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Steward Mellon is the perfect example of a successful business in Tampa, as it has been around for nearly 100 years. The company was founded in Tampa in 1919 as a general flooring company, and it’s still going strong in the terrazzo floor business today. The store weathered the Great Depression, and its floors can be seen in tourist attractions around Central Florida in places like Bok Tower and Kennedy Space Center, as well as several airports. Mark Naugle, grandson of original craftsman John M. Nagle, is keeping the family business going along with his father, John. He shared his thoughts on Steward Mellon’s long term success and what it’s like to live and work in Tampa.

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Your company has a long history in Florida. Can you share a little about that?

The company was formed as a partnership between E.G. Steward and A.E. Mellon in 1919. Two years later, they incorporated. I have the original Corporate Minute Book. It is an amazing glimpse into how the company survived and even thrived during the Great Depression, the death of Mr Steward in 1929, wartime, etc.

My grandfather, John M. Naugle, worked for the company as a Master Marble Craftsman since the ’20s. His work can be seen today at Bok Tower in Lake Wales, at the Ca D’Zan in Sarasota, and at the Snell Arcade in St Petersburg. In 1948, as General Superintendent, he considered a move to Orlando to form his own company. Steward-Mellon offered him a minority stake in the firm to keep him here. Over the years, he acquired additional equity in the company. In 1962, a rift formed between my hard-headed grandfather and the equally hard-headed majority shareholder. In the end, “Pop” Naugle ended up owning the whole company. Meanwhile, my father and uncle were working in the field. They were promoted to desk jobs within a couple of years. They bought my grandfather out in 1972. I started work here during high school and college, and progressed from helper, to apprentice, to journeyman, to foreman over the next several years with my father and uncle at the company’s helm.

How did you get involved int the business?

I was offered a project manager position in the mid-80s, and bought about half of my uncle’s stock in 1989 when he retired. Over the years since, I acquired the majority position, and along with my father, John H Naugle, refined the sort of work we perform and push a culture of “quality first.” What started out as a primarily tile and marble contractor now specializes more in terrazzo and industrial floorings. My father remains with the company to this day.

Why did you choose Tampa as your base of operations?

That was set in motion long before me. The company’s headquarters has always been in Tampa. There were satellite offices in North Miami Beach, Orlando, and Jacksonville. The subsidiaries were all spun off during the Great Depression as cost saving measures. They all remained clients of the company, and did some larger projects as joint ventures, up until their closures over the years. I love Tampa. I personally would not want to live anywhere else.

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What are the most popular types of flooring you install?

Terrazzo and industrial flooring are the most popular. We also do a fair amount of monument work. We have a division that performs maintenance work in food processing plants and retail establishments that works in materials as diverse as glazed structural units, resinous flooring, carpet tiles, and ceramic, but the Terrazzo and industrial Flooring are the most prevalent.

How does your work cross over into the territory of art vs. simple flooring?

Terrazzo is an art in itself. It is easily erred, requires hard work, and takes a lot of training in order to do it right. We have a policy of promotion and training from within, in conjunction with the apprenticeship program of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC). We have been signatory with the union for 96 years. Our skilled workers can install anything from simple one color projects, like you would find in a grocery store, to intricate multi-colored “Art in Public Places” works like Concourses H and the 2nd phase of A at the Miami International Airport. Even a simple design, well executed in Terrazzo, is art.

What are some of the most interesting Tampa-area projects on which you’re worked?

At Tampa International Airport: Baggage Claim, Airside C, Airside F, 3 of the 4 Economy Parking Garage Elevator Lobbies (Robert Calvo, Wendy Babcox, Wopo Holup were the artists). The Vaughn Student Center and the Martinez Sports Complex at UT. The Loretta Ingraham Recreation Center. We installed all of the granite pedestals for the Tampa Riverwalk Historical Monument Trail and the Veterans Monument at Hillsborough County Veteran’s Park. They are not open to the public, but we install Novolac Terrazzo (one of our own innovations) in clean rooms in various pharmaceutical facilities. It’s much more chemically resistant than epoxy terrazzo.

In other parts of the state, we installed the “Space Mirror” at the Kennedy Space Center, the terrazzo at the Centralized Security Checkpoint and Food Court at the Jacksonville Airport.

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Barbara Nefer is a freelance writer covering all things Orlando Her work can be found on Examiner.com. “