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Conversations with Mark Christensen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mark Christensen.

Hi Mark, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I grew up working with my dad in his small carpet business that he ran on the side while teaching school in Lehi, Utah. I was always drawn to making things with my hands and enjoyed creating. In 1998 at 21 years old, I was looking for a new adventure. I quit my job at a disaster recovery company and decided to take a break from College at UVSC and packed my camping gear in my truck and hit the road.

I was on my way to Mexico and stopped to visit a friend in Wickenburg, Arizona. I needed some gas money and he was working for a tile contractor and asked if I wanted to work for a few days. I was immediately intrigued by the tile craft and a few days turned into a year. I eventually moved back to Utah and found that I could make some decent money doing tile work for friends and family.

Word spread and I was soon doing more and more tile and less of anything else and it seemed like the next right move was to start my own business. In 1999, I started Tarkus Tile and haven’t looked back. I never imagined at the time where this path would lead. We have been fortunate to create a wonderful client base and carve out a niche in the high-end residential market along the Wasatch Front and in Park City.

I love the work I get to do. I find much fulfillment and excitement in creating beautiful things for people’s homes. And I love meeting new people and interacting with them on a personal level every day. My wife, Sarah, and I have 5 children ranging from 9 to 19 and we have a lot of fun. We love to explore the Utah deserts looking for rocks and slot canyons as often as possible.

We have had our share of challenges. Some that brought me to my knees. But we’ve come out stronger and have found a good groove these last few years. I look forward to every day of living and am grateful for the journey that has brought me to today.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Everyone has their challenges. And each person’s trials are uniquely hard for them. I guess that in a nutshell, my life has been a series of struggles that required me to experience some pain in order to grow. In 2012, my wife Sarah was pregnant with our 5th child. I was working hard on a large tile project trying to meet deadlines and make ends meet. My role in life seemed to mainly be a provider.

Sarah did a wonderful job raising our kids. We both worked very hard and we had what I considered to be a good life. Challenging but blessed. She began to experience some scary new health issues and we soon discovered that she had a large tumor growing in her brain. Time stood still. I was terrified. The thought of losing my wife and becoming a single father to 4 young sons was daunting.

She survived a very risky surgery, while pregnant with our baby girl. But was left with some serious side effects that would alter the course of our lives forever. I had to step into the new role of caring for my wife and my sons, while also running the business and providing. Looking back, I did my best with the circumstances we had been dealt and I’m proud of myself for that.

But at the end of every day when the dust settled, I was left feeling inadequate and lonely and overwhelmed. I started drinking to take the edge off. I’d finish my duties for the day and then escape into the bottle. Then wake up and do it all again and again and again. We managed, we adjusted, and we found a groove.

But I was sad and empty. The only fulfillment I felt from life was when I got to be at work and creating, mingled with fleeting moments of joy from seeing my beautiful children who were also struggling through these new challenges. In 2014 I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. This came as a surprise, but realistically I wasn’t too worried about it. I was so used to rolling with the punches that it didn’t phase me much.

I had surgery and went through chemo and had to scale back my work quite a bit. Up to this point in my life, my main coping mechanism was doing tile, and I found myself feeling kind of lost and unfulfilled. I have also prescribed some opiates which I quickly found helped immensely to numb out from our life. This was the start of a very dark time for me and my little family.

I had experimented with drugs in my youth and I knew that I needed to be careful. But I kind of didn’t care at the time. I let my self-pity justify some bad decisions. And I went deeper and deeper, eventually picking up heroin when the doctor wouldn’t refill my prescription. Over the next 4 years, my life spiraled out of control in every way. I turned into someone I didn’t even recognize anymore. I made a lot of bad decisions that cost me nearly everything. Our business suffered, and my relationship with my wife and kids, my reputation, and my self-worth all deteriorated.

Fast forward to 2018. I was detoxing from heroin in the Utah County Jail after being caught driving under the influence with my kids in the car. We were losing our house. Nobody trusted me. I hated myself. When I got out the judge told me I was a danger to my children and was not allowed to return home. This was the worst day of my life that I recall. The lowest I’d ever felt. I contemplated taking my life.

To end my pain and genuinely believe that my family would be better off without me. By nothing short of a miracle the scales in my soul tipped just enough that I believed it would be harder to continue down that path of destruction than it would be to change. And I decided to live. And once I made that decision to surrender the universe opened its floodgates and filled my life with opportunities. I had a lot of shit to shovel. The atomic dust cloud of my life was immense. But my soul was free.

With help from a group of people that loved me until I could start to learn to love myself again, I slowly found some hope and a way back. That was 4 years ago next month. It has been the most challenging uphill struggle of my life, but today I am free. I have rebuilt a life that I don’t want to escape from, and I experience real joy and fulfillment every day.

I had to forgive myself and accept my part in the past. I had to change a lot of things and I still have consequences from those choices. But I’m whole and I’m free and I’m real.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Technically, I’m a tile contractor. My business, Tarkus Tile specializes in high-end residential new construction and remodel tile work. I like to think of myself and my co-workers as artisans. We are very passionate about our craft and really do love the work that we do. Our reputation has been built on delivering masterfully crafted installations, and on treating each job and client as the most important one we’ve ever done.

That is truly my goal as a business owner and a craftsman. To make our client’s experience with us both positive and memorable, and to leave them with a functional piece of art that they can enjoy in their homes. In 2014, we have awarded a CID award at the Coverings Tile and Stone Expo in Las Vegas for the natural stone bathroom of the year and received that award again in Orlando in 2021 for residential tile installation of the year.

I am very proud of these and we worked very hard for them. But winning awards has never been my focus. What really excites me is being tasked with the challenge of figuring out a complex and technical installation, and pushing myself every day to be able to deliver on the highest level. The more challenging, the more I’m intrigued. I like to see just how nice and amazing we can make something.

The award is just the cherry on top. But what I really do it for is that satisfaction at the end of the day. To look over my creation and know that I did that. And to see our client’s emotions when they like what we’ve made for them. This is the highest compliment.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I have a very special place in my heart for addicts and families of addicts who are struggling through the hell of addiction. I know this can feel like a hopeless challenge and I know very well the pain and struggle and desire to change but not knowing how.

Everybody knows someone who is fighting this battle in one way or another. I love to share my story every chance I get and help others to see that it is possible to come back from the darkest depths. We can change. We all deserve a second chance and we all deserve to be loved.

Recovery is possible. We don’t have to do it alone. We win together. And we don’t have to let the mistakes of our past define our future.

Contact Info:

  • Email: Tarkustile@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @tarkustile
  • Facebook: Tarkus Tile, Inc

Image Credits
Scott Davis Photography

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