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9 Local Vendors Keeping the Emerald Coast Looking Fine

They say a good man and an honest woman are hard to find, but what about reliable workers in a  rapidly developing (read: dwindling) labor market? As our world changes around us, what hasn’t  changed are people’s needs. We still want the best for ourselves and our neighbors, especially  when it comes to our homes.  

So, I reached out to my family and friends for their favorite local vendors that they recommend for home  care help. The responses came flooding in, but as I reached out to over 50 recommended sources, I  noticed a problem a lot of us face on the Emerald Coast when looking for help. Several vendors, service  providers and their employees never responded. My messages were read by many, but those who  responded and were willing to participate were only a few. That’s why there are only nine featured in this  article, and I can assure you they’re the vendors you’ll want to work with. 

1.) Abraham Downen, Manager, Owner and Operator of New Finish Construction LLC

“Seriously, I started out being homeless living in a tree house when I was 15 to becoming a successful  business owner [today],” — Abraham Downen, New Finish Construction LLC  

Downen’s business and story started in Missouri around March 2005, and he was blown away by the joy  of being able to work hard and produce amazing outcomes. His daily motivation is continuing to create  and being astonished by his own results. From the unique projects to the varying work he gets to do  every day, Abraham loves being able to serve the entire Emerald Coast. From Mexico Beach to  Pensacola, there’s never a neighbor too far out of his reach.  

The most rewarding aspect of his work is being able to interact with customers and helping develop  different communities. Downen loves hearing the awestruck reactions, the oooo’s and ahhhh’s, when his  clients see their new, finished product. His mission is to help bring your vision to life and to bring the  essence of happiness directly into your home. 

“A lot of times people are entirely upset due to permits, zoning, product backorders or as simple as  trades being off of their schedule. I tend to go out of my way to make the customer happy, which in  return makes me happy to see the joy in their face,” — Abraham Downen, New Finish Construction LLC  

What sets Downen and New Finish Construction LLC apart from the rest? Abraham told me he believes  it’s the entire team’s communication, honesty, attention to detail and helpfulness. Also, the fact that his  team cleans after themselves. 

“The last one might sound funny, but it’s so true. We always bring and offer the community integrity,  honesty and respect. We will continue to bring and offer that same respect every day and in the future,”  — Abraham Downen, New Finish Construction LLC  

As for what he loves the most about the Emerald Coast, he can’t get enough of the scenic views that  accompany him with his work travels. No matter where he’s working the views seem to be unmatched  and majestic. Downen seems to be able to find the beauty and positivity in everything. So, whether  you’re looking for help with your project or positivity, Downen with New Finish Construction has your  back. 

“The most positive thing I can do is show people you can always do more with your life and more with  your time if you simply apply yourself. I will always help others,” — Abraham Downen, New Finish  Construction LLC  

2.) Mike Miller, Second-Generation Painter and Co-Owner of Emerald Coast Painters

“It’s in my blood! I love the business, the people I meet and the outcome of the transformation!” — Mike  Miller, Emerald Coast Painters  

Miller moved from Ohio to Navarre in 2006, and that’s when he and his wife established Emerald Coast  Painters. He’s been in the industry all his life, and since the success of their business, he’s been able to  focus on sales and project management while she tackles all the admin and office work. 

“Nothing is more satisfying to me than repainting something old and making it new or some dingy walls  and making the fresh and clean again with a new coat of paint!” — Mike Miller, Emerald Coast Painters  

While Miller isn’t in the field painting much anymore, he’s in the field daily helping clients and neighbors  transform their spaces. Whether it’s Pensacola Beach or 30A, there’s a reason their business is called  Emerald Coast Painters. He loves the entire FL Panhandle and the diverse home and building designs  available, especially 30A for its distinguished architecture and style. But, what he loves most on the  Emerald Coast are the happy faces of his customers after a job well done.  

“Meeting with new people, discussing their needs and delivering a final project is the most rewarding part  of my job,” — Mike Miller, Emerald Coast Painters  

Miller acknowledged the Emerald Coast’s over-saturated trade market, and he acknowledged how most  of said trade vendors are sub-par, which is an unfortunate reality most of us face when we’re left with the  outcomes of underwhelming workers. So, he told me his secret that helps his whole team stand out.  Emerald Coast Painters provides quality in communication, professionalism, work and the outcome they  deliver. Just check out their reviews and prove Miller wrong. 

“I often hear, ‘Thanks for calling us back, thanks for showing up, thanks for getting us the estimate!’” —  Mike Miller, Emerald Coast Painters  

When working with him and his team, you’ll see Miller offering solutions for every problem. Even before  moving here, he dug in and did his research to make sure he had the best answers for the best new  neighbors. Miller said moving here is the best decision he and his family’s ever made, and he looks  forward to continuing his positive impact here on the Emerald Coast. He already knows how he’s going  to do that, too! 

“Keep on ‘rolling’ the way we do! Pun intended, haha!” — Mike Miller, Emerald Coast Painters

3.) Jeff Baxter, Sales Associate at Emerald Coast Flooring America

“Being a sales associate at Emerald Coast Flooring America means more than just working the  showroom. We help customers…get the jobs done,” — Jeff Baxter, Emerald Coast Flooring America  

Most days, Baxter wears many different hats to help customers make the right design decisions for  them. He visits homes and businesses to do measurements, crunches numbers for and sends out  proposals and he coordinates projects until they’re finished. He’s not just selling. He’s working to  understand the needs of his neighbors, regardless of the specific community, to offer the best solution  for each specific scenario.  

“The most rewarding part of [my] job is helping customers get the finished product they’ve been  dreaming of,” — Jeff Baxter, Emerald Coast Flooring America  

While the store is still within its first year of opening, Baxter has been there to help customers from Santa  Rosa County to Walton County since day one. He originally joined the ECFA team for a change of pace, 

better pay and a better work/life balance. What he happily stumbled upon is what he describes as a  family-oriented small business that provides a supportive environment, in-depth training and a helpful  team where everyone plays an important role. The company’s even joined the Fort Walton Beach  Chamber of Commerce to help spread their support to their neighbors in that city and the surrounding  areas.  

“Our grand opening was a huge success with many chamber members thanking us for continuing the  revitalization of our area,” — Jeff Baxter, Emerald Coast Flooring America  

What makes ECFA different than all the other flooring companies in the Florida Panhandle? The business  offers a turn-key service of stone, tile, carpet, wood and vinyl products from your daydreams to the  installation stage. Whether it’s for your foyer, sunroom or bathroom, Baxter and his team will help you  find the best product for your situation. Their experienced staff installers allow the company to quickly  set up schedules to meet the customer’s needs. 

“Since we do in-home measurements, I enjoy seeing the older, interesting homes in the more established  neighborhoods of Shalimar and also anywhere on the water,” — Jeff Baxter, Emerald Coast Flooring  America  

Baxter is hands-on in his role at work and dedicates himself to offering the best solutions to fit  customers’ needs rather than selling what’s most expensive. He lives his professional and personal life  with the same goals: to be honest, have integrity and to be accountable. Those three core values help  him serve his family, his neighbors and his community in all aspects. 

“Duty of service extends to all of us beyond the traditional sense of military or Christian values. I strive to  do a little something each day to make someone else’s life easier or better—even if it’s just for a  moment,” — Jeff Baxter, Emerald Coast Flooring America  

Since moving to the Emerald Coast for work as a “post-Hurricane Ivan transplant,” as he fondly refers to  himself, he’s truly fallen in love with the beauty of our area. And while the natural elements of our area  are gorgeous, he believes it’s the people that make the panhandle so pretty.  

“I may not be a native Floridian, but I am ‘localized.’ We hold doors open for each other, we smile and  wave, and you just don’t get that in other areas of the country,” — Jeff Baxter, Emerald Coast Flooring  America

4.) Chadwick Collins, Fifth-Generation Plumber and Plumbing Service Manager for The Home Improvement Store

“I’m originally from Southern Illinois, so I’ve got that good, Midwestern, farm boy work ethic,” —  Chadwick Collins, The Home Improvement Store Panama City  

Collins has over 30 years of experience that he’s honed over the last several decades. He’s a fifth generation plumbing serviceman, and he’s currently the plumbing service manager for The Home  Improvement Store in Panama City. Now, he aims to improve his work by exploring new, modern  techniques and ideas to be even better and more efficient. 

“I try to let my work speak for itself. I’m not one to toot my horn, but I love a good challenge and believe  in taking care of my customers as if they were family,” — Chadwick Collins, The Home Improvement  Store Panama City  

Most of his day-to-day work involves remodel plumbing. So, unfortunately like most of us here, he  stumbles upon poor work previously done by other vendors daily. Lucky for us, Collins and his team at  HIS are qualified to install just about anything from a new sewage line to HVACs. 

“When we leave a site, our work not only meets but exceeds the minimum required state and local  codes,” — Chadwick Collins, The Home Improvement Store Panama City  

Not only are Collins and his team self-sufficient vendors, but they pride themselves in service. He  believes that being able to be friendly makes a world of difference when clients have to deal with people  who are less than professional in his industry. 

“I love the south, and [I] have made some amazing friends and established some truly great work  relationships with customers who continue to call us repeatedly for additional projects and service,” —  Chadwick Collins, The Home Improvement Store Panama City

5.) Robert Frizzelle, Owner and President of Frizzelle’s Odd Jobs and Remodeling Inc.

“After being in business for 3 years, my old boss asked me to become partners,” — Robert Frizzelle,  Frizzelle’s Odd Jobs and Remodeling Inc.  

Working 20 years as a prized employee at a cultured marble slab company, Frizzelle could finish  remodeling anything from fireplaces to entire bathrooms. But, he had aspirations of being a business  owner himself. In 2006, Robert parted ways from his 9 to 5 for something more. 

“I ran two companies for 10 years…[but] I decided to sell…because I enjoyed remodeling and home  improvements more than running a manufacturing company…I had 30 years of experience in,” — Robert  Frizzelle, Frizzelle’s Odd Jobs and Remodeling Inc.  

Frizzelle’s based in Fort Walton Beach, but he and his team service all of Okaloosa County and some  surrounding areas. He makes sure to have his hands on all aspects of the business, from meeting with  clients to bids and most importantly seeing the job through. He believes it’s important to stay engaged  and diverse with his work and industry. 

“I have gone to school here from elementary through high school, [and I] love the beaches and the  emerald green waters,” — Robert Frizzelle, Frizzelle’s Odd Jobs and Remodeling Inc.  

Frizzelle is a true Emerald Coast native, and you won’t find many of them around here anymore. He  originally moved to Fort Walton Beach in 1973 as a child in an Air Force family, so he understands the  local experience unlike any other. In fact—and for full disclosure—I’ve worked with Robert personally in  the past and I can attest to his uplifting spirit, hard work and dedication to his business, his neighbors  and hometown.

6.) Mercedes “Mercy” Feris, Owner and Chief Cleaning Officer of Happy Planet Cleaners

“What keeps me going is knowing I am doing my part in #KeepTheEmeraldCoastGreen and now  employing 7 kicka** people,” — Mercy Feris, Happy Planet Cleaners  

No stranger to the Emerald Coast, Feris has been vacationing here since 2006 and officially relocated  her family and small business from Austin, Texas, to our area a little over a year ago. Since moving, she’s  seen how lucrative life along the Florida Panhandle is and she wants to help highlight and safeguard our  communities, beaches and neighbors. As soon as she settled in she saw how certain people and  industries were slighted due to over-saturation and general lack of foresight by business owners.  

“I moved here and didn't appreciate how we cleaners were treated and paid. I did the math and  realized how profitable the cleaning industry around here is, so I thought I would start by paying my  people above average since they're doing the work,” — Mercy Feris, Happy Planet Cleaners 

Running a small business before as well as having a background in sales and marketing, this isn’t Feris’  first rodeo. She’s applied her business skills to help her hardworking employees earn a living wage. Also  working for a nonprofit for 15 years, and now serving on several local community boards and  committees, she’s an advocate for getting involved in the community.  

“[I] have a lot of knowledge in my head that I want to share to help our community thrive,” — Mercy Feris,  Happy Planet Cleaners  

Happy Planet Cleaners services the Florida Panhandle from Pensacola to Watercolor in Santa Rosa  Beach. While she doesn’t necessarily have a favorite area, unless we count the beach, Mercy does have  a favorite clientele. She specifically looks out for the elderly and disabled because she knows they need  the most help. Depending on the situation, she’ll even help them clean their property for free (or at least  at a heavily discounted rate). 

“I think about my mom and how she was a clean freak. When [she] got older she couldn’t keep her house  as clean as she wanted, and it drove her crazy, so I empathize with my clients,” — Mercy Feris, Happy  Planet Cleaners  

Pouring into her neighbors and employees cups, Feris practices paying people what they’re worth and  offering elderly and military discounts to give back to our community. Not only does she provide above  and beyond service to her neighbors but she also relies heavily on community feedback. She is focused  on learning, growing and taking customer feedback very seriously.  

“[I listen] to my clients on areas where we can improve or better service them,” — Mercy Feris, Happy  Planet Cleaners  

In addition to her passion about people, Feris is fervent about keeping the Emerald Coast green by using  the best natural products throughout her business. She doesn’t believe in cutting corners but cleaning  them, and she gives each employee a brush to get in there while using eco-friendly cleaners.  

“I think we could all do a better job at keeping our beaches and waterways clean by reducing the  amount of chemicals we use. God made natural disinfectants that we should use to  #KeepOurEmeraldCoastGreen!” — Mercy Feris, Happy Planet Cleaners 

7.) Daniel Meeks, Owner & Head Climber at Family First Tree Care

“Being a father of six beautiful children my life had a need for flexibility,” — Daniel Meeks, Family First  Tree Care  

Niceville-native Meeks saw the need for quality foliage treatment along the Emerald Coast a few years  ago after working for some of the larger tycoons in the industry. As his family grew, and with a few years  in the industry, he saw the potential in growing a business.  

“What keeps me going is my ability to provide a better life for my children as well as provide a service to  our community many are simply poorly providing,” — Daniel Meeks, Family First Tree Care  

In 2019, Meeks established Family First Tree Care. He’s trained in arial rescue, basic fire fighting, AED,  first aid, trauma wound care, advanced climbing and rigging techniques. He’s also schooled himself in business and customer relations. His company Family First Tree Care services Okaloosa and Walton  County, but he said he’ll always have a soft spot in his heart for Niceville, his hometown. Soon after starting the business, he moved his family to Freeport and fell in love with the community.

“[We] have nestled into the community with many warm welcomes, so naturally Freeport comes in a  close second [as my favorite place to service along the Emerald Coast],” — Daniel Meeks, Family First  Tree Care  

He continues to support his community outside of work with his family by enrolling his kids in local  sports and shopping small, local businesses. Meeks even provides emergency services to the city and  county as well as free cat rescues to his neighbors in his community and the surrounding areas as  additional community service. And while saving kittens may be my favorite part of his job, his favorite  part of being owner and head climber is not being limited or restricted in service. 

“I do not have to worry about telling a customer I can get a broken limb out of a 90-foot pine tree  [because] my climber [is] telling me he can’t,” — Daniel Meeks, Family First Tree Care  

Meeks loves being the salesman as much as he loves doing the heavy lifting, and that’s just one reason  why his company stands out among the competition. His focus is on providing safe and efficient tree  care. So, he makes sure there’s a standard procedures in place, like coning off equipment to inform  traffic where his team’s working, wearing helmets as well as eye protection, steel-toe boots and  chainsaw protective pants. Meeks makes sure there are first aid and trauma kits on every site. His team  only uses appropriately rated and tested equipment per industry standards. 

“Our company is different from not all [companies], but many of the companies around here do not  provide a safe and efficient tree care service,” — Daniel Meeks, Family First Tree Care 

8.) Travis Carlton, Owner of Carlton Pool & Property Solutions

“I have grown to do almost exclusively pool industry work at this point, [and] I love it!” — Travis Carlton,  Carlton Pool & Property Solutions  

Carlton Pool & Property Solutions was founded in 2019 by Travis Carlton, who’s fully licensed, insured  and has 17 years of property maintenance and renovation experience as well as 10 years of pool specific expertise. His specialities and services include pool renovations, refinishing, repairs,  maintenance and more. 

“I wake every day excited to tackle the challenges and problems set before me,” — Travis Carlton,  Carlton Pool & Property Solutions  

Carlton mainly works in Bay County, but the company also offers services to the surrounding areas  depending on the location and services needed. His focus is to bring people solutions to their pool  problems. Using his years of experience and the support of his team Carlton provides premiere pool  service to the Panama City area.  

“I enjoy and appreciate the relationships that I have been able to form throughout the community. There  are so many good people in this area, I am very happy and proud to be here,” — Travis Carlton, Carlton  Pool & Property Solutions  

Being able to travel throughout the community while being outdoors and meeting new people are some  of Carlton’s favorite aspects of his job and working so closely with his neighbors. Because of his work  and close ties to the community he knows there have been “pot holes” left by pool providers, but that  doesn’t deter Travis. He’s excited to double down on his business practices to bless his community the  way it’s blessed him. 

“I feel pride knowing the dependability, professionalism and satisfaction that we have been able to  deliver…creates a better sense of trust in the community and elevates the local pool industry image as  whole,” — Travis Carlton, Carlton Pool & Property Solutions

9.) Jimmy DeCarlo, Owner of Blue Collar Contractors LLC

“I love the looks on satisfied customers’ faces,” — Jimmy DeCarlo, Blue Collar Contractors LLC  

Selling his 12-year-old business and moving across state lines, DeCarlo said goodbye to Alabama and  hello to Navarre in 2010 when he relocated to the Florida Panhandle. He loves our area’s seaside  communities and beautiful beaches, and he’s committed himself to community involvement by helping  out in Navarre area schools and sports.  

Naturally an entrepreneur, he started his business Blue Collar Contractors about five years ago and  hasn’t looked back. To differentiate his business from the competition, DeCarlo prioritizes timeliness,  reasonable estimates and tailoring each job to that customer’s specific needs. 

“I feel everyone I interact with feels like they know they have made a good decision in hiring Blue Collar  Contractors,” — Jimmy DeCarlo, Blue Collar Contractors LLC  

DeCarlo’s favorite aspects of the business are problem solving and diagnostics. Helping provide  solutions to his neighbors and owning his own company has left DeCarlo with a sense of independence  and accomplishment. Nothing can stop him from continuing his quest of delivering quality work that  results in the highest customer satisfaction.  

“[I love] giving people the security of knowing that if something is needed in their home that Blue Collar  can resolve their issues,” — Jimmy DeCarlo, Blue Collar Contractors LLC

When it comes to home care and trade vendors along the Emerald Coast, it’s my goal to suggest  the best. So, please feel free to reach out to me wherever you are along your home journey! I’d  love to connect you with the right service providers for your situation and property. 

Connect with the Author Veronica Quesenberry.