Meet Your Merchant: Business started when owner found a niche during the Great Recession
Herbert’s Overhead Maintenance
Pat and Sarah Herbert, owners
Back when he was in his early 20s, Pat Herbert kept running into a girl named Sarah whenever he stopped by The Yankee Peddler, a Grass Valley convenience store.
There was something about Sarah, and before long the two became a couple and eventually moved in together, married, and had a daughter, Alyssa.
While Sarah worked for a variety of small businesses around town, Pat had landed a job with a large roofing company based in Sacramento. But things got scary in 2008 when the construction business suddenly took a nose dive along with the economy. Pat was out of a job and the couple knew they’d have to think creatively when it came to feeding the family.
Despite Pat’s extensive experience roofing, new construction was scarce. There was, however, one thing he noticed about Nevada County — while there were plenty of struggling roofing companies, few to none were offering regular maintenance. The large senior population meant fewer residents were likely to perform maintenance on their own roofs or gutters. Instead of doing “installs,” as he’d done in the past, Pat figured there was a real demand for roof leak and gutter repairs.
He was right.
In February of 2009, the Herberts launched their own business, Herbert’s Overhead Maintenance, out of their home office in Grass Valley.
“We started with nothing, but we knew our target market,” said Sarah. “Fortunately I had taken classes in bookkeeping and had experience in customer service and sales.”
They bought an ad in the business directory of The Union, and lo and behold, received their first call. Business was slow at first, but it didn’t take long before word of Pat’s work ethic, integrity and skill started to spread. Soon property managers and real estate agents were seeking out his expertise.
“We had eight jobs the entire first month,” said Sarah. “Today we have five to seven calls a day, and we’re often booked several months out. Once you get on our schedule we’ll do regular maintenance. Everyone’s preferences are different — some clients like us to come out every month, some once a year.”
Today, Herbert’s Overhead Maintenance, which has general liability insurance, solely focuses on gutter cleaning and repair, roof repair and restoration and minor home repairs. Roof maintenance includes sealing pipes, skylight cleaning, gutter cleaning, roof cleaning and leak repairs on all types of roofing material.
Despite their busy schedule, the Herberts are eager to keep the family business just the way it is. On Feb. 23, the family will be celebrating their 10th year in business.
“We like keeping it small, with just us,” said Sarah. “We like to keep it simple. We work out of our home and we couldn’t do it without each other. Our skills complement each other.”
Beyond a solid working relationship, what’s the secret to their success?
“Well, the first thing I hear is that we call people back,” said Sarah. “Our service is good, and Pat is honest and fair. I hear that all the time. If you prove yourself, you win the customer’s trust — they see value in service.”
“It helps that not a lot of people do exactly what I do,” said Pat. “I’m sort of like a handyman. A lot of wives call me because they don’t want their husbands going up on the roof anymore.”
Among Pat’s biggest fans is his 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, who now travels throughout the west with her parents for competitions with Gold Country Gymnastics.
“Alyssa’s a real daddy’s girl — she has a lot of respect for him and the work he does,” said Sarah. “She has a lot of pride in what we do — she tells her teachers, ‘My dad can fix that.’”
“Pat has kept the gutters on our rather high roof in great shape since 2008,” said Cedar Ridge client Sue Haislet. “Their great work, friendly service and reasonable rates keep us coming back. Pat and Sarah take good care of their customers.”
The most rewarding part of his job over the past decade has been the “fantastic people,” said Pat, many of whom have stuck with the company since they first started.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do this without the response of the community,” said Sarah. “We’re so grateful to live where we do.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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