For almost 40 years, many Cascade residents have counted on Herb Manternach to keep their houses dry and warm, and to help keep their lights on. They’ve gotten used to seeing his red repair truck and the way he conducts business as the owner of Manternach Plumbing, Heating and Electric.
And if not for some misfortune years earlier, it all may never have happened.
“I’ve been doing this for 38 years,” Manternach said, “I actually kind of fell into it because at the time, my father was running the business and I was laid off from work in ‘81. Times were pretty tough then.”
After four years living in Illinois where he found work, he began helping his father and brother. “Dad ended up retiring and I ended up taking over,” Manternach recalled. “I started from scratch.”
With that ability to start from scratch, he slowly learned the trades and also how to run a business — a career path he said would have been much more difficult in today’s business world. “Things are definitely changing, and I think a lot of it has to do with licensing,” he said. “Now, to run a business you have to have a master’s license. It’s a totally different ballgame now.”
The ballgame has also changed in that there are fewer “players” entering the trades. In small towns that can lead to residents not being able to get some kinds of services provided locally.
Manternach said he hopes more people consider learning a trade, not only so the services remain available in the community, but also because they offer an opportunity to earn a decent living.
“There’s definitely a demand out there,” said Manternach. “Everything I’m hearing out there in the industry is that there is going to be a shortage of plumbers, electricians and trades, period.”
His own business has enabled him to afford a good living for himself, his wife, Jackie, and children, Shane, Brett and Kendra. While none of the kids followed him into the business, Manternach said they are all successful and happy. He is also happy two of them still live in Cascade while the other resides in Dubuque. Herb and Jackie have three grandchildren in Cascade to spoil as well.
“I moved away just long enough to realize how fortunate we have it in Cascade,” Herb said. “I really appreciate what Cascade has to offer. I love it here.”
Manternach is grateful for his 38 years in business, but considers what he does as more of providing a service than of applying his specific knowledge to get rich. That’s an important part of how he’d like to be remembered.
“I hope people will think I tried to treat them fair and square, and give them a good job at a fair price,” said Manternach. “I was out here to make a living — we all have to do that — but basically it was to provide a service that people needed. To fulfill that need is where my satisfaction is.”