- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Ladies will always want a man who can wine, dine and show them the finer things of life. But they have to ask themselves more and more these days: Can he fix a leaky toilet?The Renaissance man is giving way to the renovating man.
This goes for married women, too. If hubby doesnt feel like getting off the couch, go out and rent a "husband" — actually a handyman or Mr. Fix-It — at a reasonable rate.
"If you find a good one, you would be well advised to hold onto him. Someone in whom you have complete trust and know is dependable. I cant emphasize how much that means," says Glenadene Kruger, 78, of Arlington.
Mrs. Kruger lucked out. She found those traits in Bernard Henderson. The soft-spoken entrepreneur started his landscaping business, Bernards Lawn and Repair Service, in 1991. For more than a decade, he has kept Mrs. Krugers house in tiptop shape from the inside out.
One man, Kaile Warren Jr., 42, founded his company, Rent-A-Husband, in 1996 in Portland, Maine, to close the great divide between the sexes when it comes to household jobs that never get done.
"I recognized as a homeowner and handyman that there is this great friction between couples about not getting things done around the house. … One of the things that amazed me when I first started out was how women were surprised when their husbands could not do so many things," Mr. Warren says.
Owning a house can be a harrowing experience, since houses require constant maintenance and upkeep. Thats where Mr. Warren and his Rent-A-Husband franchises come in. Just hand him a "Honey do" list.
Mr. Warren, who was recently hired by CBS News as the new home improvement guy for CBS "Saturday Early Show," has Rent-A-Husband franchises in six states. Next year, he hopes to open one in Bethesda, he says.
"Theres an incredible demand for capable handyman services. The industry generates $50 billion a year, but its fragmented and unsophisticated. My goal with this company is to unify and change the image of the industry," Mr. Warren says.
'Dear friend
Whether Mrs. Kruger needs a fresh coat of paint applied or a basement apartment cleaned out and freshened up after tenants move, she depends on her handyman, Mr. Henderson, to get the job done.
"I just let him know what needs to be done, and thats it," she says. "Hes a treasure to be cherished. When you get to be my age and want to maintain your home, theres just so much you cant do. This isnt something that everybody doesnt already know: You just cant find people who do good work. So, when you find someone who is good and reliable, thats a person you need to hold onto."
But, the homeowner says, Mr. Henderson has earned a special place in her heart.
"Hes much more than the lawn and garden man, hes a dear, dear friend. Hes an honorable and good man, and I just adore him," Mrs. Kruger says.
Mr. Henderson, 43, says he essentially is self-taught. Whether a bathroom needs a face-lift or the porch light proves problematic, he troubleshoots and corrects the problem at a fraction of the cost a contractor might charge. He will change your cars oil, replace an alternator or put a new starter in, if thats whats needed.
Mr. Henderson says he built his reputation one customer at a time.
"I started out cutting Mrs. Krugers grass, and then my name got out. She said I was reliable, and then I basically took over the lawn maintenance on her street," he says. From there, Mr. Hendersons name spread throughout the neighborhoods of Northern Virginia. He prides himself on his ability to work with his clients many of whom are single women or seniors on fixed incomes.
Mr. Henderson got a blessing in 1996. The 100-year-old Oakland Baptist Church on King Street in Alexandria awarded Mr. Henderson his first contract to maintain the churchs grounds and its private cemetery at Fort Wards Park on West Braddock Road in Alexandria, he says proudly.
By day, Mr. Henderson subdues shrubbery gone amok, plasters, paints, installs chain-link and wooden fences, installs ceiling fans and lighting fixtures, and fixes toilets that run nonstop. At night, the husband and father of three who lives in Dale City, works as an armed special police officer for Secure Guard Inc., assigned to the Kennedy Center. Mr. Henderson says a job well done gives him personal satisfaction.
"People depend on me. I may go to their homes to cut the grass, but I end up doing so many other things," Mr. Henderson says.
'Labor of love
Artist and artisan are words that best describe Robert Hogans, who cares for a select number of homes in Washingtons most affluent neighborhoods in Northwest, where properties are valued at $500,000 and more.
He learned how to build houses under the guidance of his printing teacher at Armstrong Manual Training School in Northwest, where he graduated in 1953.
"Although printing was my major, I also studied electrical, woodworking and sheet metal. Whenever there was a free period, most students used it to study, I went to shop," Mr. Hogans says of his school days.
"Back in those days, the 1930s to the 1950s, blacks did not know what fields they could make a living. There were menial jobs, but my father encouraged me to go farther," he says.
He says in 1957, when he started to work for the Government Printing Office for $1.29 an hour, he recognized he would need a little more money to enjoy life.
"As time went on, I would help people who had problems in their homes. They used to call me 'Mr. Fix-It. I took on jobs on the weekends painting, fixing plumbing and minor electrical problems like changing plugs and replacing fuses," says Mr. Hogans, 65.
Before he knew it, real estate agents were seeking out his services for renovation and interior design work at houses throughout the metropolitan area. What Mr. Hogans didnt already know, he learned by reading and asking questions.
When he retired from the GPO in 1993, he planned to relax for a minimum of six months. That was until his sons friend told him about a relative in need of help with her home.
"She asked me to put a mirror in her powder room, but by the time I was through, I had completely redecorated the whole room," he recalls.
"With her input and my expertise, we completely transformed everything," Mr. Hogans says, laughing.
Like Mr. Henderson, word spread about Mr. Hogans ability to turn drab into dazzling. He has transformed business relationships into lifelong friendships by producing top work, he says.
"This work became a labor of love for me," says Mr. Hogans, a native Washingtonian who grew up on First and P streets in Northwest.
His renovation resume includes replastering; drywall; gilding; painting murals on walls; lighting design and installation; carpentry; landscape design; maintenance of pools and hot tubs; renovating kit-chens and baths; and deck repair, to name a few.
Word-of-mouth referrals
Mr. Hogans hands are full, and hes not taking on any new clients, but he offers this advice to single women and spry seniors looking for a helping hand:
"Word of mouth is often better than picking up the Yellow Pages because often people say they can do things that they cant. If you want to see a sample of a persons work, give them a small job to begin with before assigning a larger, more costly project," he says.
"If the personalities click between the handyman and the employer, then the relationship will probably work. Its just like picking a boyfriend. You want someone who will motivate you and put you on a different platform," Mr. Hogans says. "Thats what youre looking for in a handyman, someone who is capable and inspirational. But, you must have a rapport with the person. That applies to every handyman."
Judith Primus found a top-shelf handyman at her church, Evangel Cathedral in Upper Marlboro. She has nothing but rave reviews for David Carroll, who founded his business, Carroll & Carroll Enterprises, in Landover in 1985.
Mr. Carrolls work has earned him the respect and loyalty of Ms. Primus and her family members, along with a handful of embassies that he meticulously maintains.
"He refinished our wood floor — he sanded and stained them, and theyre absolutely beautiful. David redid the deck, and thats beautiful. He bonded with my mother, so now, hes considered part of the family," Ms. Primus, 51, says.
Ms. Primus says she was impressed with Mr. Carrolls character. Hes dependable, personable and caring. Last but not least, hes affordable, she says. He asks clients what they can spend — what they can give.
His character, the craftsmanship of his work and his Christian values prompted her to give a referral to a partner at the law firm of Baker & McKenzie, where she works as a legal secretary. The partner wanted the carpet removed and the luster restored to her offices wood floors. Once Mr. Carroll learned that the carpet could be discarded, he donated it to a mother of four in Baltimore who could not afford carpeting for her home, Ms. Primus says.
"When the cooling system breaks down, he can fix it. When the faucets drip, he can fix that. When the toilet breaks down, he can fix that, too," she says.
"I feel as if I can call him anytime, and hell come out. … Even if he cant get to you immediately, he will return the call," she says.
Mr. Hogans sums up the role of the handyman succinctly:
"A good handyman keeps peace in the household. Its almost like renting a husband without house privileges," he says with a smile.

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