Washington Township lawn mower repair company asks customers for help
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When Matthew Pawlowski bought Exton Mower Sales and Service in 2012, he knew he was inheriting a mountain of problems and debt.
But he saw potential in the business. He still does.
That’s why he’s asking his customers to help keep it going.
“[In] 15 years as an employee, I saw this business grow,” said Pawlowski, 35. “I watched it grow from a nothing to a simply, ‘We can’t handle this demand.’ I bought it for the potential and it’s huge.”
Pawlowski has owned the Washington Township business for roughly 7½ years. It fixes small-engine, gasoline-powered equipment such as lawn mowers, generators and chainsaws. It also buys, sells and trades new and used equipment and parts, and is a dealer for Echo and Bobcat.
It’s currently $350,000 in the hole, a culmination of the shop’s mortgage, multiple maxed-out credit cards, high-interest loans, truck refinancing and operating and payroll expenses.
“It’s just been a struggle,” Pawlowski said.
In August, Pawlowski and his wife, Angelica, started a GoFundMe to try to pay off some of the debt. As of Friday, it had raised just over $4,000 of its $100,000 goal.
Matthew Pawlowski said that amount would pay off the high-interest loans, vendors and personal loans he has taken from other people to stay in business.
“With those debts out of the way, the company would just recover,” he said.
The shop has been around for 38 years. Matthew Pawlowski has been working there since he was 13.
In spring 1997, he rode his bike to the shop to get a belt for a rototiller. The original owners told him they needed someone to trim weeds and offered him a job.
He’s been there ever since.
“That’s how it all started 22 years ago,” he said.
Matthew Pawlowski is the shop’s only employee. He used to have five mechanics, but he had to let them go because he couldn’t afford to pay them.
The business charges $100 an hour for repairs, which currently are on a two-month backlog because Pawlowski is working alone. He works an average of 70 hours a week and takes home less than $10 per hour.
“I have to work the extra hours, drink the extra coffee, stay the late nights, early mornings, whatever I have to do,” Matthew Pawlowski said.
He said it has been difficult to let customers know about the situation because not all of them have the internet or Facebook. Links to the GoFundMe are posted on the business’ Facebook page.
He also doesn’t have the time to call every customer because he is swamped with repairs. He said his wife is helping with that. She produced two videos detailing the business’ financial situation. They are posted on the GoFundMe page.
“I just don’t want to go through bankruptcy,” Matthew Pawlowski said. “I believe in working hard. I believe in persevering if at all possible. I don’t give up easy.”
Angelica Pawlowski, 26, hopes the videos will paint a clearer picture about the business. She’s never made videos before, but thought they would be a good way to illustrate their story.
“We hope to inform people about the situation we are in, and we hope the customers value all the service and the countless hours, working until midnight, spending many days working … to help them with their mower or whatever,” she said. “I hope people watch them.”
Matthew Pawlowski said some customers have been surprised by the situation because the shop is usually busy. It does about 3,000 repairs per year.
At times, Matthew Pawlowski is on five phones, talking to five people with a line out the door.
“They’ll say, ‘Matt, you’re busier than any business I know. You’re buried. Your wait times are still two months right now. How could you possibly be going out of business?’” he said. “It’s just the question of the debt load that I’m under.”