MARION — If you’ve been meaning to get at that nagging household project, Rene and Edward Gadelha understand.
“I’ve had two situations where a woman has called and found out some pricing for some projects,” Rene Gadelha said. “I know she’s going to leverage that with her husband, about him getting it done or about us getting it done.”
“People will often have a ‘honey-do’ list, and they’ll book a block of time with us,” Edward Gadelha added. “They’ll say, ‘Start here and keep going for four hours.’ ”
The Gadelhas opened Ace Handyman Services’ Marion office in mid-July, scheduling home repairs there and in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.
It’s something of a not-exactly-retirement project for the couple: Rene Gadelha, 51, worked in education, as a high school English teacher and later a consultant, while Edward Gadelha, 53, was an operations center director for Verizon.
“We wanted to do something in the community,” said Rene Gadelha, who also served four years on the Linn-Mar school board and then on the Marion City Council.
“We love Marion, we’ve lived here about a dozen years, so business ownership really seemed to be a great idea. We wanted to bring some service or amenity that didn’t exist.”
Finding a niche
Their investigation of business opportunities led them to Ace Hardware, which bought and rebranded a Colorado franchise, Handyman Matters, in 2019. Ace Handyman now operates in some 350 markets, according to Edward Gadelha.
Ace Handyman’s niche is those improvement projects and minor repairs for which homeowners just haven’t found the time.
“We do small jobs most contractors don’t want, and people have a hard time getting help for,” Edward Gadelha said. “Most other contractors are looking to do a whole bathroom, not just fix the faucet.”
“One specific thing we’ve got a lot of are derecho repairs,” Rene Gadelha said. “People are still calling because they couldn’t get anyone to come and do one piece of siding. People are finding we’re a stopgap between a big project and nothing getting done.”
The Ace connection isn’t mandatory for customers, who may supply or specify products from other retailers.
“A customer can provide materials, or we can,” said Edward Gadelha. “We do the shopping at the closest store. We’re not going to charge them more for us to drive to Ace, but whenever possible and we do have to purchase in advance, we patronize them.”
Ace Handyman projects include a one-year work-and-materials guaranty. The Gadelhas’ five full-time employees call a customer’s home the evening before a scheduled project to review a checklist of tools and materials, and text a photo of the employee when they’re en route.
“We provide trust and security, because we have background-checked employees, not contractors,” Edward Gadelha said. “We distinguish ourselves by this extra trust and expectations.”
The staff recognizes when a homeowner’s need goes beyond a light repair. Electricians and plumbers must be certified and licensed, while Ace Handyman specializes in “outside the wall” work — installing lights and outlets, rather than wiring an electrical service.
Exterior projects include repairing or replacing backyard decks and fencing. When a project requires a licensed contractor, Rene Gadelha has compiled a list of referrals.
“We have trusted partners that she has personally vetted whose values align with ours,” Edward Gadelha said. “We refer and exchange (work), depending on our competencies and specialization.”
Building their staff has been a challenge.
“You have to invest a lot of time,” Edward Gadelha said. “We place ads in the typical places, we put flyers out when we can. You do have to do a lot of vetting.”
“One of the foundations of the multiskilled craftsmen we’re looking for has been carpentry,” Rene Gadelha said. “One of our guys specializes in windows and doors, on top of the carpentry. Another one may specialize in tile and grout.”
Ace Handyman has installed a lot of grab bars and access ramps, allowing older residents to stay in their homes.
“We are well-positioned and focused on helping the elderly extend their stay, helping them be more comfortable and safer,” Edward Gadelha said. “That community is one of our primary markets. We also do a lot of work with busy families who may or may not have skills or tools, but certainly don’t have the time.”
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Owners: Rene and Edward Gadelha
Address: 285 Seventh Ave., Marion
Phone: (319) 984-8585