Just a year out of high school, Jon Mayes asked his boss if he thought he was ready to take on the masonry responsibilities he'd been offered in the construction of seven McDonald's, all to be built with split-faced block. Mayes was told that he wasn't. "I asked my bossman if I took the job; and it didn't work out, could I return to my current job?" Mayes said. His boss replied, "I'll see ya back here in a couple of weeks." Mayes recalls, "I knew right then that I'd never go back."
And he didn't. His competitive nature wouldn't let him.
A year earlier at the 1998 Alabama state masonry competition, Mayes jumped from his seat and headed to the stage immediately following the announcement of the second place winner. Grabbing Mayes' arm, his masonry instructor exclaimed, "Where are you going?" Mayes replied, "To get my award." By the time his name was called, he was practically on stage to receive his first place award.
Mayes' instructor at DeKalb County Technical Center, Rainsville, Ala., Scott Phillips, recalled, "For just an instant, I thought ‘This could be embarrassing'. Then, I let him go. He was so confident, and I knew he had a great project."
Later that year at the SkillsUSA national masonry contest held in Kansas City, Mo., Mayes admits that he was disappointed in his second place finish. "My name was called too soon. I've always thought second place is the first loser."
The previous year, as a junior, Mayes had attended the national SkillsUSA leadership conference in Kansas City as a chapter business leader. Not surprisingly, he told his instructor, "I'll be back to win it."
Mayes had worked as a masonry laborer every summer beginning at age 15. During the summer following his junior year in high school, he was allowed to lay brick and knew then what he wanted to do the rest of his life.
Later, just over a year removed from high school and after a few months constructing those seven McDonald's restaurants, Mayes returned home and started picking up masonry jobs. "I just wanted to stay around home," Mayes said. "Then, the work just started coming to me. I've been most fortunate. There hasn't been one weather-fit day that I didn't have a job to do!"
Mayes has applied his competiveness to his trade and to his business, Mayes Masonry, which works primarily in the residential sector and now numbers five employees.
He's grateful for everything in his life; and felt a calling, few years ago, to the pulpit. Late in 2010, he was called, literally, by Guest Baptist Church in Fyffe, Ala. where he now serves as pastor.
On April 27, 2011, over 50 tornados touched down in Alabama. Most everyone knows of the death and destruction caused by the massive tornado that struck Tuscaloosa that day. Three other tornadoes touched down near his home. One missed his house by less than two miles and leveled the church he had previously attended. He's grateful, of course, that the tornadoes affected neither his family nor his business, but Mayes is still saddened by the extensive damage and loss of life that the tornadoes caused.
Since that day, his business has focused on rebuilding homes in the area and the church he had attended. "It's tragic what the tornado destroyed," says Mayes. "However, I'd be dishonest if I didn't admit that in spite of a generally poor economy, we've had all the work we can handle."
Asked about the future, Mayes says, "Of course we'd like to grow, but we'll be just as pleased to keep on doin' what we've been doin'." Mayes is married to his wife, Karin. They have a son, Brice (6), and a daughter, Hannah Grace (4).
Ever the competitor, Mayes competed last November in the regional competition of the Bricklayer 500 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. "A masonry sales rep asked me if I'd like to compete. ‘Sure,' I said. So the night before the contest, I pulled the rules, the plans and the specs off the internet. I read them on the 90-minute drive to the contest. We didn't win, but we had a heck of a time."
Then, after a long pause, Mayes added, "I'm going to do it again next year. I'll be prepared this time." You can count on it!