Submitted photo
Submitted photo

Matt Dobbs moved his home repair business to Hope about three years ago, but he and his family are probably best known for their impressive Christmas lights display at their home on South Street. He is trying to grow the company, but also wants to become a full member of the Hope community offering services to those in the area. 

How did you come to move to Hope?
My wife is in the nursing field.... We lived on the southside of Indianapolis up around Southport Road. After 12 hour shifts, she had been driving the radius for three and a half years. We have always loved southern Indiana and it was a situation where she said, with an hour plus in the vehicle each day, "I am gone 14 to 15 hours a day." It just finally took a toll on her, physically and mentally. She just said that she was spending too much time away from home.

So we decided to start looking in the area. But when we stumbled upon our (current) house, we literally didn't have a house we were looking for. We started on State Road 9, came out of Greenfield, we were looking for a small town atmosphere. We went through Flat Rock, we came through town, came through Hope and saw the sign. We saw the sign and I looked at her and said "That's so neat" -- the sign, "A Surprising Little Town."

It was more of a relocation, my business had been established in Marion County, in Johnson County, since 2002. We relocated, which was kind of a culture shock for us, I guess.

What attracted you to Hope?
Friendliness. We actually stopped in the cafe there when we first came... the welcoming atmosphere. It was something that felt like home. It felt like it was a place we have been looking for and the fact that we were not specifically coming with an address from a realtor that says "Hey go look at this property and this location." (Instead), we stumbled across. It felt like it was meant for us to find the home, in the area that we found.

How big is your business?
I have two full time guys that I still run up in Marion and Johnson counties. And then myself down here, as well as my 26-year-old son that works for me as well.

We wanted to kind of be able to branch out and felt like there was a kind of a need in the community, that there weren't a whole lot of resources there. Or there were folks coming in from the outside of Hope, providing services.

Getting started it was kind of rough, because like in a lot of small towns, you have a lot of folks who have been in a situation and are not super trusting. And I am kind of like that myself. The proof is in the pudding. You have got to show me before that trust is there.

I believe I have 28 customers in Hope now, that we have worked for more than one time. Most of those are multiples, where we have done several (jobs.)

What sort of jobs have you done in Hope?
A lot of them are smaller things. Folks will call for ceiling fan installations. We had one lady over off of Broad, who called and said "I have three sets of mini-blinds and I can't get anybody to hang a set of blinds. Is that something you would help with?" We said absolutely. We went out and charged her one flat rate... and it took us about an hour and a half.

Those are the kinds of smaller things that the bigger companies don't even want to mess with, because they aren't going to make a ton of money on. But I feel like a small service is just as important, sometimes more so, than the large stuff... My business model has always been, from day one, it is always service before self. I always stress that to the guys. Service is more important. It is not about us, it is about them. And because we kind of live and breath the "service before self" motto, it has made us pretty successful.

What sort of work do you do?
At least half of our work are things that most home owners could do it, if they had the time to do it. If they took the time to learn to do the tasks. I don't like to use the word "Honey Do List" or handyman, because when I started my company, my parent business name was Dobbs Handyman Services and the reason that I switched was that after two years, a lot of folks wouldn't call. In their mind a handyman was just a man that showed up with a toolbelt and who could tighten the screen door but they couldn't remodel a kitchen, they couldn't change a water heater, they couldn't put a roof on a house. They couldn't do the large things that we are able to do.

A lot of the marketing people I worked with early on said we had to really tailor to the fact that we were really downplaying ourselves and our knowledge. I have been in the industry for 25 years. March of this year, it has been 25 years. It is all I have ever done. When we provide services it is everything from the "Honey Do List" that people can't get to themselves, to we have done two bathroom remodels, which I call "facelift updates" here in Hope. We did a bunch of ceramic work and built a fireplace for a lady. It is just a lot of things that they want to do for themselves, but they don't have the time to do those.

Do you have any new services you are offering here?
We have been plowing and doing snow removal, up in Marion County, I think this is our seventh year. We do some neighborhoods up there for the city and we also do some private small commercial lots. One of the things I noticed from last winter, we will slow down a little bit in the winter time and you definitely have to be able to take care of your family. Bottom line, we are a small company. And when I was driving through Hope last winter, when we were getting some inclement weather, I noticed that some people were out where the plow trucks had come through and kind of plowed (over) the ends of the driveways. And you can't help that, they have got to do their job and they can't stop every time they come up on an edge.

I stopped, jumped out and helped a couple of folks. Both of the folks that I helped were seniors and they were literally out there with picks and shovels trying to break up what they had. I told my wife over the summer that I don't want to see that again. I don't want to see these folks out there trying to dig themselves out.

My hope is that we don't get any snow, absolutely. I would love to have mild temperatures and no snow. But we also know in Indiana that could affect us. So I kind of devised a plan. I purchased another vehicle. I put a plow on another vehicle that is exclusively going to be just basically run Hope and Bartholomew County if needed. And we are going to provide, basically our rates for Hope, are about 40 percent less than what we are going to charge in the other areas. We are also offering discounts for seniors, as well as folks on limited income.

Have you found any challenges with relocating your business to Hope?
I would say getting folks to understand that we are part of the community. We want more than anything to be part of the community. They are not just customers. They are neighbors as well.

I think one of the things that kind of put us on the map last year was our (Christmas) light display. When we won the light competition that the started last year. It is funny that throughout the year, they were laughing and calling me the Christmas guy. The folks at the gas station and some of the local merchants. That is kind of what they know me as. That is great during November and December but I would like to be known for a lot more than that.

We have worked with a couple of the churches. We have done a bunch of flooring for the church that Pastor Gerald and Martha run down at the end of South Street. They actually ran out of funds and needed the flooring in their fellowship hall replaced. And we went in and did all the installation at no cost to them. They purchase the materials, we went to Cincinnati and picked the materials up and did the installation.

We feel like sometimes you have to pay it forward, and give it back to the community. And that was one of our bigger steps in Hope was trying to give it back to them as well.

Do you have any other message for Hope?
Just like anybody else, we are a small business. We will never be millionaires and I am OK with that. We are rich in a lot of other ways. But it is situation where we want to make repeat customers but we also want to be neighbors with folks. I have a lot of people, whio if I am at home and outside, they will stop and talk for a little bit, whether they are needing something done, or they just want to stop and say "Hey, your house looks great. You have made a lot of improvements."

We just want to be part of that community. And I think over the last several years, it has improved. But it is not to the level where I would like it to be. I feel like reaching out to the folks as well. When we set up a booth at Heritage Days, that was awesome because we were actually able to meet a lot of new folks that we have never met in the area.