Joe Colombo worries that young people are not learning the trade that has sustained him since age 11.
BY WAYNE GRANT | STAFF WRITER
After Bruce James, of Ormond Beach, had masonry work done by Joseph Colombo, he knew that if he ever wanted that type of work done again, he would want him on the job. So he kept Colombo’s business card for 20 years.
Luckily, Colombo, at the age of 76, is still practicing the trade he learned in Italy as a boy. He can’t count the number of houses in Ormond Beach that he has worked on, and he is still adding to the list, including James’ home in Breakaway Trails.
“He does great work,” James said.
Colombo was also involved in the restoration of The Casements in 1973, working on the stone work and columns.
“I can’t sit still,” he said recently. “I can watch TV for a while but I have to get up and do something. I still feel good and I like what I do.”
He said he retired once but customers keep calling him. Also, the work is a nice supplement to his retirement income.
Colombo said it’s important to be in shape to do masonry work but that doesn’t mean being big and muscular.
“You have to be in good physical condition,” he said. “I couldn’t do it if I wasn’t in shape. I use my legs to lift and I’ve never had a back problem.”
The only evidence of wear and tear is that his forefinger on his right hand is bent from holding thousands of trowels during his lifetime.
Colombo said while brick is still used in homes, it’s not as prevalent as it once was because of cost. People started using more concrete and stucco in recent years to save money, he said.
The economy has been picking up, but he said there is still not a lot of demand for brickwork.
“I used to do two fireplaces a week,” he said. “Now I haven’t done one in two years.”
Also, many decorative features on houses that were once masonry, such as trim and cornices, are now Styrofoam, he said.
Brick is not as readily available as it once was. At one time, there was a supplier in Daytona Beach but now the closest one is in Orlando. The home improvement stores have brick but not in a variety of colors.
Colombo noted that, with work being slow, there isn’t as much occasion to train anyone, so the construction gap may cause a loss of skilled workers.
“I’ve got a bad feeling,” he said. “If you don’t train people, the trade may disappear.”
Colombo builds anything made of brick or stone, including swimming pools, fireplaces, porches, floors and driveways. He even built an outdoor pizza oven for a client.
He also enjoys working with cultured stone, a concrete product made to look like real stone.
“It’s nice,” he said. “It really looks like stone.”
Colombo was born in Sicily and started in the family masonry business at the age of 11. His family moved to Argentina when he was a child, where he honed his skills in soccer, and then to Rochester, N.Y.
In 1973, he moved to Ormond Beach and started his masonry business, Colombo Construction Inc., because he “liked the weather,” he said.
He taught youth soccer for the Ormond Beach Recreation Department for 9 years in the 1970s, but then he became too busy with work to continue.
One of the benefits of construction work, he added, is being outdoors.
“I tried working in a factory and couldn’t stand it,” he said.
He also enjoys the creative aspect of doing decorative work.
“I visualize in my mind what it’s going to look like,” he said.