By Brooke Sherrard
When Vern Graham decided to start his own plumbing, heating and cooling business, he knew the decades spent working in the community would be an asset.
He did not anticipate, however, the outpouring of support he received from business leaders.
“That was so overwhelming and encouraging,” he said.
Graham always planned to own his own business someday, he said. After two decades of working for Pettit Plumbing & Heating, he decided the time was right to strike out on his own and create Graham Mechanical.
Before he even announced he was starting a business, the word got out and he started getting calls.
“Before I was even really ready I had several local business people call and say, ‘Hey, we’d sure like you to help us with this project,’” Graham said.
Graham said another way the business community supported him was when he applied for and received a small business loan from the Appanoose Economic Development Corporation’s Revolving Loan Fund in May.
“I didn’t even know it existed,” he said.
After he learned about the RLF program from other small business owners who had been involved in it, Graham made an appointment with AEDC Director Tod Faris to start the process.
He got even more out of it than he expected when several RLF review committee members spent time counseling him on the financial aspects of small businesses.
“It impressed me that those people would take their time and financial resources and put it back into the community,” Graham said.
He used the loan to purchase required specialty equipment.
“I was working really hard, but I kept dumping the money back in the company. After a time, that ties up your personal finances,” Graham said. “The loan enabled me to buy those required specialty tools and really give me a stronghold to start showing better profit margins.”
When temperatures rose the week of June 18, Graham found himself working 12 to 14 hours a day responding to cooling-related calls. He prioritized households with small children or the elderly and hired temporary help to get to all the customers.
“You’re just happy to be able to help when it’s hot like that,” he said.
Though Graham relies on temporary help now, he said as soon as he is able he hopes to hire a crew of employees.
Graham has been living in the community for about 25 years. His wife, Lori, was born and raised in this area, and they moved here after they got married. They have two sons, Chris Graham, a software engineer and recent graduate of the University of Iowa, and Cody Graham, a senior at the University of Iowa.
Graham has a master’s license in plumbing and heating from the state. He said he spends most of his day repairing and maintaining previously installed equipment, but he is also able to purchase and install equipment. He offers a 10 percent discount on work for non-profit organizations like schools and churches.
He also offers 24-hour emergency service and can be reached at (641) 895-2852.
Graham said he is committed to being available when his customers need him.
“In all of my ads I put in there that we’re honest, fair and dependable, and that’s not just words,” he said. “If there is going to be any long-term success, you have to abide by that.”