My Handyman, Vineyard Haven
How long have you been working as a handyman on the Vineyard?
About twenty years. I started as a painter, and through the years I learned carpentry, tile work, house repairs, and car washing. Then, I decided after a few years working in this country to be a handyman. I’m from Brazil; I came here when I was 18 and have been in the USA for 30 years. I love this country. I speak Portuguese but my language is now English.
Why a handyman?
I love to solve people’s problems. Most of my customers in the past were always looking for a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter … they couldn’t find someone to replace a window, a door, or set up a bathroom. They couldn’t find someone to take care of the smaller jobs as most workers are looking for bigger jobs. My Handyman will do all these tasks and much more.
Was it difficult to learn so many skills?
If you read, if you take a course, if you practice anything, you manage very well over the years. We can replace and install. We can modify. We can paint. We love to suggest the best way to do things. Of course, the best way is always looking for the highest quality materials with good timing to achieve professional quality work.
Do you work alone?
It depends. Sometimes I work alone; sometimes I have one or two guys work with me.When I have a bigger job to do I always hire more help. My son, Daniel, who is 19, works with me year-round. He is taking some time off from school and helps me a lot.
Talk about your tool rental business.
I started it this year. We rent out power washers, paint sprayers, nail guns, a tile saw, with many more tools coming. That‘s one of the areas we want to improve — to offer more tools to the Island. We will deliver the tool to your house and we’ll pick it up, at no extra charge. We use the tools for our jobs as well so we are always well equipped.
Tell us about your clients.
Most of my clients are returning customers. My Handymen also does caretaking. We watch some houses year-round. We suggest maintenance tasks and do renovations.As a handyman, we have an eye for every corner of the house. We are always looking for new clients; everybody is welcome.
What’s special about handyman work on the Vineyard?
I think one of the things that I like about the Island is that I can go from point A to point B without too much traffic.When I lived in Boston, I spent a lot of time traveling to work.Here I can do my work with less concern about traffic. I’m very thankful to be on the Island, surrounded by a lot of good people — all races, all colors, all backgrounds. With my family, my wife and my two kids, I don’t think I could ask for anything more.
Able & Willing Enterprises, West Tisbury
How long have you had your handyman business?
I started this business about 22 years ago when our first born was on her way.While my wife established her veterinarian business, My Pets Vet, I liked fixing houses. It was the building boom and no one was doing little projects like a screen repair.My handyman business started, and it went from screen repair to building a guest house. Now I do anything and everything in between.
How did you get your training?
Mainly, hands on. I bought a handyman special house in New York state back in 1982.It wasn’t livable and it took me a good five weeks working on it before I could move in. I had to do electrical work, plumbing, sheetrocking, floor refinishing, tiling, roofing — it was my starter home. I made it work. I finished it, sold it, and moved up here in 1988.
How did you get your first clients?
I advertised in the MV Times and the Gazette, just to let people know I was out there doing small jobs. It started out with sheetrock work, damage repair, small repairs.As my clients got to know me, they asked for other tasks … I took on more work. I started caretaking over the years when the kids were in school, since we didn’t travel, and I was here for my customers. Eventually, I realized I had to stop advertising since I couldn’t meet all the deadlines.
When is your busiest time of year?
There are days in the spring and summer season where I’m at five or six houses during the day. I’ll have loose ends to wrap up on one or two of the houses, and get a call, “Can you come fix that?”I may need to prep a house when a client is showing up in a week or two. It can be 8 to 8:30 pm quitting time in May and June, and sometimes early July.My regular clients give me their list of things to do, “This is what we’d like done before we come back in May or June.” That’s when the rubber hits the road!
How do you keep track of your jobs?
I have the old composition book we had in elementary school. That’s my book bible. On a daily basis, I log in the day: where I start, for how long, and the job details. Everything gets documented. I do all my invoicing. I’m a one man show.
Do you run into challenges as a handyman?
Each little job has its challenges. Here at this house in Edgartown, I’m replacing the exterior corner piece of the front of the house that has rotted. The corners are mitered at a 45 degree angle, so it’s a little more intricate. This was tricky, and it being so rotted, I didn’t know how it was put together, so I had to take it apart. The damage from the humidity and the salt air we have on this Island keeps me busy with repairs.
I have a customer’s window at my house that fell apart, and I’m putting in a new piece of glass. With little challenges, it’s how you handle it. Try to repair things if possible; if not, then replace them.
Any unusual tasks?
Early on, I got a call on a Saturday morning from a lady who had just thrown her back out.She lived on Main Street, Vineyard Haven, and she needed someone to put her luggage in her car. She called me at home, I told her I would come down, and she made it to the boat with time to spare.
Is there anything you wouldn’t do?
I don’t want to do mucky crawl spaces. I once had to dig myself into a crawl space and dig myself out — that was the toughest job I’ve had, cause I’m not a small guy.I literally went in with a short handled shovel, dug my way in and had to dig my way out. It was under a porch that had been converted to a room under the steps.
How has the handyman’s role changed over time?
I moved to the Vineyard in 1979 at age 19. That’s how long I’ve been doing this type of handyman work. I would have to say that the concept of handyman is not what it used to be. Things are more specialized now and people are more qualified. We [handymen] are not allowed to do certain things that we used to be able to do.
What kind of work do you prefer?
I like the finish work, but the most fun is just helping people. Simple things like replacing high light bulbs, or going on roofs and cleaning gutters — all those little weird jobs that nobody likes to do. You’ve got to be able to do all aspects of things and be skilled in all trades, otherwise you won’t be able to survive.
Is every day different?
Yes, it’s like being on the fire department (I joined as a volunteer fireman in 1990). You never know what’s going to happen next.I’m always on call.
How do you manage these jobs timewise?
I’ve got to bounce back and forth: When I finish this deck I’ll be able to sneak away and take care of another customer.I save year-round work for the summer, as it’s the hardest time to find work in July and August when people don’t want you around because they are vacationing and don’t want you working on their house. My busiest period is April and May. Then you always get the Memorial Day rush, and most things must be done by July 4.
How do clients reach you?
I don’t have a business card, I’m not with a company, I don’t have a cell phone, and I don’t use email. My jobs come by word of mouth; people reach me by my house phone. My wife is my secretary, she helps out. It keeps things simple.
Any unusual tasks?
The saddest one was digging a hole to bury someone’s dog. If you think about anything that can happen — you really never know what you may get asked to do.
Talk about working on the Vineyard.
The Island is much different than other places. Because of the harsh climate, you have to build differently out here. We have to use stainless steel fastenings; the flashing we use on top is all copper. With the wear and tear of mother nature and time, there will always be maintenance work for us to do as handymen.
ASAP Services, Oak Bluffs
Why a handyman?
I worked in the remodeling trade for twenty years before I started doing appliance repair. When I switched to doing strictly appliances on the Vineyard, I really couldn’t stay busy enough, so I decided to get into some handyman type jobs, and its blossomed into whatever comes my way. Like fixing hot tubs, making a small desk, replacing door panels, repairing roofs — I specialize in fixing roof leaks.
What is your favorite task to do?
I like it all, to be honest. If you have a broken fence or a door that needs replacing, a window that needs fixing or a roof that’s leaking, I can fix them all. I have a full carpentry setup for remodeling and every appliance tool.If a window is broken, I can take it apart and replace the panels. For a sliding door, I can put it back on track. I also fabricate an aluminum product for all of your exterior house trim that goes over your existing trim — it comes in over a hundred colors.
How did you learn appliance repair?
I worked for an appliance company in Boston for 10 years called the Appliance Doctor where I got my training. I recently fixed a $2,500 GE refrigerator that was only three years old with a computerized GE profile. The owner was going to throw it away after two other guys looked at it and couldn’t fix it. Sooner or later, they will be phasing us out of the field, because the work will go to the factory reps who have specialized tools to diagnose the computer boards, needed for the newer appliances.
Where do you get your supplies?
I get all my appliance parts through Marcone Supply, the largest supply house in the country. I’ve been shipping from them for years. For carpentry needs, I use local suppliers or I order online for next day delivery.
Do you work by yourself?
Yes, strictly. Most of the jobs I tackle I can fix. I’ve had very few call backs on anything on this Island. I’m batting 1,000 as far as appliances go.
How do clients find you?
Through word of mouth. I answer the phone between 7 am and 9 pm every day, as I really don’t work out of an office. I have a diverse client base, summer people as well as year-round Islanders and have a great rapport with all my clients.
Do you think you’ll stay on the Vineyard?
I’ve been here on the Vineyard for three years;Middleborough before that for 25 years primarily doing remodeling. I really enjoy my small business out here, and I’m looking to expand it somewhat. There is a wonderful vibe on this Island — the people here are very caring and giving. I’m thinking there is no place where I would rather live.