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Tom Wotton
Home Sweet Home Improvements
540-439-8890 office
540-439-4106 fax


Diversity Helps Bealeton Remodeler in Down Market

Newspaper: Fauquier Times Democrat: Home & Garden Special Section 04/02/10

The economy may have soured, but Home Sweet Home Improvements in Bealeton
remains true to its name.
Tom Wotton’s remodeling business is but one of many hit by the collapse of the housing
industry. Profits have dwindled for contractors and subcontractors, real estate agents, furniture
manufacturers and retailers, big-box home supply chains and local hardware stores, lumberyards
and Wall Street banks.
But Home Sweet Home Improvements has survived. Wotton, 40, credits the strong
foundation that he and his father George laid two decades ago. This is a true family business; wife
Dawn, whom he married in 1994, is his business manager as well as mother to Hunter, 11, and
Heather, 10.
“We’ve always run a lean overhead, and the core crew has stepped up and cut their hours
back,” Wotton said. That loyal crew is key: Home Sweet Home Improvements has earned a
reputation for superior craftsmanship executed with minimal disruption to the client’s household.
Referrals were so consistent that Wotton didn’t feel the pinch until last year, well after the
burst of the eight-year housing bubble.
“We noticed that calls were getting lighter, but our established client base and network
were still generating work. Eventually, jobs got smaller and they became necessity-driven. Clients
are saying we have to do this; fewer are saying we want to do this.”
In response, Wotton reduced his payroll about a year ago; from an average of 10, it’s
dropped to three full-timers and three part-timers, all of whom are longtime employees.
Like many small businesses, Home Sweet Home Improvements reflects its founder’s
biography. Growing up, Wotton never had a permanent home; his father was in the Army, and the
family moved frequently. He spent much of his childhood in Europe, where he absorbed the ethos
of Old World craftsmanship. He fell in love with remodeling as a 15-year-old helper on an historic
That interest persists. Wotton and his crew recently finished a major updating of Belvoir
Farms, an estate in The Plains that dates to the 1700s. Home Sweet Home Improvements
installed a new roof and windows, and upgraded the Estates’s electrical and plumbing systems.
But most of the time, Wotton’s expertise is applied not to large-scale historical projects but
to the more modest, contemporary homes of his neighbors in Fauquier, Middleburg, and
surrounding areas.
John Kent Cooke, owner of Boxwood Winery in Middleburg, hired Home Sweet Home
Improvements to convert a barn into apartments and build an equipment shed and a shop. Last
month Home Sweet Home Improvements, tackled the more mundane task of repairing snowdamaged
Cooke had nothing but praise for Wotton: “He responds immediately, and he’s very
efficient and very fair in his prices.”
Lori Jones and her family live in a 14-year-old log house in Marshall that wasn’t fully
accessible to her son, who uses a wheelchair. Wotton installed a roll-in shower, ramps and
hardwood floors -- and hand-crafted gates for her porch. “He did such a meticulous job,” she said.
“You wouldn’t know it wasn’t built that way.”
George Hibbard and his wife turned to Home Sweet Home Improvements to create a
home more appropriate to their years. “We’re an older couple, and we want to be able to live in
this place until they cart us out in a box,” Hibbard said.
Wotton and his crew enlarged the master bedroom and great room, more than doubling
the size of the 1970s-era house. The laundry room was moved from the basement to the main
floor, and doors were widened to accommodate wheelchairs.
“He’s very honest and straightforward,” Hibbard said. “The crew was here for most of a
year, and they were very helpful. Of course, we were living here at the time, and they made it as
easy for us as they could.”

Needless to say, Wotton looks forward to a recovery that will permit him to rehire his laidoff
workers. In the meantime, he maintains perspective by participating in an online support
group fellow remodelers from Seattle to Orlando. Since they’re in different markets, the members
are free to offer one another advice in chats and e-mails.
“You know you’re not alone,” Wotton said. “Whenever you have a question, you have the
input of 14 other people.”

Phone: 540-439-8890