Oberlin, Ohio—Katie Jensen (Triton Stone Group) is the 2023 Women in Stone Pioneer Award recipient, which was awarded by the Natural Stone Institute.
“It has been apparent and clear there are no limitations for women in this company nor in this industry,” said Alison Mullins, marketing consultant for Triton Stone Group’s Richmond, Va., location, in her recommendation letter. “Katie’s leadership in this movement should not be ignored or forgotten. She is a pioneer and an advocate for all women in stone.”
With their family background in trucking, shipping, and warehousing, the Jensens opened Triton Stone in August 2006. Jensen and her team grew from one showroom to nine in just under ten years. The company saw great success in its one-stop-shop business model and focus on customer service. In 2017, the Triton brand, along with five additional showrooms, was purchased giving Jensen full control of Triton Stone. Today, the company operates 29 locations throughout the Midwest and Southeast with a corporate office based in New Orleans.
The importance of being a woman-led company is not lost on Jensen, and she said she strives to be a strong example for her employees. “Katie leads our company encouraging constant self-growth within herself and others,” said Jennifer Crowe, regional manager at Triton Stone’s San Antonio location. “She has a vision to create more leaders within our organization and continues to invest to help us grow as leaders.”
As a working mom of four children, Jensen understands the work-life balance struggle. “She embodies a working mom and she encourages all other working moms as well,” said Julie Krebs, director of accounting at Triton. “I have children of my own. I never feel torn between the two. She is always compassionate, understanding, empathetic and encouraging. She has taught me over the years that women can have successful careers in high levels and still be mothers.”
Kat Bertrand, manager at the Baton Rouge, La., location , added, “We all know this industry is tough and it takes a self-assured, ambitious and intelligent woman to thrive in this business, let alone run one of the larger slab distribution companies in the Southeast U.S. Katie carries herself in a way that demands respect, while at the same time showing that she deserves said respect by conducting business in a fair, decisive and savvy way.”
Katie’s generous contributions to the industry have previously been celebrated through her receipt of the Natural Stone Institute’s 2020 Person of the Year award, recognizing her dedicated leadership impacts and extensive support to the association’s executive team during the year. She also has been honored for her company’s belief and notable financial investment in the Natural Stone Foundation—the philanthropic arm of the association—achieving Diamond Level Donor status in 2021 for contributions of $100,000 or more. Jensen continues to serve on the board of directors of the Natural Stone Institute in the role of vice president.
Nominations for the 2024 Women in Stone Pioneer Award are being accepted until May 20. To learn more, visit www.naturalstoneinstitute.org/pioneeraward.
Dan Rea – Lifetime Achievement
Dan Rea (Coldspring) has received the 2022 Migliore Award for Lifetime Achievement. Rea’s long career in the natural stone industry has been marked by outstanding vision, thoughtful leadership and unwavering commitment to promoting the use of natural stone, according to the organization. After 45 years at Coldspring, Rea announced plans for retirement, creating an opportune time to honor him with this award.
Rea began his natural stone industry career at Coldspring in 1977, working in the company’s manufacturing facility. He left to answer a call to duty in 1980, joining the United States Air Force where he served as a weather specialist and provided combat field support and weapon and radar testing until 1988. During his time of service, Rea mastered many skills that would serve him well in the natural stone industry, including discipline and understanding the science behind the work.
Rea returned to Coldspring in the role of a drafter and by 2003 was promoted to senior vice president of commercial sales. Recognizing a need in the market to become a strong driver of sustainability efforts, Rea supported both the efforts of the industry and of his Coldspring team to push the movement forward. He committed his team’s resources to strategically drive the Natural Stone Council through the development of the ANSI 373 Natural Stone Sustainability Standard, ultimately completed in 2013. His leadership and support early on were instrumental in helping get the standard to where it is now and where it is going in the future.
Polycor CEO, Patrick Perus, credited Coldspring for understanding the importance of sustainability twenty years before the rest of the industry. “They saw what we are all seeing today: natural stone is the future of a sustainable construction industry,” he said. “They must have felt quite lonely for a while, being the only one to carry the torch. They did it for all of us. Generously. We are in the process of becoming a better industry because of Dan and Coldspring.”
Retired Coldspring director of marketing, Kathy Spanier, agreed. “His contributions and dedication have been tireless and unselfish to strengthen and unify the industry.”
Through Coldspring’s longtime memberships, Rea advocated for support of both the Marble Institute of America (MIA) and the Building Stone Institute (BSI), fully understanding the value each association brought to the industry. While serving as MIA board president in 2015, he said that by unifying the two associations this new joint venture would not only defend the natural stone industry from well-organized marketing campaigns touting alternative materials, but also would become a powerful force in promoting natural stone well into the future.
Rea has also been instrumental in the advances made for the checkoff initiative to establish a federally approved Research and Promotional Board to generate industry funding. While legislation has yet to receive Congressional approval, recent attempts have come close. When the natural stone industry finally does get this important strategic initiative approved, it will largely be thanks to Rea—no volunteer leader has dedicated more time and effort to this initiative than he has, the organization said.
Nominations for the 2023 Migliore Award are being accepted until May 20. To learn more, visit www.naturalstoneinstitute.org/migliore.