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Friday, November 30, 2012

Entrepreneur goes from restored to restorer

Jason Wilkerson, owner of The Housebath, has used some unconventional methods to advertise his powerwashing and restoration company.

Photo by SHERESE GORE | Laker Weekly

Jason Wilkerson, owner of The Housebath, has used some unconventional methods to advertise his powerwashing and restoration company.

Inside a small plastic bag are two placards, a chunk of marble and a prayer. The packages are distributed on driveways around Smith Mountain Lake and beseech passers-by to seek out a relationship with God in addition to the services of one residential and commercial restoration company, The Housebath.

The unusual marketing campaign is spearheaded by Jason Wilkerson, the co-owner of a company that specializes in the refurbishing of worn surfaces and making gray tired houses appear brand new. Or restored like its owner.

In the late 1990s, Wilkerson was a talented artist who could take pen to paper and render the same images reminiscent of his future home: mountains and water features such as docks, streams and lakes.

"I never knew [Smith Mountain Lake] existed," he said.

But a troubled life during his teen years ended his artistic aspirations, and Wilkerson in his early 20s flitted from one job to the next, performing work that he described as never amounting to a lifetime job: restaurants, painting, window cleaning, a newspaper route.

An entrepreneurial epiphany occurred during a four-month stint at Roanoke Regional Airport when on one slow day he was handed a squeegee and cleaning solution.

"You got time to lean, you got time to clean," said Wilkerson. "It was the motto that the bosses had."

Two days later, Wilkerson quit the airport job and bought his own window-cleaning equipment. He named his new venture J.C. (Jesus Christ) Window Cleaning in response to his burgeoning Christian faith. He started walking door to door, targeting Roanoke's Grandin Road area.

The accounts grew to 300 residences and businesses, he said, and extended from Roanoke into neighboring communities such as Smith Mountain Lake, where he and his wife, Chesley, moved in 2007.

"The best thing I ever did," he said of the move.

He no longer only cleaned windows but restored the appearances of entire houses. Under The Housebath name, houses, docks and boats are power-washed, and stains are removed from roofs. Gutters are cleaned, and the company seals and stains concrete, wood and metal. Estimates are free, and prices depend on the type of job, he said.

But efforts to advertise the business through conventional means yielded unpromising results.

Money was tight, and advertising purchased through local media outlets was costly. Fliers tediously distributed in newspaper boxes around the lake would blow away with the first strong wind, Wilkerson said.

Marble, on the other hand, provided both a symbolic and practical solution. It's a biblical stone, he said, whose fragments are prayed over by Wilkerson and his wife. The pearly pieces are then used as a weight for the marketing materials left on driveways around the lake.

"It gets a lot of good response - and a lot of corrective criticism," Wilkerson added wryly.

No longer the creator of works of art, his cleaning equipment is now his paintbrush, he said.

"It all comes full circle," Wilkerson said.

The Housebath, 293-3699, housebath@live.com