Like many others in the plumbing industry, Chase Wenger started out on the weekends helping his dad, who is co-owner (with Chase’s uncle) of C.V. Wenger Inc., Chambersburg, Pa. “When I was a kid, I hated cleaning the house so I would leap at any chance to go to work with my dad. We’d stop for gas, and he’d buy me a soda and a candy bar, and we’d ride around to jobs and spend the day together,” says Wenger. “Those are some of my fondest memories,” recalls Wenger. “I put my first boiler in with my dad when I was in elementary school, and from that point on I was hooked.”
Chase owes a lot to his dad, uncle and grandfather—who started the company in 1954—who all become mentors in some fashion. “They taught me to do the best I can no matter what, to be resourceful, and to think outside the box, while always encouraging me to learn more,” says Wenger.
In addition, Dan Holohan is a huge mentor for Wenger as well, even if he doesn’t know it. “I recall telling him one time about a steam system I put in from scratch, he shook my hand and told me, ‘Congratulations, that automatically makes you 65 years older kid, great job.’”
Wenger likes to think that that every tradesman he’s ever met/worked with was a mentor, continuously trying to learn something new from everyone he meets. Although he fondly recalls shakily holding the flashlight for his dad as a young boy’s mind wandered around almost as much as the flashlight beam, searching through the truck for the 5th time for that screwdriver he’s sure he left back there. “If you want to keep a kid indisposed for a bit, just assign them a mission they can’t complete if you have that one thing they’re searching for hidden in your toolbox. LOL,” says Wenger.
Moving on Up
Chase made his way to washing trucks and stocking shelves, eventually moving on to help with installs. Then one especially busy day, a lead guy didn’t come to work. “I was instantly upgraded to a full-fledged tech/plumber. As I learned more, I decided I needed to get my Masters Plumber License. From that point on, I started to design my own systems in addition to installing them,” says Wenger.
And while Wenger’s official title of Supervisor/Lead Field Foreman has him lead larger projects—from commercial to residential—from both installation and service work, as well as troubleshooting and tech support roles for other technicians, one of the most rewarding things to me is helping out someone in need, whether it’s replacing a broken well pump, resolving his/her water quality problems or restoring a customer’s heat in the dead of winter. “Although, making a customer’s dirty, brown-stained, sulfur-smelling water into delicious crystal clear water is especially satisfying for me,” says Wenger.
Wenger also enjoys replacing old worn-out systems—wells, water systems, drainage systems, heating/air conditioner systems, etc.—with new efficient ones while cleaning them up and generally making them better all around.
Wenger’s main specialty is well pumps, water treatment, excavation, in addition to regular service/install work with anything the company offers. Oh, and by the way, Wenger is also a licensed Master Electrician, HVAC tech, and he runs a sheet metal shop.
But with all hard work comes some play time, right? “It’s always a tricky balance, but you just need to set specific boundaries and make time to do the things you want to do.” For Wenger, kayaking, reading, spending time with my family and friends is time well spent. A bucket list item? “Definitely kayaking over more waterfalls, or trying wing-suiting in Scandinavia.
Moving the Industry Forward
Moving forward, the industry needs to continue to eliminate the stereotype of the plumber as an unclean, uneducated worker would be a good start, says Wenger. Also, “We need to showcase how rewarding/satisfying the profession/industry is, offering education/training. A lot of people dislike working on things that they don’t completely understand, and paying them what they’re worth,” says Wenger.
Social media has helped the trades’ image problem. “It’s definitely helped me meet others in the trade, well beyond my regular service area,” says Wenger. “I’ve learned a lot from seeing how others do things and talking with them. I like to think everyone can teach you something in life—even if it’s simply what not to do.”
In the end, it’s about passing the torch. “I tend to forget that I’m not the new guy anymore, even after 15 years. I certainly hope I can be a role model for others both in the trade, and those considering joining this marvelous trade, and any other trade out there. It’s a wonderful career to have,” says Wenger.