The Legacy of Unique Wood Floor Co.

The Scout Guide is all about the people behind the independently owned businesses in our community—and Unique Wood Floor Co. in Naples is truly a family affair. Founded by Steve Karterouliotis, an industry expert for more than 30 years, this specialty wood flooring company offers an extensive collection of finely crafted wood floors. Here, we chatted with Philomena Karterouliotis Rodriguez—Steve’s daughter—about how family forms such an important foundation for their business.

When did you decide to work in the family business?
Ever since I was little, I’ve shown great interest in being a part of the family business. I have vivid memories of my “office”—consisting of an old television and a disconnected keyboard located underneath a table in my father’s showroom—where I would spend a good portion of my childhood mimicking what my dad would do. I had highlighters, “blueprints,” and my very own stash of work gum. (My father always has gum, so at the time, this was very exciting). I remember him sending my sister and me mail and making sure that we knew how important it was for us to deliver it to the destined employee. My family and I are very close. Therefore, being in a position where I can work hard and still be around the people I love was a no-brainer. Throughout my academic career my mom, dad, siblings, and husband have been incredibly supportive of my endeavors. Still, my mind was set on growing the company and continuing a family legacy.

What do you love most about working together as a family?
I’d like to think that we all bring a lot of love to the table, but more specifically, one of my favorite things is how goofy we all are. The atmosphere in Unique is just that: unique. We always have music playing and are either singing, dancing or cracking jokes … when we aren’t working, of course! I cannot tell you how many times I have been entrenched in work, and either my dad or Christian [Rodriguez, Unique’s sales director and Philomena’s husband] would walk by and make a funny face or something of the like. It amazes me how such a simple act can subdue whatever stress I was feeling at that moment.

As a family, what are activities you enjoy outside of the showroom in the Naples area?
Due to the current state of the world, our travel plans have been halted. But, when we are not seeking our next adventure, you can find us at church, sporting events, the beach and, often, at one another’s home. We all are pretty active and rarely have downtime, but I am not one to complain about that!

What are your family values, and how do they contribute to your business success?When I was old enough to start working during my summer breaks, my dad would tell me that I had to outwork everyone. Just because I shared the last name did not mean that I got to slack off. From that moment on, I made it a point to help wherever I could and to acquire knowledge about each area of the business. Years later, I am still learning new things, and I constantly remind myself that it has taken my dad over 30 years to know what he knows. 

Another critical value I have gleaned from my father is integrity. We all know how cutthroat the real world can be and how, if not careful, you can become the thing you despise. Today, I look at my dad and the many wonderful relationships he has built throughout the years and know that it was not by luck or by chance, but by faith, hard work, tenacity, trust and respect—which is precisely how my husband and I intend on conducting ourselves.

What advice would you give to someone who may be considering joining a family business? 
I believe we’ve all been told at one time or another to “keep our work and home life separate,” but what about when the two are intertwined? Since my family and I are close and enjoy one another’s company, spending an immense amount of time with them is no bother. Working in a family business does lead to the occasional spat and can quickly land in disarray if you are not careful. Whether considering or currently in this position, I would advise anyone to set boundaries and prioritize respecting one another. Oftentimes, it is easier to criticize those closest to you because you are comfortable. Complacency kills. So, always keep open communication and an open mind. If you do the above, then working in a family business can be incredibly rewarding. Together, my husband, father and I pick each other up when we are down, work through stressful situations, and have a much clearer understanding of what pressure is being applied and to whom. We are a family and a team, and a team rises by lifting one another.

Unique Wood Floor Co. is located in The Collective at 111 10th St. S., Suite 204, Naples. See them in Volume 9 of The Scout Guide Naples, and learn more on their website or on Instagram.