JEFF POTVIN’S ‘HOME’ BUSINESS WORKING AT FULL THROTTLE

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DRACUT — Potvin’s Small Engine Repair is truly a family business.

Jeff Potvin is the owner-operator. Dawn, his wife of 25 years, works the phones and keeps the books, while sons Jeffrey and Michael help out on weekends. Jeff’s brother Ronnie also chips in on Saturdays, “and doesn’t accept a dime for his efforts,” Jeff Potvin said.

Potvin, 47, opened the business in Dracut six years ago after working at Robichaud Hardware in Methuen for several years. “I’m the chief, the only mechanic here,” said Potvin, who graduated from Greater Lowell Technical High School and drove a truck for many years.

He repairs all kinds of gas-powered outdoor equipment, from lawn mowers to weed-whackers to snowblowers in the shop that sits adjacent to his home on Gerrish Avenue. But he stops short of working on “toys,” like snowmobiles, go-carts, four-wheelers and all-terrain vehicles. “I don’t have access to technical support for those kind of machines, and there are insurance concerns besides that,” he said.

But the chippers and chain saws he does work on keep him pretty busy, especially during the spring, his busiest time of year. “I’m out straight in April, May and June, then business slacks off after July 4 until the fall,” Potvin said, sitting in his office last week, literally surrounded by lawn mowers of every shape and description.

During the late fall and into winter, it’s snowblowers. “People either bring in broken equipment or want tune-ups before the season starts,” he said, noting that because of the down economy, most people would rather get equipment fixed instead of buying another. An abundance of snow this past winter was good for business. “I probably worked on 250 or 300 snowblowers this winter because of all the snow, but then there are winters when we don’t get much snow and things can slow down,” Potvin said, adding that some winters he’ll pick up odd jobs — security guard, tree work, handyman work and the like — when things are slow.

Potvin counts among his 500 or 600 regular customers a Home Depot store in Tyingsboro, and the town of Dracut. He also has a relationship with a True Value Hardware in town. “I’ll send them business and they’ll do the same for me. We work off each other. It’s a relationship that’s worked out well over the years,” he said. His clientele also includes several landscapers.

Aside from Darcut, Potvin’s customers come from all the surrounding communities, including Lowell, Haverhill, Methuen, and Hudson, N.H., and it’s growing by the year. He also offers pickup and delivery for a small fee “really just to offset my fuel costs.”

While he likes being his own boss, Potvin acknowledges he has hundreds of bosses. “I’m the only mechanic here, so I have to answer to every customer who walks in that door.” But he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The commute is great. I fall out the back door of my house and I’m here,” he said, “but the down side is people tend to stop by after hours, at say 7 at night when I’m technically closed. But you take care of the people and they’ll keep coming back.”

His golden retriever, Amy, 6, is usually by his side, and Potvin joked he has even tried to get her into the business. “I’ve tried to get Amy to answer the phones, but so far it hasn’t worked.”

Potvin’s Small Engine Repair is located at 79 Gerrish Avenue. Hours of operation are Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon. Most major credit cards, as well as cash and personal check, are accepted. Contact Potvin’s at 978-957-8306.