The Porch Man

Michigan Street Spotlight: Howard A. Andrews, ‘The Porch Man’*

Howard A. Andrews

Fifty-two years ago, Howard A. Andrews came to Grand Rapids with only $15 in his pocket and no job. Worse than no job, in fact, because the Michigan Department of Vocational Rehabilitation considered him unemployable due to a severe stutter.

A person in his situation has two options, Howard figures. “You can roll over and feel (sorry) for yourself—or, opportunity is out there every day if you go looking for it.”

Howard went looking for it. He overcame his handicap and started working in a porch manufacturing business that would carry him through the second half of one century and into another, and along the way became a successful property owner as well, even serving at one time as the president of the Michigan Landlords Association.

Today Howard's porch construction business, The Porch Man, D.B.A., 1449 Michigan Street, has clients all over the west side of the state (and points east as well), and a portfolio full of porch photos and letters from satisfied customers. The official description of what he and his crews do is “the manufacturing and installation of custom screen or glass enclosures,” with emphasis on the word custom. Detailed measurements are taken of the property and landscape; then the walls, frames and screen are cut and fitted in the shop on Michigan Street (which is way in back of New Beginnings Restaurant, next to Essex Body Shop), before being assembled on location.

Some of Howard's customers are so confident in his company's work that they “don't even ask for a price or a bid,” he says. They just tell him to go do it.

If the opening line of this article didn't give a clue to Howard's age, the reader may think that he is a relatively young man, but in fact, Howard is 74 and still going strong—despite a long-term fight against prostate cancer.

“It doesn't keep me down,” he says. “I'm on the job every day.” Fourteen hours a day, to be exact, but he has no plans to retire. “If I was home watching that idiot box I'd go out of my gourd,” he says.

Howard's porch business has been hurt by the “big marketers” who have come into the area, but having “52 years worth of established clients” is what saved him, he says. Plus making adjustments. “You have to adjust to the marketplace, or you're dead,” he advises.

Howard has operated from his present location for more than three decades and is a strong advocate for Michigan Street, which he predicts will stay vital and solid.

“Lumber, hardware, gasoline, groceries, appliances, restaurants—and my doctor, all on this ‘strip’ with my home and my factory. My needs are met on Michigan Street!”

You may contact The Porch Man, D.B.A., at 454-9951 or Howard A. Andrews Co., D.B.A. at 458-8618.

* this article originally appeared in the Michigan Street Area Business Association Newsletter, Summer 2004, and was reproduced with the permission of Michigan Street Area Business Association.