As far back as I can remember, there was always a floor store. Dad was a tile contractor. Early on we were a true floor store, and then it sort of evolved into Dad being strictly a tile installer.

My sister and I worked with Dad. But Dad started as an aeronautical engineer. He decided he didn't want to raise a family in a big city, and he came back home to this small area on the Oregon coast and entered the tile trade. 

We were raised in it. It was always a fixture. I thought everybody rinsed sponges and went out on a job on the weekend. And my two sisters followed suit. There was no distinction. It didn't matter if you were male or female. That's just what we did. One of my sisters didn't go into the trade after high school, and my other sister, Tiffany, did.

Vickie Bergerson installing tile

I apprenticed with my dad every summer, and right after high school, I worked with him as I went off to college. When I graduated college, Dad gave me a set of tile tools. Long story short, I ended up coming back. My dad and sister were in business. I moved back after I had my own business for five years and became part of the family business again, and we grew really rapidly. That was in 1999.

By 2005, we went from four people to 35 really quickly. My sister was a full-fledged mud mechanic. She was installing side-by-side with me every day. She was floating showers and installing tile and stone. She hurt her back, so we opened a retail component of our business and expanded that way. So, when we started doing retail again, I kind of took over the labor side of it.

My dad was a majority owner for a long time. He began to get out of the way and started going on vacations. I remember that was 2005. The business was basically running itself, and I remember I was going through the books afterhours with my sister once. My dad was off fly-fishing in Belize. I'm looking at the credit card statements with my sister.

All these outfitter and guide expenses were listed. I asked my sister about them, and she said it was Dad. I could not figure out why they were on the business account. She said I had signed a contract. I did not remember this at all and could not figure out what that had to do with fishing.

She pulls the contract out of the top drawer. There it is, handwritten. My dad had written on the contract in around 2000. He had outlined, in very legal language, that his salary would diminish but for the good of the corporation, shareholdings will diminish, but retirement benefits shall increase to include, but not exclude, and it listed right through to the fishing poles! It included the entertainment of clients and listed places such as Christmas Island and Belize on fishing expeditions. It outlined everything. It was notarized; it was signed; and it was dated.

I have no idea if I was drugged or what, but there it was on the bottom line, my signature. When my dad got back from his fishing trip, I brought it in, and I said, “What is this?” And he said, “I've been waiting so many years for you guys to figure this out because I really could have taken you to the cleaners. Isn't that fantastic?” I said, “I cannot believe the audacity of you.” He said, “It’s like my opus. It's the greatest thing I've ever done. You guys have essentially paid for my active retirement, and now you guys get a bigger share of the business. It's a great thing.” 

Vicki Bergerson
Vicki Bergerson, Trask’s wife and Rogue’s mother, also installs tile for the family business.
Photo: Trask Bergerson.

At this point, I'm just speechless. He goes on, “I'm telling you. I really missed a lot of things.

I can't wait until your son asks about being a partner in this.”  My son was around seven at the time. He said, “Make sure and look this over when your son wants to get into the business.” And I said, “I don't think my son's going to do that.”

It was about three years ago that my son showed up in the office with me and my dad. My son said, “So, what do you say we have a meeting about this ownership thing. I'm interested.” My dad looks at me, and he winks across the table.

Rogue Bergerson cutting tile

My son is now 25, but I have pictures of him on a tile saw when I had to put a milk crate upside down so that he could stand on it to cut tile. Out of high school, he did a year of commercial fishing, and I kind of let him do that. He was going to go off to a maritime school, and he decided that he wanted to work in the family business. I think he didn't know what he knew, and I was the same way. All of a sudden, he came into the business as a 17-year-old, and he knows as much as the 30-year-old next to him because he's been doing it every weekend and summer since he was seven. Now, he's one of our lead guys and a minority percent owner. 

Trask Bergerson and Kyle Hedin
Trask Bergerson is a member of Kyle Hedin’s, host, Floor Academy Podcast, Mastermind group where flooring business owners come together to set goals and discuss challenges. Photo: Trask Bergerson.

Passing on the trade is so important. I don't know how to quantify that, but it's because this is like a cult for us. So, it's sort of in my blood. It's almost like an imperative that is programmed into my DNA. I guess I can sum it up like this. I have mined people for information forever, especially when I was on my own. 

I met this old mud guy, for example, in Salem, and I was starting my own business. He didn't have a son. He didn't have anybody, and he had nothing to pass on. He was around 70 years old, and I was buying this guy lunch every day. I found his weakness. He loved Hooters. I’d buy him lunch, and he wanted to not die with this lifetime of information.  

I think that's one of the greatest sins that we can have. This is a rough industry to make it in. You're literally carving out your own path, your own existence against all odds. Hats off to anybody who is thrown out in this ring and managed to survive a recession and a good time and growth. Growth is terribly dangerous. If you've made it through all this stuff, then somebody should be listening because you've done something really right. And the tragedy is so many of these guys die without getting to write this down to pass this knowledge on to somebody else. 

I feel like I've done my job now that my son is better than me. I finally understand my dad's thing. I finally get it now that I’m a dad. It’s like something woven into me that I can finally rest because I know if I’m not here tomorrow, my son is going to carry on better than I have—and differently. I shouldn't be reading him my autobiography. I got out of the way. I let him build on our good points, capitalize on and leverage my mistakes, and we've created a better human for the collective world to benefit from.

How are you passing down your trade legacy?
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