Harwinton resident’s home-repair franchise ‘a business with a purpose for me’

HARWINTON — For aging homeowners, even small jobs can become difficult: changing a light bulb, replacing window screens or fixing a squeaky door. Family members can help, but not always; they may live far away from their parents.

The next step is to find a handyman, someone to come by and take care of those little things. But that’s easier said than done — the pandemic and companies’ increased costs has left a void, according to Harwinton resident Craig Henry.

Henry in June opened a Litchfield County franchise of TruBlue Total House Care, which provides these types of services on demand or a contract basis in which a trained and certified TruBlue staff member comes to help out around the house.

The company has locations in more than 25 states.

Henry worked for an elevator company for 23 years,he said, and fell 13 feet while on the job in 2018. He did his rehabilitation at Valerie Manor in Torrington. “I spent months there,” he said. “I broke my ankle, knee, bones in my back. … I wasn’t able to walk or drive for months. I’ve had surgeries and reconstruction, and I feel good now. But when I was in rehab, I had a lot of time to contemplate what I wanted to do next.”

During his recovery, Henry and his wife, Heather, realized their home needed to be outfitted for his physical requirements.

“I had issues doing anything at home,” Henry said. “The handyman had to come in, because my home wasn’t suited for my needs. I started thinking about how there must be a lot of people who want to stay in their homes, but they can’t, because they can’t keep up with the maintenance and the repairs.”

He also noticed that for the “small stuff,” like an electrical switch replacement or a small painting job, it wasn’t easy to find a person to do the work. “I had a contractor doing our dream kitchen here in Harwinton, but it took awhile,” he said. “It’s hard to get people to call you back; contractors didn’t call back, or they wouldn’t give a quote, or they just wouldn’t show up.

“And that’s for the big jobs,” Henry said. “There’s a void for the small jobs — the everyday things that help keep the house going.”

Customers might be a widow or widower, living alone in the family home. It might be a couple living in their longtime residence, where the “little things” have overwhelmed them, and the house is falling into disrepair.

With his business, “We do maintenance programs, where we come out monthly with a checklist, and we do things like replace light bulbs and make repairs,” he said.

“Our clients are very appreciative,” Henry said. “We provide premium services, and they’re so happy and willing to pay what we charge. The guys we send on these jobs have had a background check, and if the customer has questions, we will immediately respond with a phone call. We don’t leave or get paid until they’re happy.”

Since he started TruBlue of NW Connecticut, he’s had many repeat customers. “There’s definitely a need,” he said. “I’ve been doing the sales side of the business, and for me, it’s a personal connection. I have mobility issues, and they do, too. I can help them age in place.

“You don’t want to tell them, ‘You need a wheelchair ramp,’ or grab bars, things like that,” he said. “But if you show customers the options to make their home more accessible, you can help them keep their dignity, and they can stay in their home.

“It’s a business with a purpose for me,” Henry said. “I’m giving back, and helping people.”

Sean Fitzgerald, president of TruBlue, said the company was founded in 2011; he joined the company as president in 2020. “TruBlue came about after its founders realized that home maintenance was a challenge for seniors,” he said.

“My background is in franchising and senior care, and I’ve learned about that industry and also the challenges people face with aging parents,” he said. “Back then, I was looking for a solution like TruBlue, and when I learned about it, I wanted to be involved. It’s such a great concept and so well-needed. It’s been growing rapidly ever since.”

The company has owners in Washington state, Florida, California and Arizona, and is new to Connecticut with Henry’s franchise. “We’re trying to expand into any major market,” Fitzgerald said.

The home repair business can include many things, and TruBlue doesn’t do much remodeling, he said.

“We can do bathroom refreshers and walkout tubs for seniors, things like that, but our primary customers need help around their home, especially busy families and seniors,” he said. “If it’s something more extensive or involved, we can bid projects out for the customer. … Our owners are certified to help people with aging in place.”

Fitzgerald said a properly maintained home is important for the safety of those living in the home, and also helps the home retai value.

“By investing in routine maintenance, the homeowner retains more value,” he said. “So when they do sell it, that maintenance will pay for itself.”

To learn more about TruBlue Total House Care, visit https://trubluehousecare.com/nw-connecticut or call 475-316-1645.

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