Category Archives: TACO News

TACO Team Adds New Faces in Marketing and Customer Service

The TACO family is growing! We’re excited to introduce new additions to our Marketing and Customer Service Departments, beginning with our new Marketing Manager Lia Castillo – a Miami native with big plans for taking TACO to the next level.

Since childhood, Castillo thought she would become a doctor – a notion instilled in her by her parents from a young age. Despite hitting the science books and earning a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Castillo was drawn to design and marketing – ultimately changing course and earning her MBA in Marketing from NOVA and opening her own firm.

From there, Castillo’s path led her to TACO – joining the manufacturing company midway through a major rebranding.

“For the first two months, it was ‘oh my, there’s a lot to do,” said Castillo, who joined the TACO team in late December.

Where others might be daunted by the tasks involved in rebranding, such as revamping the TACO Marine Web site, redesigning the 2018 catalog and other collateral changes, Castillo said she was excited.

“What really appealed to me was the fact that I can take [TACO’s marketing] to the next level,” said Castillo, “pick it up in the air, use a bat and swing a homerun.”

Beyond the various rebranding projects, Castillo said she knew the TACO owners were on board with progression – embracing the company’s long-standing belief in continual innovation.

Since tackling TACO’s rebranding head on, Castillo has spearheaded new marketing campaigns, met with other department heads to implement new strategies and even brought on additional design talent to the team.

For her long-term goals, Castillo said she plans to incorporate new marketing technologies and processes – aiming to become the central nervous system of the company moving forward while also propelling TACO to be the number one go-to marine brand for manufacturers, boat builders, retailers and consumers.

“I want us to be top of mind, first in line,” said Castillo. “I want TACO to be the first company people think of with regard to our values and the fact that we’re innovative, we’re service oriented and we have great quality. I want the consumers to have that transparency within the organization to see how we produce things and what innovative, new machinery we have to meet their needs. I want them to think of us as being the Apple of the marine industry. We come out with these great products and we focus on the benefit for you.”

We’re expanding our TACO customer service team with the addition of Ernie Santiago, our new Customer Service Manager – bringing more than 20 years’ experience from a multitude of industries to the position.

Prior to joining TACO, Santiago worked customer service in the heavy equipment, aviation and marine electronics industries, respectively. Because of his varied experiences, Santiago said transitioning to TACO was easy.

“I understand the customers,” said Santiago, a South Florida transplant who moved from the Boston area when he was 15. “I recognized immediately the client base.”

Santiago said one of the biggest strengths in the TACO customer service team is longevity – with more than half having been at the manufacturing company for 20 years or more. Additionally, he said every member of the customer service team – no matter how long their employment with TACO – brings a wealth of experience to the role, including a seasoned boat captain and an expert in data entry.

“I don’t think there’s anything these people won’t know,” he said.

After joining TACO in February, Santiago said he’s made elevating the level of customer service a renewed priority for the team – aiming to make the department the heart of the company.

“To me, that’s the only way to remain competitive from a customer service standpoint,” he said. “All of our customers matter. Whether you’re the small ma and pa shop down the road or a big retailer, everybody’s important to us. We want to be able to take care of all our customers with a lot of care, a lot of empathy and obviously do everything quickly and efficiently.”

For the long term, Santiago said he plans to incorporate new policies and procedures into the department to fine tune customer service with the highest-quality support. Additionally, as the company continues to grow in the marine industry, he plans to streamline the customer service onboarding processes for new team members.

“If someone comes in fresh on our team, you hand them a book, basically, and they can assimilate into our TACO life a little bit quicker and faster,” he said.

TACO also brought onboard Zoe Munyon as the new Marketing Assistant – helping with everything from print materials to the 2018 catalog and everything in between.

Prior to joining TACO, the North Miami native grew up boating and fishing with her dad, a former charter boat captain and avid angler. In fact, Munyon credits her childhood experiences on the water for fostering her desire to work in the marine industry long term.

“Growing up, we had a few fishing boats over the years,” said Munyon, who began her marketing career in the marine industry. “Previously, when I worked in the boating industry, I felt connected to what I was doing on a daily basis.”

Briefly, Munyon said she left the marine industry to dabble in sales, but said her heart was back in boating.

“I’m very happy to be working at TACO now because I’m back doing marketing, something I truly enjoy,” she said.

With a Master’s degree in Marketing from NOVA and a Bachelor’s degree in Business from FIU, Munyon said she is excited for her new role within TACO and the many new design possibilities, such as revamping the packaging, launching a new Web site and creating new catalogs, pamphlets and flyers.

Additionally, Munyon said she is looking forward to diving deeper into the marine industry and TACO – getting to know the many products TACO manufactures while also working closely with the many departments within the company, such as engineering, customer service and production.

In addition to hiring new team members, we’ve also welcomed back Account Management Specialist Rey Gonzalez, who took an 18-month hiatus to travel.

After being out of the TACO headquarters for several months, Gonzalez said he was taken by surprise when he walked through the doors on his first day back.

“I got that ‘wow’ feeling,” said Gonzalez, who hadn’t seen TACO since its offices were renovated. “It’s modern and up to date.”

The renovations include doing away with closed-off cubicles and creating a more open, collaborative working environment with a modern look and feel.

“I was expecting to come back to my old cubicle and doing things the way it was done before,” said the Ohio native and former Marine.

After traveling and taking time to explore his goals, Gonzalez said he views customer service in a different light – developing a new appreciation for the role.

“I can take my experiences and bring them back [to TACO],” he said. “I’ve grown so much more, as far as how to talk to customers and take care of them.”

Despite nearly 20 years as a TACO Account Management Specialist, Gonzalez said he has new goals for the position and the TACO team – focusing on elevating his service from great to superior and providing individualized attention to each account, no matter the size or request.

“Once you put that caring feeling behind that conversation, people are more receptive [and] they want to listen to you,” said Gonzalez. “You have to take time out for that person, no matter what. Whether it be a huge order or a small order, it’s an order. It’s someone putting faith in the company, buying our product. We work so hard to get [that product] out the door, so why not get it into the person’s hands and make their whole experience pleasant.”

Gonzalez will not only pick up where he left off – managing several TACO accounts – but anticipates he will specialize in specific areas of the company to provide top-notch service to his customers.

For more information about TACO Marine, visit or fill out the contact form below.

TACO Hires New Strategic Product Manager Mark Henderson

We are excited to announce that Captain Mark Henderson of the Liquid Fire Fishing Team is joining the ranks of TACO Metals as our new Strategic Product Manager.

Henderson at the 2018 Progressive® Miami International Boat Show at Miami Marine Stadium docks. TACO Marine Photo / Dana Koman

As a lifelong fishing enthusiast, who turned his hobby into a renowned sport fishing team, it only made sense that Henderson would someday work in the marine industry. The only question was when?

Henderson didn’t begin competitively sport fishing until 2004, when his friend invited him to join his team for the Raleigh Saltwater King Mackerel Tournament.

“We didn’t know anything about tournament fishing, but we wanted to fish,” said Henderson, a Durham, N.C. native equally known for his humor and thick Southern accent as well as his fishing accomplishments.

But by the end of 2004, Henderson and his friend qualified for the Southern Kingfish Association National Championship. Soon after, Henderson bought his first boat – a 25-foot Contender with a bright red hull, which he named “Liquid Fire” after his father’s homemade hot sauce.

From there, Henderson launched the Liquid Fire Fishing Team and began his dive into the marine industry – winning multiple tournaments and accelerating his team into the sport fishing record books.

Henderson, holding a freshly-caught King Mackerel, was awarded the 2008 Yamaha Professional Kingfish Tour’s Angler of the Year. Photo Courtesy of Liquid Fire Fishing Team

“I was able to spend more and more time in the industry, around boating and around center consoles,” said Henderson, who previously worked in the automotive industry for nearly 25 years. “[The marine industry] became a growing passion for me, [but] for a while I just kind of fought it. I [already] had a great job and great freedoms and things like that. I didn’t pursue it real hard, but I was also watching and looking at Trade Only Today and talking to a lot of people about the industry.”

In 2009, after Henderson caught a sport fishing sponsorship from TACO Metals, he said his passion for the marine industry grew to a point that he could no longer fight his desire to shift career gears.

“I saw such a vast opportunity within the company and the sections of the business that they’ve got,” said Henderson, a married father of three. “There’s really nobody around like TACO. I felt like my skillset could benefit them and benefit me as far as a career standpoint.”

Having only started at TACO March 5, Henderson has already hit the water at full throttle – working the TACO Marine booth at the Independent Boat Builders, Inc. Vender Expo in St. Louis, Mo. and angling together preliminary production on a new as-yet named TACO YouTube program, which is slated to debut this Spring.

The Liquid Fire Fishing Team is comprised of Henderson and his sons, Crockett and Joshua, wife Audrey, parents Sue and Charles and brother-in-law Chris Waters. Today, they compete aboard a SeaVee 390z Center Console with Mercury 350 quad outboard engines, which is equipped with TACO Marine Grand Slam Pro Series 500 Outrigger Top Mounts and Carbon Fiber Poles. Photo Courtesy of Liquid Fire Fishing Team

As the Strategic Product Manager, Henderson will oversee new TACO product launches in 2018, which may include everything from testing and development with TACO engineers to getting the product to market on time with the correct price point.

“Those are some very, very specific high-profile projects that I think we want to be sure to focus on,” he said.

Henderson said joining TACO Metals is a dream come true.

“I haven’t been as excited about a change in something as I am right now in many, many years,” he said. “I’m thankful to have another segment that excites me. I think I can be beneficial to the people in the company that mean so much to TACO and TACO means so much to them.”

From TACO Metals to Marine, family-run business spans nearly 60 years

In 1959, after moving from Massachusetts to Miami with his young family, Dave Kushner purchased a small business called TACO Metals – an aluminum railing company serving the pool fence market.


TACO Metals’ founder Dave Kushner.

After installing railing aboard a boat for a local boat builder, Kushner recognized an opportunity to expand the business into the marine industry – growing TACO’s borders beyond Miami and eventually breaking ground with distribution centers, regional warehouses and manufacturing facilities in Massachusetts, Tennessee and overseas.

Like most family-run businesses, Kushner’s three sons eventually joined the TACO workforce. As youngsters, mirror twins Mike and Bill, and younger brother Jon, remember helping their father in the TACO warehouse – performing an array of tasks to meet customer needs.

“I would go in with my dad on weekends and holidays and do little odd jobs,” recalled Jon, the now-President of TACO.

Those odd jobs included punching pickets on aluminum railing – a task Bill, then 10 years old, remembers well.

“I would have a rack that was probably over a thousand pickets,” said Bill, Vice President of Manufacturing. “I’d be sitting there [at] the punch press, punching holes, flipping them, [and] punching the other end. That was my first job working at TACO.”

Together, the three brothers followed in their father’s footsteps and eventually took over the business after Dave Kushner retired in the early 90s.

Kushner Brothers and Project Boat
From left to right: Jon Kushner, President, Bill Kushner, Vice President of Manufacturing, and Mike, Vice President of Sales & Marketing.

Years later, sound advice from their father still rings true today.

“He was very fond of telling us, the three of us, that establishing close relationships with our vendors was a very critical thing,” said Jon.

In fact, Mike, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, said TACO still has some of the same relationships with vendors today that his father established more than 50 years ago.

Jon said their father also emphasized innovation – doing things new and different to avoid products becoming commoditized and never being content within the marketplace.

With this advice in mind, the Kushner brothers continue to grow TACO’s core product categories – rub rail, sport fishing, seating and marine fabrication, which is pipe, tube and hardware for tops and towers.

Two of the latest innovations from TACO are the Grand Slam 450 and 500 Outrigger Mounts, which were designed to meet the demands for larger, faster fishing boats.

As TACO continues to evolve, the Kushner’s recognize the importance of the many individuals who make up the TACO family.

Sparta Marine Fabrication Team.JPG
With more than 110 employees today, the Kushner brothers recognize the importance of the many individuals who make up the TACO family. Seen here are members of the Sparta, Tenn. marine fabrication team.

“We have a team of people who all have a lot of different skills,” said Bill. “We’ve got people who have a passion for the business. There are people who, for the most part, have been around TACO and the marine industry [for] many years. We have a team that all has pretty highly specialized skills within the market. We’re in a business where, I think, we continue to have fun and everybody enjoys and contributes.”

The brothers agree, it’s because of the TACO team, the company values instilled from their father and the philosophy to do whatever it takes to satisfy customers that make TACO successful today and for the future.

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