This year, WFB launched the Ultimate Wood Floor Guy & Gal Contest to shine a spotlight on a guy and gal in our industry who go above and beyond, and inspire other wood flooring pros by their dedication to the industry. The pros, both contractors, would have to be extraordinary in their work ethic, integrity and professionalism.
After examining a large and diverse range of submissions, we narrowed this year's recipients down to our winners: Jessica Peterson and Anthony Magaro, and we are thrilled to introduce them to you and share their stories.
Both will take home ultimate prizes from our sponsors, Lägler North America, PoloPlaz and Graf Bros, including:
- A trip for each winner to Lägler's headquarters in Germany for the next Lägler Fly + Sand training.
- A Traeger Pro Series 22 Pellet Grill & Smoker from PoloPlaz.
- A $300 discount per $1,000 spent on their first order of Graf Bros. Rift & Quartered Flooring.
Did you nominate yourself or someone else this year and not get chosen? Know that we got so many impressive entries (we aren't just saying that, either)! Please try again! To enter next year's contest, go to here.
And to meet the 2021 Ultimate Wood Floor Guy and Ultimate Wood Floor Gal, keep scrolling.
Ultimate Wood Floor Guy: Anthony F. Magaro
Company: Mr. Sandman Inc. | Camp Hill, Pa.
Years in the Industry: 37
Anthony Magaro, "Mr. Sandman" to his clients, has seen a lot of changes in the industry during his 37-year career. And true to his motto, "There's always a better way," he's changed with it, adapting his business to changing times and technologies and expanding his knowledge with certifications. "He's always searching, creating and inventing," says Jacqueline Magaro, his wife and business partner, who nominated him by not only writing about all his attributes but singing us a song about him, too (you can see that video here). Anthony has made his own innovative contributions within the industry, developing a patented "wet-sand" finishing system for old or damaged floors that can't be traditionally sanded. He has another patent in the works, as well.
"His bachelor's degree from Penn State University and his work experience as a special investigator in the Bureau of Consumer Protection with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General have provided him with the unique experience to run a very successful wood flooring company," Jacqueline said. In her video submission, she showed off hundreds of positive feedback sheets from clients.
Over the years, Mr. Sandman has shifted from a large operation with up to six crews to a smaller, primarily family-run business, where all three of Anthony Magaro's daughters have learned the trade.
"He is highly regarded, not only by this proud wife and a host of family and friends, but also by the very customers who have trusted him to come into their homes and businesses to restore their floors with his expertise in repairs, installations, sanding and refinishing and, of course, his revolutionary patented 'wet-sand' system," Jacqueline added.
How did you get started in the hardwood flooring industry?
When I was about 14 years old I was trained on how to paint residential homes. We did a lot of apartment complexes. Later on I had a painting business as I was going through school for a degree in public policy. After college I got a job for the attorney general as a special investigator for the Bureau of Consumer Protection, but I was still in the painting business.
I worked with the attorney general for a couple years starting in 1985, and it didn't work out because I was making way better ends meet in the painting business. Then by 1989 I got a shop in town and I was doing furniture stripping, wood restoration, painting, wallpaper, and had just started doing some wood floors. I basically was self-taught. And so by the early '90s I got so busy with floor work that I turned over the painting business to a gentleman who I had trained and focused on just doing wood floors.
Do you recall the first hardwood floor you worked on?
It was a little room in a little town real close to Harrisburg. I remember it was for an elderly lady, and it was a second-floor with a really narrow staircase to get up. It was one of those bedrooms where the ceilings were at an angle and it was a very tough thing to do. I just remember using all the different things that are so out of date now. I was laying down finishes with 14-inch camel-hair brushes. When I ran that edger the first time, I got flashbacks of my high school years and my gym teacher, who was a marine. He was so strict; when you did anything wrong, he'd make you "duck walk" around the gym. And at the time I thought to myself, "This is the most ridiculous thing in the world, having to be almost like a duck." And I realized, after my first time edging, "Oh my God, it's the duck walk! I was trained for this!"
You've patented your own "wet-sand" finishing system. Can you describe how it works?
I perform a wet-sanding of an existing floor finish to remove the contaminants that would otherwise prevent the bonding and adhesion of polyurethane to any finish system. The contaminants that are removed include wax, carpet cleaning chemicals, food and paint splatters, and it has the ability to remediate urine stains and water stains. After the wet-sanding is complete, I do a color correction on any stubborn stains, then apply a sealer coat of polyurethane and finally a topcoat (or two if necessary) of polyurethane. It's extremely beneficial in many regards, because in some instances, of course, you cannot sand a floor; it's either too thin or it's an engineered product or a prefinished product or it's a bamboo product. This gives you an option. It also gives you the ability to preserve, protect and prolong what you have.
What's your philosophy for running a business?
I am always where the rubber meets the road. So I've always been there rubbing the elbows of the guys who are doing the work with me. The biggest thing is, to drive a team, you have to be the leader. You have to have something there for them to follow. So you always want to set those goals, you always want to train them with new and better things all the time to give them the ammunition and the knowledge so that they can not only perform better, but make themselves more money. And once you get a following and you're able to perfect your skill, it's not a problem when you go into someone's home and have them trust you with the integrity, the education and the experience to go in and work on their castle.
What's your philosophy for dealing with clients?
The minute they bring up a concern, you must address it immediately. There is no, "Hey, I'll take care of that whenever." If a client points out something, the next day when they see the job, you've already taken care of the concern. When the client comes back and looks, they should say, "Wow, that guy took care of that already." It's a psychological hurdle that begins with the first phone call, but then it continues all the way to the final check that you receive at the end of the job. The minute that contact is established and they are scheduling an appointment, my phone number is given to them. You don't necessarily have to be bigger to be better or to make more money. I can tell you this: The last 12 years have been the best years in business that I've had in 37 years. It's all been family, between my son-in-law, my daughters and my wife.
Do you have a favorite kind of project to undertake?
The funnest ones to work on are the old ones. I've done work on floors from the 1790s and earlier. Usually you're working with family members and it's an heirloom kind of thing. It's like working on an antique piece of furniture; you really take pride in being able to restore it to a condition that's almost like new. That's really cool. And then chestnut is another great one, because you know with the blight, there are not a lot of them. The ones that are here you want to treat with special care because you can't really find the wood yet to replace them. It's a gorgeous piece of woodwork.
What is your biggest wood flooring pet peeve?
I've come across this quite a bit lately because I guess a lot of people are doing a lot of their own work or hiring unqualified people: When you walk into a property and a house smells so bad of the finish, the VOC is off the scale and people are getting sick. In other words, my biggest pet peeve is coming to a job and there's work that other people have done to the floor that has made my job even more difficult—and then trying to tell the homeowners why it's going to cost so much more money.
What qualities do you need to make it as a hardwood flooring pro?
I think you have to be the type of individual who likes to take something that's old and beat up and make it look beautiful. You're looking for someone who doesn't mind working with their hands, doesn't mind going into people's homes and taking the quality care that you need in order to be in someone's home. And then, too, to be the type of person who can do everything in a way that is consistent, that is not rushed through to get to the paycheck. And then you'll find that with that kind of work, you don't have to advertise.
Anything else you'd like to add?
This is very important: My wife and I, in life, we walk side-by-side. We always have, we always will. So when you look at my company, and you see it's Mr. Sandman, look at the words put together and you'll see that it's actually MrsAndMan. She's the heartbeat of the company.
Watch Jacqueline Magaro's video nomination of Anthony here:
Ultimate Wood Floor Gal: Jessica Peterson
Company: Custom Hardwood Floors by Jeffries | Midland, Mich.
Years in the Industry: 8
Jessica Peterson's passion for learning the craft is perhaps matched only by her passion for teaching it. "She wants to learn, which is fairly common for many great technicians, but more importantly, she wants to teach others," Joni Rocco of Parker, Colo.-based Artistic Floors by Design, told us in a video nominating Peterson. "That's why she grows. Lots of contractors like their jobs; many contractors love their jobs. However, it's extremely uncommon to find technicians who are willing to find the time to teach others. Jessica wants to help others learn the craft because she knows how impactful and empowering it is to be a skilled worker in our industry."
Peterson's niece, Kennedy Wells, 18, can attest to that. "I have been interested in getting into doing floors for a while," Wells told us in her nomination. "She taught me … We refinished my parents' floor and I actually did most of the work. And it made me want to do this as a future job. She was really patient and encouraging and explained so much."
Peterson's dedication to building community within the industry was another trait Rocco called attention to in her nomination: "She attends events, she co-developed the 'She Sands' Facebook group for women in the industry, and she encourages women to get involved in the wood floor industry."
In 2019, Peterson introduced Rosie, a Bona Power Drive painted sparkly pink with a Rosie the Riveter decal that made waves across social media for its empowering feminine design.
"I was very pleased to see a woman in the industry that was kickin' dust and making a name," said yet another nominator and friend, Patrick Russell.
"She is the first to reach out and offer help," Lorie Davidson added in his nomination for Peterson. "She is an amazing floor mechanic who deserves to be recognized."
Stephen Diggins said that, ultimately, Peterson "walks the talk" in the industry: "Jessica, whether in the field or via social media, lives and breathes hardwood flooring." In total, six people persuasively nominated Jessica, earning her the distinction of being the inaugural WFB Ultimate Wood Floor Gal.
How did you get started in the hardwood flooring industry?
I worked in a wood flooring mill, where I first connected with Custom Hardwood Floors by Jeffries. I've been working for them doing the floors for at least eight years now. We still use that mill.
Do you remember your first hardwood flooring job?
I do. It was scary at first. It was an install. It was kind of a smaller job; it was weird, though. The homeowners were an older couple, and the husband, who was an aviator of some kind, was dressed in pilot gear the whole time. It was a little awkward. They were customers who were right in your face all the time, then they asked us to do a bunch of other random things like clean their lights in the hallway. And I remember I got yelled at by my boss because I was hauling in wood—I was used to carrying bundles of wood fresh out of the mill—and I scratched the paint in the house.
Was there a moment when it clicked that this would become a career?
It wasn't until I got to start sanding. They put me on the edger. They showed me for a minute and were like, "This is what you do." So I start to do it and I'm like, "I don't know if I'm doing it right!" Because I start edging with like 36-grit paper, and you should never do that to a new person. I felt like I was screwing up the whole floor. And they're like, "No, that is what it's supposed to look like!" Come to find out, I wasn't doing it wrong, I did it really well. That same job, though, I learned all the machines. I learned how to buff. They thought it was going to be funny—and I do this joke to other people, too, with the buffer; it's my favorite—but they let me go in this room and they said to put the tampico brush on. And the buffer did go crazy, but I didn't send it through the wall!
What is your philosophy for dealing with clients?
I have always been good with clients. Because you know a husband and wife will go back and forth, especially on stain colors and stuff like that. It can get kind of crazy. I can read clients pretty well and guide them to a decision. I can walk into a job not knowing anything about it and know the couple is going to go with golden oak. Any time somebody says "golden oak," it makes me cringe. Because it's like, no, you have so many more options! You don't have to go back to what you had. It's so frustrating. But then they see my face, and I can't help my facial expressions. I do it all the time and my boss gets mad at me, and he'll be like, "Did you talk them into something else?" and I'll say, "No, it was my face!"
What is your favorite kind of project to undertake?
I get excited when people want to go completely different. People don't understand most of the time that they have so many options. We don't do a lot of "fancy" floors. Sometimes we do, and my boss is really good at that. We've been doing a lot of borders and inlays. Not super fancy ones, but for Michigan, it's fancy. I like whenever people step outside of what they already had.
What is your biggest wood flooring pet peeve?
Can I only pick one? Picking up after other people is a mega pet peeve. I'll be sanding a floor behind somebody else, and they leave all their things everywhere and so I have to clean up their mess to be able to sand the floor. Another one is homeowners who say they're going to keep their pets off of the floor and then they don't. Then they say, "No, it wasn't on there." Yes it was, I know! I can see it from a mile away. I tell my customers, "After I water-pop this floor, I'm gonna know if you stepped on it." And they don't think that I will, and I'm like, "I can see your footprint right there." They always think they can pull it over on me, but no. I dream about it! I can sit in bed and be like, "I know they're walking on it. I know their dog's on it."
What is your philosophy about teaching the trade?
That's a big thing that I'm really wanting to do. I've taught all of our employees that we've had since I joined. I get excited about the younger people that want to do it. I taught my niece, and she learned every single machine in one day and she was so good, and she loves it. She wants to do it. I want more people like that. My approach to teaching is: watch me do it first. I'll edge a whole room and make them watch me do it. If you want somebody to appreciate the job and learn it the right way, you've got to take the time.
What are your goals for your hardwood flooring career?
One thing I'd like to see is more women encouraged to join. Even since I got Rosie, I see more women. And it's not even just about more women in the industry, it's younger people and just anybody. I want to see more passion for people, because this is going to be an ongoing industry.
What sort of qualities do you need to have to make it as a hardwood flooring pro?
Honestly, it does take a lot. Before doing flooring, I worked at the mill. And I've got to tell you about my former boss at Gable Land and Lumber in Midland, Mich. He is somebody I look up to so much because he's such a hard worker. He's in his 90s and he runs that mill like no other. He was a stickler to work for. But I want people to have that kind of mentality: work hard, it pays off. He's living the dream. So if you are passionate, be passionate. Do every job passionately and be the best. That's what I strive for. And I'm not in any way saying I'm the best, but I really want to be.
Watch Joni Rocco's video nomination of Peterson here: