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Long Island’s Mr. Fix It

Massapequa man reflects

on a life mastering trades

It is not every day that you hear an inspirational story that rings true of the American dream. Massapequa contractor Pat McCusker of E.P. McCusker Home Improvements shares how growing up on a farm in Ireland helped him become the man he is today.

“I grew up on a farm in Ireland in a very rural area, farming seven days a week,” said the Irish born McCusker. “I grew up with the old school work mentality. I even hand milked the cows before I went to school.”

Originally, McCusker did not want to come to America, but his family wanted better opportunities. Since coming to the states, McCusker has worked as a professional chef, has done voice overs for phone and beer commercials, and has fixed and beautified homes across Long Island. A real jack-of-all-trades, McCusker’s first inspiration began in the kitchen.

“I was always cooking when I was a kid,” he said. “My mom would invite all the old ladies over from the neighborhood and I would experiment on them.”

McCusker was classically trained in French cuisine, having studied at the Culinary Institute. He took his skills to Switzerland to boost his resume, and finally landed in America at the age of 20.

“I came to America to cook for a wedding in Minnesota with 13 other chefs,” he said. “It was a total culture shock, we knew nothing.”

After he finished the wedding, McCusker came to New York, and this time, the city that never sleeps kept a strong hold on the Irishman.

“I worked in an Irish restaurant for 14 years and moonlighted doing construction because it was such a relief to get away from people every day. That sounds harsh, but it was a welcome distraction for some alone time,” McCusker said. “It got too hot in the kitchen,” he said. “I came out to Long Island with the dream of opening up a restaurant but that was in the midst of one of those crashes that we had, so I had to change my plans.”

Since he had known so many clients in Manhattan from the restaurant, a lot of those same clients became McCusker’s construction customers.

“I walked right into a good high-end clientele,” said McCusker, advertising his business by word of mouth.

He moved out to Long Island in 1992, settling in Massapequa. He was not completely foreign to the idea of a career in construction.

“When I was in high school, we had a choice of an art, woodwork/construction or science class. I chose woodwork/technical drawings,” he said. “For five years I learned how to draw up blue prints and plans, all of the technical stuff that comes with construction. I didn’t think in a million years that I would ever use those construction classes, and here I am now.”

So what is a day in the life of a construction worker like? If you own your own business like McCusker, plan on working 10-12 hour days.

“I am usually up around 5:30 and I try to work until 5-6 at night. Then I do estimates in the evening, office work, and fill out papers,” he said. “I spend more time evaluating the person than the job, believe it or not. That’s the beauty of working word of mouth, you get great recommendations from people and you can trust them to be honest about the job you do.”

When Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012, McCusker was called upon by many whose homes had been severely damaged or destroyed completely, specifically the areas of Massapequa and Oceanside.

“I felt I had a duty as a person who helps people rebuild homes for a living to help rebuild their lives, if given the opportunity,” he said. “I felt sorry for the lot of them because here were these people who had just suffered a tragedy and they were getting taken advantage of.”

The poignant story of one woman who lost all of her memories will stay with McCusker forever.

“I remember one woman had everything saved in a crawl space. All of her little things saved for her grandkids that were supposedly coming to visit and it was just a mess,” he said. “Every time I had my crew in there cleaning it out, she would pull out a box and start crying, it was truly heartbreaking.”

Although he was shocked at the total devastation from the storm, McCusker was truly touched by the complete appreciation of these people whose lives had been turned upside down.

“People trusted me to save their memories. I had respect for their homes and I really wanted to restore not only their homes, but their lives to normalcy as best I could,” said McCusker, who was helping people recover one nail at a time.

A unique story to tell and a promising future for him and his family, Pat “Mr. Fix It” McCusker, has always been about the simple satisfaction in lending a hand to make people happy.

“It’s good to meet new people and experience new things, but the crowning glory is being part of someone’s life, even in some small way.”