Mortarless Building Supply

Best Antique and Dead-Stock Tile, March 2007

When we damaged some original Franciscan tiles in our 1959 kitchen, we didn’t take the pieces to a costly tile store to reproduce the lovely autumn-leaf motif. We took them to Mortarless Building Supply to find the real thing. From the street, Mortarless looks like a typical gravel and stone yard: all dust and no luster. Inside the shop, however, is the city’s most surprising collection of dead-stock and salvaged tiles, from Italian ceramics that predate the Napoleonic Wars to art nouveau Batchelder to a remarkable stash of Franciscan, purchased when the fabled dinnerware and tile company went belly-up in 1979. “About 98 percent of our tile is unused,” says Joe Ranieri Jr., whose family has owned Mortarless since 1977. “I’ve got lots of family in Italy who keep their eyes open.”