John Tomasello honored

John Tomasello stands in the showroom of Tomasello's Floor

Whether he is installing flooring with aplomb at local homes and
businesses or setting up equipment at a downtown event, John
Tomasello has made his mark as a go-to Gilroyan.
Whether he is installing flooring with aplomb at local homes and businesses or setting up equipment at a downtown event, John Tomasello has made his mark as a go-to Gilroyan.

The 54-year-old local not only installs fixtures such as carpet and linoleum, he has become a local fixture himself as a volunteer and downtown advocate, leading him to be recognized as the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce’s Man of the Year.

“He rolls up his shirt sleeves no matter what needs to be done,” said Susan Valenta, chief executive officer and president of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce. “He’s right there.”

However, Tomasello is humble about his contributions, even as he talks about his community involvement.

“I’m just a facilities guy,” Tomasello said. “I’m the one who helps just to make it happen.”

The list of events that Tomasello “makes happen” goes on and on. The owner of Tomasello’s Floor Covering and Interiors sets up the cooking stage at the Garlic Festival each year, and he has helped with tons of downtown events, including the annual Holiday and Memorial Day parades, the Downtown Pasta Feed and the Garlic City Fun Run car show. He also is an active member of the local Elks lodge.

Tomasello moved to Gilroy when he was 3 years old in 1959 and opened his first flooring business, Easy Lay Installations, with Mike Holbrook in 1978. In 1980, he set out on his own.

Early on, Tomasello learned the art of “coved” linoleum, or laying out linoleum along walls rather than on floors. He describes such work as a lost art, pointing to a piece of paper in his office that lists the 65 tools required to do it.

Over the years, his flooring company owner has developed a reputation for helping out with community projects in addition to his work at local businesses and homes. Most of the residential work he does these days is for property management companies, he said. Tomasello has also done work for the Gilroy Unified School District, for the City of Gilroy and for downtown building property owners, among others. In addition, he donated some of the carpeting work he did at the former Gilroy Community Youth Center.

In 2001 and 2002, as part of his commitment to downtown, Tomasello renovated the Cherry Blossom Hotel, a 1920s-era building, into apartments and commercial uses. The two-story building, on Monterey Street between Seventh and Eighth streets, was in bad shape before the renovation work, Tomasello said. He and contractor Scott McNamara conducted the work with the help of city loans.

“You can land helicopters on top of this building (now),” Tomasello jested.

Tomasello has promoted the downtown in other ways through eight years of service on the Downtown Gilroy Business Association board and through his work on the Downtown Specific Plan Task Force. In the process, he has advocated for changing the trees downtown so they would not lift and crack the sidewalks.

Tomasello also regularly provides lighting, sound and barricades for downtown events. Dave Peoples, a longtime Downtown Gilroy Business Association board member and owner of the Nimble Thimble and Garlic City Mercantile, said Tomasello has become well known for such work.

“He’s always been a behind-the-scenes kind of guy,” Peoples said.

Tomasello brims with energy and enthusiasm as he discusses local activities, his passion for his work and his love for the community. As he took time last week to discuss his past projects, he made sweeping gestures with his hands like a musical conductor and repeatedly rushed back and forth to his office to find past articles on his work. All the while, he gave credit to others, noting that Peoples and Ashford’s Heirlooms owner Steve Ashford, for instance, helped get him more involved in downtown activities.

Valenta said that Tomasello has spent a lengthy amount of time working on behalf of downtown. He and all the winners of this year’s chamber awards are deserving, she said.

“It’s not just a one-time thing,” she said. “There’s been a history of involvement.”

Meanwhile, Peoples said Tomasello is deserving for a host of reasons.

“If anybody was looking for a friend, John is the guy you’d want,” Peoples said.

The Chamber awards ceremony will take place at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 6 at the San Juan Oaks Golf Club, 3825 Union Road, Hollister. Cost is $60 per person. Details: 842-6437.

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