SPRING HILL — As a youngster, Ronnie Manuele scrubbed so many old tools for his dad, a professional tool fixer, that he swore he'd never do such work when he grew up.
Today, at R & R Tool Repair Inc., owner Manuele repairs tools for major companies from which his father formerly bought his tools and parts.
The personable storyteller chuckles at his youthful pledge as he prepares for a ribbon-cutting Aug. 30 of his newly launched sales department, selling exclusively Milwaukee Tool products.
The entrepreneur, 46, asked himself at some point: "What can I do that I can be my own boss?"
He was weaned on tool repair, along with that scrubbing. The answer was obvious. And tool repair shops don't exist around every corner.
"There's not a lot of people who do what we do," Manuele said. Schools don't teach tool repair, he said. As tools have evolved from human-powered, electric and battery-powered to pneumatics, hydraulic and torque, fixing them requires a science-based technician.
"You have to find people willing and handy, and then teach them," Manuele said. His three employees have honed their skills through online instruction and on-site sessions from the Carolinas to Ohio and California.
"Most of our business comes and goes through the back door — FedEx, UPS," Manuele said. Worn and broken tools arrive from Puerto Rico, New York, "everywhere across the country, basically," he said.
Some customers find R & R online, and 30 or so manufacturers designate the Spring Hill shop as their authorized dealer. As such, R & R makes warranty repairs at no cost to the customer, but with the manufacturer paying the bill.
"We have 300 to 400 people in our customer base," said Manuele. "On average, we repair a hundred tools a week."
Most fixes are for professional users: contractors, plumbers, electricians, roofers, automobile technicians. Customers have included NASA, other aerospace companies and manufacturers in the local industrial park.
A quick fix is critical to their jobs, "so our turn-around is two to three days, because we have parts in stock, vast numbers of parts," Manuele said.
Alex Giacco, a Matco tool distributor in Melbourne, Florida, has been an R & R customer for nearly five years. Hee likes the quick turn-around on repairs. When Giacco's customers need repairs on other than Matco tools, he relies on R & R's ability to fix all brands.
"Pretty much anybody I know," he added, "I try to tell them to use Ronnie."
Handymen and homeowners are welcome, too. The shop sells parts, as well, to fix-it-yourself patrons. What's worth fixing?
"Generally, if the repair exceeds 50 percent of cost of new, then don't repair it," Manuele said. "Definitely yes, if it's less than 50 percent."
Sometimes, sentimental value comes into play.
"Maybe it was their father's or grandfather's. What it comes down to is what would we do if (the tool) was our own?" he said. "We compete with the big box stores on pricing."
Manuele's most unusual repair involved a food processor.
"We don't do that kind of work, but it was for a little old lady," he recalled, adding "sometimes my heart conflicts with business."
Manuele chose to sell the Milwaukee line because, he said, "they have the best warranty in the business, five years. Their pricing is good, their products are good for the professional and the homeowner. They're innovative."
A new cordless table saw hits the market in September. He's pre-ordered them.
As R & R Tool Repair adds tool sales to its business, Manuele conceded there's not another "R" on the premises. The initial pays homage to his father, Rocco Manuele of New York and a Spring Hill snowbird, who taught him the tool trade way back when.
The shop has grown up, as has the son.
Contact Beth Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.