Familiar Howard Lake couple starts home improvement business

November 12, 2007

Gerry and Carol Smith have gone from the grocery business to home improvement

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

Gerry and Carol Smith of Howard Lake have found a way to keep servicing customers they have gotten to know through their previous 18-year-long grocery store business.

The Smiths started a home repair and improvement business called Hearts and Hands Home Improvement out of their Howard Lake home.

The Smiths moved to Howard Lake in 1988, which is the same year they purchased their grocery store business in town from Mark Custer. When the store closed in July 2006, the couple who has been married for almost 43 years was faced with the challenge of finding a new career path.

“I’ve built and remodeled virtually all of my life,” Gerry said.

Close friends and family urged the Smiths to go into this type of work after the grocery store closed. They knew how much Gerry loved home improvement projects and woodworking.

The Smiths observed the need for small home repairs, which is their specialty, and say, “No job is too small.”

“We love to go out there and help that senior citizen or single mother,” Gerry said. “It’s rewarding to help people who can’t do it themselves,” he added.

While the Smiths wouldn’t take on building a house, they do enjoy renovating and restoring older houses. One of their current projects, which is in the design stage, is renovating Dr. Mike Thoennes’ old office.

“I’ve done a couple renovations with a goal of bringing it back to the original state – that was awesome,” Gerry said.

At the same time, the Smiths find it rewarding to fix a water leak, build some steps, or repair a closet door.

Gerry’s love is building decks. He would like to install decks spring, summer, and fall, and enjoys being outside.

Hearts and Hands Home Improvement installed a couple decks for people at Codger’s Cove Campground in Howard Lake this year.

“That is neat to do something to enhance life for people who are here to relax and enjoy life – that’s really rewarding,” Gerry explained.

“We’ve been busy and very satisfied. We’re trying hard not to work as hard as when we had the store,” Gerry laughed.

“It’s been relaxing and enjoying. It’s not the same stress level as the store was,” Carol said. “It’s a whole different world. We work hard now and we worked hard then, but it’s just different,” she added.

“Our biggest fear when we closed the store was not finding something as satisfying as the relationships we developed with our customers, and finding a way to treat them the way we did at the store,” Gerry said.

Gerry explained that when they owned the grocery store, he was the boss at the store and Carol was the boss at home. Now that they no longer have the store, Gerry jokes, “Now I guess I’m never the boss.”

Gerry decided to seek a contractor’s license which entailed taking classes and tests, and says it was worth it.

“I thought I did a good job before, but now I think I’m even better,” Gerry said.

“It’s been a blessing. It really has. I just love it. God has been right there for us,” Gerry said.

Hearts and Hands Home Improvement can be reached at (320) 543-2558.