TARPON SPRINGS — Since being founded by David Howard in 2013, the primary mission of VetCor, a home restoration company staffed by veterans and those who share similar values, has been to provide quality and efficient work for homeowners who have suffered water- and mold-related damage problems.
“We’re a military-owned and run, and like-minded, service company similar to ServPro or ServiceMaster,” Paul Huszar, the company’s president and chief executive, explained during the grand opening of VetCor’s first Pinellas County branch June 11. “We do water mitigation, fire mitigation, flooding, mold disposal, basically anything that would cause a homeowner to call their insurance company.”
Huszar, an engineer and retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who said he was Howard’s first hire, attended the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce’s ribbon-cutting event along with Tarpon Mayor Chris Alahouzos, commissioners Connor Donovan and Costa Vatikiotis and U.S. Congressman Gus Bilirakis. He said the main reason customers choose VetCor is due to their, well, core values.
“When does a veteran show up? Early, because early is on time and on time is late!” Huszar exclaimed. “It’s all about treating people with dignity and respect, and people are so grateful when you show up on time. We want to get in, get out and complete the mission.”
While the lack of four-hour service-call windows is one reason for customers to call VetCor, which currently has eight franchises in four states, including five in Florida, it’s the quality of work and the dedication of the employees that’s helped the company earn accolades, including being named a “Fast 50” growing business honoree by the Tampa Bay Business Journal in 2019. The combination of shared military service and business experience is what led to the opening of VetCor’s first Pinellas franchise in Tarpon Springs, according to branch owner/manager Mike Caswell.
“I’ve lived in Tarpon since 1977, went to Tarpon High and coached football here for 20 years,” said Caswell, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran who actually coached Commissioner Donovan in youth football.
“This is my community and I wanted to be part of building something in my community.”
Caswell explained how following decades in the insurance industry he switched to the water mitigation side in 2011, which eventually led to a collaboration with Huszar and VetCor on some marketing work.
“I told Paul, ‘Whenever you open a franchise in Pinellas County, I want in!’” Caswell recalled. “I have expertise in the insurance part, so I can help. I have all these tools in my tool bag to make it happen. It’s a great field, and I love helping people.”
A few years later, the ribbon-cutting, or “activation” ceremony, for Caswell’s shop, which is behind a strip plaza on U.S. 19 near Klosterman Road, was held under a strong midmorning sun. Dozens of attendees, including Bilirakis, stood at attention while Huszar presented a “guidon,” or small flag, to Caswell with the new branch’s information on it.
Afterward Alahouzos, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps reserves, thanked Caswell for opening his business in Tarpon Springs.
“I’d like to congratulate Mike on opening his new business here in Tarpon,” the mayor said. “Mike has been here for many, many years, he’s coached the Little Spongers for a long time, and I’m so glad he had the opportunity to open this business here.”
When asked if he felt VetCor’s military-style approach to serving homeowners would be successful, Alahouzos said, “nowadays, appointments aren’t kept, so I think people appreciate the military way. Throughout my life I’ve always said if you’re on time, you’re late! Be 10 minutes early! And because of this I’m positive they will be very successful, and I encourage the people of Tarpon Springs to support them.”