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Plumber has rags to riches story

Posted at 9:56 AM, Nov 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-02 08:43:54-04

It's not a glamorous job. 

Even when you send a high tech camera into a bathroom pipe, and go deep inside, inspiration is the last thing you would expect to find. But give it a little more cable. You might be surprised. 

George Garner's rags to riches story is certainly inspirational. Today he and his wife, Roselyn, own Next Plumbing. They have more than 30 employees, and you probably see their green and yellow trucks all over Southwest Florida. 

But ten years ago, things were completely different for the Garners.  

"You couldn't have gotten as low as I was," Garner says. 

Lower than the lowest pipe is where Garner was in 2010. He was the owner of a successful national plumbing franchise, but the recession completely drained him.

"The more I tried to catch up, the more I got deeper in the hole," he says. "We were running the air conditioning off a generator just to stay cool. I didn't even know if we were going to have a house to live in at that point. I lost everything, everything."

He was a single father with two children younger than five. With nowhere else to turn, he moved in with his future wife, Roselyn and her children.

"He is a good person, and I feel like if you're a good true person and do good things for others, that good will come back to you," Roselyn says.

With that tiny spark of optimism, Garner collected what little money he had left and printed off flyers for a new, one-man plumbing company. He and his children walked door to door handing the flyers out. His biggest hope was to get enough jobs to keep his family going. 

And it was a family business. The Garners set up a makeshift office in the pantry, right off the kitchen and used milk crates for filing cabinets. 

"It was really tight," Roselyn says. "Again, it was next to my kitchen, so while I was cooking, I was on the phone entering invoices. It was like, that close to each other."

There in the kitchen, something unexpected happened. The business began cooking. It took George completely off guard.

"We couldn't run it out of our house anymore," he says. "So we ended up buying a building, then we ended up buying another building. Now we're looking for a third building."

George says he took the lessons he learned from the recession and put them into Next Plumbing. He grew slowly, avoided debt, and put his family and customers first. Those things, he says, made his new business successful. 

He also has some amazing stories about customer service.

He did work for a woman who had recently lost her husband. During the job, he found out her neighborhood HOA was threatening her with fines because her house needed to be painted. A few days later, he and a group of his workers painted the woman's house for free. 

There's another story about a hospice patient George did plumbing work for. 

"His only family was a son in New York," George says. "[So I told him] If he needed anything, he could count on me. Plumbing, I don't care what it is. So I ended up driving him to chemotherapy. I did grocery shopping for him."

And when the man passed away, he left his plumber his house. 

The Garners say hitting rock bottom gave them a new perspective. Money is longer the most important thing. Their family and their customers mean so much more.

Their story is one in a series of SWFL Reinvented stories, where we profile people who have remade themselves or their businesses after hitting tough times.