanthropic endeavours (of which there are many) until his stoneyard is truly full.