Gary “Eazy” Ward and wife Tammy “TJ” Ward moved to the Myrtle Beach area seven years ago from High Point, N.C., after what some might consider a whirlwind romance. The pair had known each other for two weeks before heading to the Grand Strand.
“I had just finished a long and ugly divorce,” he says. “I had custody of my kids and was raising them, but all of them were just about grown when TJ came into the picture.” Both wanted to live in Myrtle Beach, but never thought they could afford it – but they took a chance and came down one weekend to scope out the possibilities.
They immediately secured jobs and saw that the prospective move was within the realm of the possible. When they returned to High Point to give their bosses their two-week notices, both were let go on the same day. “I don’t know why, but both oh us said ‘thank you – I can go to Myrtle Beach two weeks early.’ We jumped in the car, came down here, rented a room at a hotel for $165 a week and had at it.”
Did we mention that two days after Ward arrived here, one of the neighborhood kids in High Point decided to burn his house to the ground? “We were going to get established and then go back to get everything from the house,” he says. “Now we had nothing, really.” But Ward owned the land and the house in High Point, and eventually his insurance company came through with enough for him to get started in earnest down here. “It is what it is, man. We struggled, but we didn’t give up. We said, ‘OK – this is what the good Lord wants – he will find us a home and everything straightened out.’”
The Wards now live in Socastee.
A plumber for more than 16 years, Ward began to think about a concept for a new business two years ago. “I walked into a man’s house and he had three kids to feed,” he says. “I had to charge him $85 to roll up in the driveway. Then I had to charge him for the time I was in there – and charge him for the marked-up parts, and it broke my heart.” A couple of months later he went to an elderly lady’s house on a service call. “There was a packing nut coming off behind a commode, and it took me all of 30 seconds to fix this thing with a pair of channel locks.” He had to charge her $85 for pulling up and another $40 for a half-hour, the minimum. “I began to think, ‘my God, this isn’t right.’ I am going to find a way to help people that really need help.”
Enter Ward’s newly licensed endeavor, Eazy’s Plumbing Repair Consultants, a concept that essentially drops plumbing knowledge into the laps of consumers while saving them money. “I come into your house and sit there with you,” he says. “I’ve got all of the tools and supplies you need. I can sell you the parts you need [generally stocked in his van]. If I don’t have them, the customer and I can get in my van or their car – go to Lowe’s, Home Depot or a plumbing supply house and get what they need. Then we come back and I show them how to take care of the problem ‘hands on’ by themselves.”
Ward says that he is charging the customers half the price of what a plumber would charge, while giving them the knowledge they need. “They can take that $85-$150 and put it toward groceries or gas, a night out for dinner and a movie for the family.”
He is aware that this might raise eyebrows in the local plumbing community. “There are plenty of hotels down here, plenty of restaurants, businesses and rental properties – this is not going to hurt them. This is all about the family man or homeowner that is trying to carve out his piece of the American Pie. This is going to help him get it faster because he’s got more money to put on his mortgage and pay off his house earlier. And now he has knowledge.” Give a man a fish…
So let’s say a guy has a plumbing project on his honey-do list. He has no idea what he’s doing but of course says he will take care of it. Ward arrives and walks him through the project. “They are still doing the work so they are not lying to their wives at all. If that makes them a hero, great.”
Meanwhile, the Wards are happy with the decision they made seven years ago. “We plan on retiring where we are – and plan on dying where we are. That’s how much at home we feel down here.”
Know of a local with an interesting job or career that should be given the Working 4 A Living treatment? Contact Roger Yale at firstname.lastname@example.org.