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Secrets Shared: Handymen in High Demand

September 24, 1989|CATHERINE COLLINS | Collins is a Los Angeles free-lance writer

When we published our story on handymen ("Fix It Yourself? Most Still Call Handyman" July 16), we asked you to share with readers any advice you might have on finding a good handyman, or even the name of your favorite workman. Here is a sampling of the recommendations.

--The Editors "His name is Alex and I've used him for 10 years. He can fix anything from A to Z and he's very conscientious. . . .

"He has installed new faucets and plumbing, put in air conditioners, replaced electrical outlets, installed new light fixtures and painted inside and outside my home. Now he is putting in sprinkler systems in my front and back yards. There is not one job he can't do."

In dozens of letters like this one from Livia Kalman in the Fairfax area of Los Angeles, readers attested to the rare qualities of their handymen, whom they seem to have found with a combination of good luck, good neighbors and recommendations from the local hardware store.

And in most cases, they were willing to provide names and numbers, a very generous action on their part, because many people guard their handyman like the gold at Ft. Knox.

Kalman's handyman, Alex Messinger, (213) 655-7341, who lives in the Fairfax area, has a master's degree in electrical engineering from Slovak Technical University of Bratislava in Czechoslovakia.

He fell into handyman work soon after arriving in the United States when his landlord needed several repairs in his apartment building. "That's how it started, by word of mouth," Messinger said.

Little Bit of Everything

Apartment manager Joyce Chapin needed a little bit of everything done for the West Los Angeles building she manages--plumbing, electrical, carpentry and roofing--so she inquired at Raes Hardware store on Santa Monica Boulevard, which has since closed. There, she found an employee, John Martin, who moonlighted as a handyman.

In time, his brother, Bob Martin, came with him to help with the burgeoning list of chores, and Bob Martin, (213) 836-4890, still works for Chapin. "He is friendly, reliable and does almost everything," Chapin wrote.

A second West L.A. reader, Shirley Saxton, also recommended Martin. "I can't say enough about his kindness, efficiency and ingenuity," she wrote. "I call him, 'my technician.' "

Lucille Dearborn of Venice was lucky enough to rent a cottage several years ago to David Felix, who turned out to be, in her words, "a Jack-of-all-trades." Felix built a fence for his landlady, landscaped, did some minor plumbing and painting.

"He's quite artistic and will even recommend colors," she said.

Before her chance meeting with David Felix, (213) 287-3739, Dearborn had pursued several recommendations from her local hardware store.

But, like many homeowners looking for a helping hand, she found that "one man was very talented, but also very booked up. I would describe my search for help as a hit-and-miss situation, so I call myself very lucky."

Echoing Dearborn's comments on Felix was Michelle Friedman of Santa Monica: "He is an excellent, careful and exact handyman."

A Few Hiring Tips

Joni Halpern of San Diego wrote to say that she wished she had read the handyman article years ago. Over time she has picked up a few tips of her own:

"I engage potential hires in conversation about the job to be done," she wrote. "I want to know exactly, in detail. . . . Do they explain what they will do and why? Do they take time to look closely at the job area?

"If they recommend expensive major repairs, do they suggest a second opinion? If they use implied threats about what will happen if I don't do extensive repairs, I cross them off my list. . . . Finally, do they stick to business?"

Halpern recommended Wayne Glover, (619) 296-9966, because he "is careful, experienced and quiet," she wrote. "Before starting a job, he explains the details of the job and the fact that he prefers using top-grade materials. He completes the job within the estimated time and he cleans up his mess each day, so that family life can proceed as normally as possible.

"He examines every job carefully to determine whether there is some hidden cause of whatever problem the homeowner reports. For example, there were cracks in the ceiling of my living room, and other handymen said it was simply a matter of filling them and painting.

"Mr. Glover went under the house, examined the structure and found that a portion of the house was sinking due to poor drainage. He fixed the problem himself."

Glover worked for many years in industrial maintenance and found himself being called upon to help friends, so he decided to try the handyman business full time. "The challenge of making things right" keeps him going, Glover said.

We also heard from handyman Curt Kinkead of Posey, a small community near Lake Isabella in Kern County, who asked that we do not print his phone number or address, because, he said, "I already have as much work as I can handle." But he wanted to offer some advice to the readers:

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