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Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Southwest Louisiana ,
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Kelly Vigo at his company's current job site, the new transit station at the corner of Clarence and Ryan Streets in Lake Charles. (Rick Hickman / American Press)<br>

Kelly Vigo at his company's current job site, the new transit station at the corner of Clarence and Ryan Streets in Lake Charles. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

Vanishing Jobs: Masonry work helps build solid foundation

Last Modified: Sunday, December 09, 2012 9:04 PM

By Lance Traweek / American Press

After a long career as a union brick layer, Kelly Vigo went into business for himself in 1981 on a prayer.

Vigo had been out of work for 6 weeks. A friend of his wanted him to brick a Wendy’s restaurant on Highway 14, which was against union regulations.

“I had two kids at home and a wife, so I had to go to work,” Vigo said. “That morning I prayed with my wife, Judy, and said ‘God if you want me to go into business have the business agent show up on the job.’”

Vigo said once he got to the Wendy’s job site the business agent showed up 30 minutes later.

“I told him I was going into business for myself,” Vigo said. “And we started that year. I was the field and my wife was the office.”

Over the years Vigo Masonry, located at 325 Calcam Line Road in Lake Charles, has grown to employ 25 masons. Vigo has helped build several buildings at McNeese and Sowela, Women’s and Children’s Hospital on Nelson Road and numerous jobs at Citgo, PPG and Sasol.

“God has really blessed us,” Vigo said. “This company started on that prayer.”

Vigo retired last year and passed his business on to his son, Louis.

He said his business has a long future ahead.

“I don’t think brick buildings are going to vanish,” Vigo said. “Brick is still nice looking — the durability and strength of it is unlike any other material. You don’t have to worry about walls falling or termites or rust.”

What is vanishing, however, is craftsmen who take pride in their work and do it well, Vigo said.

“There is not a lot of crafts people left and that’s in all fields of construction,” Vigo said. “When I say craftsman — I’m talking about people who are really good at what they do. Today, most people just go out there for 8 hours.”

Vigo said because of that, managing and overseeing the job sites are the most difficult aspect of his job.

“You have to know the basic fundamentals of how to spread mortar, how to lay a straight brick and how to build corners,” Vigo said. “Masonry is something that is taught by hands-on teaching. Over the years we have probably trained over 20 brick layers.”

Vigo said he has seen modern technology improve his trade over the years, including hydraulic scaffoldings, and electronic saws and mixers.

“We try to keep up with all modern conveniences available to do the work,” Vigo said.

Vigo said while buildings have become more advanced architecturally, the art of masonry has stayed the same.

“There is still a need for what I do,” Vigo said. “I see the future of my business in my son and my employees who work hard everyday.”

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