Scot Artisan Builds His Friendships

Reflections showcases people of the county who have interesting life stories and offers them the opportunity to tell those stories in their own words.

An immigrant with a trade that has taken him from Glasgow storefronts to Newport Beach master bathrooms--via New York City high-rises--Frank Heaney works for some of Orange County's wealthiest homeowners. The 47-year-old native of Scotland lays marble, granite and stone in homes from Three Arch Bay to La Habra. He says the overwhelming culture shock he experienced when he moved here nine years ago was surpassed only by the "mind-blowing" demand for marble in private homes. Puzzle-shaped floors, Greek columns and sweeping staircases, vanity table tops and even marble-lined toilet-paper dispensers have kept Heaney busy learning the fine points of his profession. The Mission Viejo resident spends as long as a year and a half fashioning and laying marble and stone in a single home. He finds the relationship he develops with homeowners the most rewarding aspect of his job.

His remarks were taken from an interview with Times staff writer Nancy Reed.

The first thing you think of when you walk into these fabulous homes is: Where did they get their money? The thing I will always remember are the great success stories.

I ran into a guy named McDonald; he was Scots Canadian, and he had a fabulous house in the exclusive area of Newport Beach called Cameo Shores. He had a view of the boats in the harbor, the whole shot. I asked what he did for a living. He told me that up until 20 years ago he was a carpet layer. I says, "God, you did pretty good for a carpet layer." And he says, "Yeah, and about 20 years ago, my brother-in-law and I came up with something we thought was a pretty good idea." And I says, "What was your idea?" And he says, "Well, we invented the carpet tack strip."

The fantastic amount of work done in homes in Southern California is just not done on that level on the East Coast. I had to steel myself to the idea that I had to learn another phase of the marble business. After having worked with limestone and granite as a competent and successful mechanic and foreman, I was introduced to a branch of the marble business that was blowing my mind--the extent of it.

I found out about millionaires. What do they do with their money? They spend it on their homes. What do they put in their homes? Marble. Forget about ceramic tile in the master bathrooms. We are talking about some of the most elaborate marble work west of the Taj Mahal. The finest marble produced by quarries in Italy is earmarked for California.

It is not like putting up 2x4 studs of anything else. This is something that really is a love affair between the owners and their own home. It doesn't matter if the marble comes from Africa, Europe, wherever, it comes down to the smallest detail. It becomes personal. And it is up to me to create the atmosphere that the owner deserves.

The most satisfying thing in my work here is the wonderful relationships I have had with the people I have worked for.

I find it totally remarkable that you can be accepted and respected for what you can do and the wonderful appreciation that there has been for it. It was a revelation . . . a breath of fresh air.

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