With people staying at home more, maintenance and improvement projects come to the forefront of residents’ minds, which in turn is keeping some home improvement businesses afloat during an uncertain time, according to some contractors.
“While the phone’s ringing, I’m going to work seven days a week if I have to,” said Luke Crosthwaite, a Gilbert resident and owner of Crosthwaite Custom Construction.
However, the effect is not universal. Some contractors struggle like most of the rest of the country’s businesses have. Most businesses, also, have had to adjust their practices and take precautions to make people more comfortable while they are in or around their homes.
Crosthwaite, with a varied background in 20 years of professional contracting work, specializes in “super custom stuff, the more radical, weird stuff that needs to be designed and fabricated.”
But he does not just do those projects.
“I don’t know if I’m not really a handyman, but I advertise for it because I don’t have an ego,” Crosthwaite said. “So sometimes I’m doing really fancy, technical, radical stuff. Sometimes I’m putting in ceiling fans. But I’m able to put bread on the table for my family, and that’s the main thing.”
One thing he said he is doing less of is subcontracting some of his work out. Part of that, he said, is because some workers are content to stay home and collect unemployment in the current environment, and it can be difficult to find good workers.
“I’ve been painting my [butt] off all last week and this week, too,” he said. “I’m doing a lot of the labor part myself, but that’s what you’ve got to do right now. I’m actually double-booked right now. I’m going to work Saturday and Sunday to try to catch up because I don’t know what’s going to happen next month.”
Dave Capko of Gilbert-based Ideal Plumbing said he has seen no slow down with pandemic—if anything, business is up.
“There’s a percentage, a small percent, of people who have tried to do it themselves, and they end up messing it up so they have to call a plumber,” he said. “But I find that the people are home more, they’re doing more projects, and they are getting us in there to do their work.”
The biggest changes Capko has seen are just some extra precautions being taken.
“The only thing that we do differently now is gloves, masks,” he said. “I wipe down when I’m done with some cleaning disinfectant. But other than that, there’s nothing that’s really changed.”
No universal increase
Gilbert resident Dale Dahlgren is co-owner with his wife of a handyman services company, Mr. Honey Do Services. Dahlgren does plumbing, electrical, carpentry and painting work, plus makeovers and odd jobs.
Dahlgren said his business went down about 50% when the restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic were placed on the town.
“Some folks were, the older folks were reluctant to bring us in—with good reason,” Dahlgren said. “Now I think people are starting to say, ‘OK, money’s coming in again, and we’ve looked at this thing for six weeks. We’ve got to get it fixed.’”
Dahlgren said he did do some work on people’s do-it-yourself projects where they needed him to finish the job. But business only started to return when restrictions started to coming to an end.
“I think a lot of people are starting to see that they’re getting back to work and the state is starting to open up,” he said. “I feel like that’s got a lot to do with it.”
For Bradley Rogers, it is not a matter of business slowing down but one of getting A/C Rangers Heating and Cooling off the ground. He and his business partner launched the company during the pandemic.
“It’s tough for any business owner, and then along with everything going on, it makes it more difficult,” Rogers said. “But it’s been good. We’ve done our research. We’ve done our homework and for the most part it’s been a well-calculated risk.”
The company is not taking risks when it comes to customers’ health and comfort.
“We put masks on, we put gloves on, we put booties on after every single call,” he said. “We cover our feet, and we try to not go in if we don’t have to. If the problem is outside, we’ll just deal with it outside. ... If we have to come in, we have them just show us where we need to be, so that way we’re not searching for things around the house. We try to maintain our distance.
Helping the business as it starts has been the spike temperatures in the Valley in late April.
“In Arizona, unfortunately air conditioning is a necessity,” he said. “It’s not a luxury. And so obviously we are busy, it being Arizona.”