West Chester-based business turns outdated abodes into dream houses

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Clarke Contractors got its start in West Chester 20 years ago and now employs 50 people and serves 1,800 customers a year.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Jason Clarke devotes his life to restoring people’s homes after damage occurs or turning their outdated abodes into the house of their dreams.

Clarke Contractors, 4475 Muhlhauser Road, got its start in West Chester Twp. 20 years ago, offering remodeling, restoration and remediation services, with two people and a truck.

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The business now includes about 50 employees and services more than 1,800 customers a year in Butler, Warren, Hamilton and Clermount counties, as well as the Dayton area and Northern Kentucky.

Clarke, now the company’s CEO, started there in a support role shortly after it started.

“My brother came to me with a cardboard box of receipts and invoices and a checkbook and he said ‘My girlfriend just left me and I don’t know how to do this,’” Clarke said. “When I offered to help him with it, it was very part-time and just enough to pay his 10 or 20 bills a week and make sure that he had money to buy his materials and stuff as he was running one or two jobs at a time.”

Realizing that Clarke Contractors could be an even viable business with some marketing, he offered to tackle that aspect of the company, Clarke said.

“Back then in the day, it was pretty easy to do some Internet marketing and get email addresses for every insurance carrier out there,” he said. “I did basically a huge e-mail blast 17 or 18 years ago and that blast turned the little itty-bitty (business) into Clarke Contractors Inc. (on Dec. 13, 1999).”

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Clarke Contractors’ effort have branched out in recent years to include remodeling, Clarke said.

“Now I’m able to help provide the resources that people want to get their dream homes,” he said.

Clarke, a Lakota graduate and Liberty Twp. resident, said he worked at Arby’s to pay his way through University of Cincinnati’s Carl Lindner Business School, where he earned a degree in management and marketing.

That’s where he met Debbie, his wife of 19 years. “We fell in love over a curly fry; it’s the big joke in our family.”

They have three children: Ben 14, Maddie, 12; and Ethan, 7. Clarke said being part of a locally owned business is important to him.

“I still have a lot of friends and family in this area,” Clarke said. “I employ a lot of people that I’ve known over the years. I work for a ton more. to be a part of the community in which I was growing up and raise in actually is pretty special. I really enjoy helping people in our community that have been through some traumatic events such as fire or water damage. It’s all stuff they didn’t expect.”

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He said he devotes his life to “my higher power, family and then my work.”

“My higher power revolves around a God that shows me his will every day, in and out, and as long as I wake up willing, honest and with some humility, I’m able to follow that will,” Clarke said. “My faith in God is unbelievable and its something that’s grown over the years.

“I know that my will over my business, my employees, my customers, will never take precedence over God’s will and that’s something where I wake up every day and I hit my knees and pray that I may be of maximum service to my fellow and follow His will in every thing that I do.”

Clarke said he wasn’t always intent on getting into the restoration and remediation business. Initially, after college, he followed his entrepreneurial spirit by opening a marketing branch for an existing wholesale furniture business.

Although the business was only a “break-even-at-best” sort of endeavor, it allowed him to learn the ins and outs of the day-to-day operation of a small business and put to use the lessons he had learned at UC.

Challenges with that business helped better prepare him to lead a company, Clarke said.

“I learned a lot of that in college,” he said. “I went to the Carl H. Lindner College of Business down at UC and majored in marketing and I did a 3-year co-op with GE in their lighting division and was responsible for the retail grocery accounts. So coming out of college, I knew for sure I didn’t want to take the corporate route.”

“If I was going to do anything that I would enjoy doing, I needed to find something that I could do and build on my own or with a partner.”

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