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A Moving Master

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A Moving Master

Tito Tiberi of Handyman Services

He walks slightly hunched over, and when you see the sign on his truck, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s due to the job. “Handyman Services” is blazoned in large letters, and this business does just that – from yard work to minor home repairs, these are the folks you call when you need something done and can’t, or don’t want to, do it yourself. If that’s not enough, they’re also a full service moving company.
    If there’s a bend to his walk, however, Tito Tiberi didn’t get it from moving pianos, which he does 40 or 50 times a year now. It likely grew from hunching over against the harsh winters of southwestern Pennsylvania where Tiberi grew up, the eldest of six and the firstborn son of a proud, Italian Catholic immigrant family.
    “My grandfather came over from the Old Country,” he explained, “and they thought the streets here were paved with gold.” Like almost all immigrants, of course, the Tiberi’s didn’t find gold in the street; instead, Tito’s grandfather dug for black gold, coal, in the legendary Pennsylvania mines, in the service of U.S. Steel.
    It wasn’t the life he wanted for his son, however, and shortly after World War II he built a tavern for Tito’s father. The family also had a 225-acre farm where they raised cattle, chicken and pigs. This is where Tito grew up, washing dishes and mucking pens and serving up draft beer while absorbing the lessons of his parents and his grandparents about hard work, devotion to church and family, and the importance of education. They were lessons he took to heart.
    “We all grew up strong,” he said of himself and his siblings. “And we all got an education.” His siblings include an assistant superintendent of schools, a principal, a social worker and his brother Gino, who now owns and manages the family tavern. And Tito, who graduated with a Master’s degree in Human Services from Penn State. In true Pacific Northwest tradition, he is probably the only mover in the state with a Master’s.
    “I was a typical jock in high school,” he said. “I played football.” Asked about his favorite subject, he laughed. “Recess.” That didn’t stop him after graduation from becoming a teacher himself. He was a Physical Education teacher, a Phys Ed director for the YMCA, and taught at the college level. 
    Once he got his Master’s however, he moved into a field he says he first worked in while tending bar and is still working in today – counseling. “I learned all my people skills tending bar,” he laughed, “and you learn a lot about people when you move them.”
    At the same time he received his degree, he also married his wife, Patty, who was a hospital nurse at the time. They have since had two children, 16-year old Anne Marie, who’s a sophomore at Sandpoint High School and Michael, 12, a student at Northside Elementary.
    Degree and training in hand, however, Tito didn’t move immediately into the handyman/moving field- he went into employee support services, and became a Certified addiction counselor. Tiberi was the first stop for people with serious problems – he was often called by insurance companies to assess and evaluate, to determine whether people’s emotional problems were due to drug or alcohol addiction, which sent them into treatment, or had other causes, which could send them to hospital or jail.
    “I had worked in treatment centers, hospitals, was working in psych units. I wanted out of that milieu,” he said in explanation for loading up his family and moving to North Idaho, “and I had a lot of administrative skills. Human Services is a really broad degree. I heard Cedu was hiring a Director for the Northwest Academy in Naples. I applied for the job (and) they moved us out here lock, stock and barrel.”
    The Tiberi’s fell in love with the area so, just a single year later, when Cedu was downsizing and Tito found himself without a job, he stayed. With some impressive credentials behind him, he went to work for the then Bonner County School District as a Specialist in their drug prevention program, a position he held for three years. “I actually enjoyed that job,” he said, but the program was cut when the grant funding it, part of the sin tax on tobacco, ended.
    The move to handyman services might not seem a logical progression, but Tito explained, “I asked myself, “What does the community need?” And I saw a real need for service.” Early into the job, “I learned two unbelievable things. One, if you showed up, people were thrilled. And two, if you cleaned up when you were done, people would hire you again.”
Now, Tiberi is the only service company in the area that’s bonded and insured. “We have workman’s comp. We carry a million dollars in property damage liability. And, of course, we were the only moving company ever to start out without a truck.”
    For two years, as the company diversified and added full service moving to its line of services, they rented the truck they used. “Finally we bought an old wine truck, and last year we bought a van with a lift gate.” The move into moving was beneficial for the handyman company – “The moving that goes on in this town is unbelievable,” Tito explained.
    A large part of that business is brought to Handyman Services, Inc. courtesy of national moving companies. “We’re on the Internet, and we get two or three calls a week,” Tito said. “Now, the big moving companies don’t have to bring help on the trip – they can use us here for the unloading.” Handyman Services also does moving for carpet companies, and hires out to building contractors who need furniture moved as they work on a remodeling project.
    From a move across town, across the state, across the nation or maybe just from one room to the next, Tiberi’s business offers service at every level. “We do a lot of packing for people,” he explained, “or for people who are moving themselves, we can come out and load the trucks. We’ve moved pianos, safes, antiques. We ship things all over the country. And we clean house, too. Actually, we can do it all!” That would include bringing Tiberi’s counseling skills into play.
    “Moving is such a stressful situation,” he said. “There’s a couple of things happening. People are worried about their belongings, and they’re dealing with the stress of a purchase, or construction. Money’s usually tight, and most of the time the moving gets delegated to the woman of the house. I’m able to assess the situation emotionally, and communicate really clearly. We establish what the customer wants it to look like, and what to expect from our guys. I can reassure them their personal effects and belongs will arrive safely. We really work hard to meet their expectations.” One sign that they’re doing just that is that, “Eighty percent of the time, our drivers get tipped, which is unheard of in our business.”
    Tiberi’s most memorable experience is probably the one he didn’t have; “We had a chance to move some tigers, but I turned it down,” he said.
    It’s not just the moving, however. The company provides mowing services in summer; snow blowing in winter; minor household repairs; painting; yard clean-up; shovel roofs. “We charge a fair price,” said Tito, a self-confessed workaholic.
    From pig farmer to underage barkeep; Phys Ed teacher to Addiction Counselor; Director of schools and Director of programs – what’s the secret that led Tiberi to be successful at them all, and in his newest endeavor, as well? “I’ve been blessed,” he said simply. “I probably should be working at Wal-Mart. I wish I could tell you I was that smart (and that’s why) we’re successful. But the niche just found itself - it just happened,” and now happens six days a week and, in summer especially, 12 hours a day for a crew of almost a baker’s dozen.  “Every day is totally different. I love it here,” he added. “I love it here and I love the people.”
    As to what the future holds for this growing business, Tiberi says, “We’d like to expand into Coeur d’Alene and Bonners Ferry. And I’d like to come out with a Handyman line of clothing; something durable. And I’d really like to work more with kids. We already have the Sandpoint football team working with us – I’d like to help more kids, teach them how to do some of these small service jobs. I want to give something back,” he added. “The community has been really good to us.”

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Landon Otis

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Sandpoint, Tito Tiberi, Handyman Services, psychology, addiction

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