Eric Hassett knows more than a little bit about home projects. His grandfather owned a hardware store, and so did his father, who also built the family home in which Eric and his brother, Richard, grew up.
Nowadays, the Hassett brothers are carrying on the family tradition. The siblings own six Hassett Ace Hardware franchises on the Peninsula, including stores in Palo Alto, San Mateo and Redwood City.
Hassett never really thought much about people aging in place and not being able to maintain their homes until his dad started nearing age 70. Larry, who is now 74, was still climbing ladders to fix things, but Hassett and his brother decided it was time to make a deal with him to stop doing strenuous household projects. Now, they help fix things around the house; last week it was a fountain.
If a normally handy person can age out of working on their home, Hassett thought, what about other people?
That's when Hassett was approached by Richard Stern, a board member at the nonprofit Avenidas senior services agency in Palo Alto, about launching a new home repair service for local seniors. Hassett didn't hesitate. The Ace Hardware corporation had recently added a handyman-services subsidiary to its offerings, Hassett said, so the timing couldn't have been better.
In January, Hassett and his brother started Ace Handyman Services for clients in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. It's available to the general public but provides many services focused on seniors who might need basic home maintenance, like changing furnace filters. Senior clients who are members of Avenidas receive a discounted price and can make appointments directly through the nonprofit agency.
John Sink, vice president for enrichment at Avenidas, is glad to see Hassett offer such a service.
For almost 40 years, Sink said, Avenidas ran a handyman program, staffed by older adults working as independent contractors, to provide simple repairs and home maintenance services for local seniors. That all ended when the pandemic hit.
But demand never waned. Sink said a recent survey of Peninsula seniors commissioned by Avenidas “showed continuing interest in, and need for, handyman services and simple home maintenance work.”
Avenidas Director Tracy McCloud can verify that need for handyman services firsthand.
“Our front desk frequently gets questions asking who we recommend for various services since we no longer have our own handyman services. We’re very happy to have this option available from a local company we trust,” she said.
Filling 'the gap'
As president of his family's hardware business, Hassett sees his role as finding ways to modernize the company to better meet customers’ needs.
Providing a handyman service for seniors like his father is one way to do this. Hassett said seniors, however, aren't the only members of the community who need help with home maintenance. He has noticed another phenomenon: Younger clients (Millenials and Gen-Zers) don’t know how to do home projects and would just as soon hire someone to do them, he said.
There’s a “big gap,” he said, between a large project that requires a contractor (or a job big enough that a contractor would want to do) and a smaller home maintenance project. Handyman services, which don't typically require a licensed contractor, fill that niche.
Handyman projects, in general, need to cost less than $500, he explained. Over that amount, the state requires a contractor licensed by the Contractors State License Board do the work.
Hassett said his team at Ace can help customers with everything from shower and tub repairs to drywall installation to flooring and cabinet repairs as well as some bigger projects like installing a pergola. His brother has a residential remodeling license, so the company also can do bathroom and kitchen remodels.
He said no project is too small. A week or so ago, an older client couldn’t figure out why her heat kept kicking on. The Ace handyman discovered that the client’s adult child had installed a smart thermostat but didn't show the client how to use it.
“Half the time,” Hassett said, “it’s helping (clients) understand how things work. Often, parents just get tired of asking their kids to help them."
Hassett said he also receives a "fair number of (adult children) calling us to go over to their parents’ homes.”
Hassett said all of his craftspeople have background checks and are trained professionals. He hopes to expand the program by training interested Ace employees in specific skills.
“I’ve put a big initiative at all our hardware stores to grow our employees into the trades,” he said. "I see that as a growth opportunity for our staff."
Hassett Ace charges $140 an hour. In some cases, there is a $75 service fee. Seniors who are members of Avenidas receive a 10% discount on all work, which includes a one-year warranty, according to Hassett.
For smaller jobs, Hassett sometimes charges a fee in 15-minute increments, but he generally charges an hourly rate. If a client calls for something that doesn't require an hour's worth of work, like hanging a picture, Hassett typically asks the client to come up with a “honey do” list of tasks to fill the hour.
His team always tries to be good stewards of homeowners’ time, he said.
Hassett said he considers it “a honor” to be able to help the community this way.
To make an appointment for the Ace Handyman Services through Hassett Ace Hardware, call 650-249-3131. To make an appointment through Avenidas, call 650-284-4025.
General information about the program can be found here.