1. Business

Helping others keeps workers at Mercury Medical

It's almost more common to hear someone say they've worked at Mercury Medical for decades than to be called a newbie.

Doug Scrivner joined the Clearwater medical equipment manufacturer 47 years ago.

Barbara Palmisano signed up 33 years ago, about the same time as current CEO Stanley Tangalakis.

"My philosophy is I'm responsible for you," Tangalakis said. "I have to give you the opportunity to grow. I have to give you the tools. But then I have to hold you accountable."

Employees treat his philosophy as gospel. And it's no wonder. He can get a little preachy. When asked about where he gets his principles, he points toward heaven and a picture with Jesus in it on his conference room wall.

"I think he really, genuinely cares about every employee here," Palmisano said. "If we have a shaky time as a company, he just calmly says, 'We're going to be okay.' "

On hot days, whether things are good or bad, Tangalakis will call an ice cream truck to pull up outside and tell the employees to get what they want on his dime.

"They do little things like that to let us know we are appreciated," said Michelle Eibell, a business account representative for the company.

Founded in 1963 as a local operation called Florida Anesthesia Services, the company sold medical supplies and later added anesthesia machines. The name changed to Mercury Medical in 1970.

The company once maintained its offices across from St. Anthony's Hospital near downtown St. Petersburg. Now it runs its business, manufacturing, warehouse and shipping operations out of a complex that once housed Bausch & Lomb's operations on 49th Street N in Clearwater.

The lake in the back of the facility makes for an idyllic setting for the company, except when uninvited visitors show up.

"We had a sales meeting interrupted because of an 8-foot gator between two cars in the parking lot," Scrivner said.

Tangalakis, 85, a pharmacist, joined the company in 1980. He purchased the company in 1982 and took sole control a year later.

Under his leadership, the company began an expansion in 1985.

"We've become a global company over the years," Scrivner said.

Instead of just selling equipment, the company began manufacturing it. Mercury maintains clients in 70 countries.

Locally, the company added in-home patient services such as providing oxygen equipment. In-home care also includes caring for children and others who depend on ventilators, sometimes from birth to death.

It's tough work, but done with the knowledge that lives depend on it and with a love of a team that works well together.

"We have a great crew out there," Palmisano said. "It's a lot of hard work. There's also a lot of laughs. It makes the day go by."

Teamwork is critical, said Trish Puffer, somewhat a newbie by Mercury standards with just five years at the company.

"What we do is important," said Puffer, a staff accountant. "The things that we manufacture save lives."