Jim Holcomb grew up in the small Southern California town of Hemet, California, where his father-in-law was a septic-systems pumper. Located 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles, the small agricultural town that Holcomb knew while growing up has itself grown into a city of some 52,000 people.
SIt was back in 1974 when he decided to go into the drain cleaning business in his hometown. “It was a little drain-cleaning company – and it was a part-time business,” says Jim. “I was 21 years old at the time. I had to borrow $1,000 to buy some equipment to put into a van. My father-in-law gave me the idea. He also co-signed on the bank loan.. I named my part-time business Holcomb’s Root Router.
I maintained a full-time job I had at the time with a local manufacturer in order to get by. “It was about three or four years later when I got my plumbing license and turned the business into Heard & Holcomb Plumbing & Sewer.
It was during that period that my father-in-law passed away. That was when I bought out his business and got into plumbing.” But in the 1970’s, Hemet, while growing, was still relatively small, only able to support a couple of drain cleaners or pumpers. Jim was eager to expand his operations in some manner. His competition came from the Roto-Rooter operation based there “When I started out here, I got to know the owner of the Hemet Roto-Rooter franchise,” continues Jim. “He would ask me to cover his business operations for him when he left on vacations or other trips. “I remember when I would take over for him on a weekend. His Roto-Rooter operation would have 10 jobs, while with mine I would do one or two a day. There were only our two shops here, and his was also a one-truck operation.
From the beginning I was constantly trying to buy out his business. Finally I was able to in 1980.” It was a move that started a successful pattern of expansion that has lasted two decades.
In 2001, gross revenues from all operations exceeded $6 million. According to Jim, the Hemet franchise has always been quite large, encompassing a Southern California inland area that stretches about 65 miles south toward San Diego, where the population has grown tremendously.
Hemet is located in Riverside County, for years one of the fastest growing counties in the state. As the 1980’s progressed, Jim added two adjoining Roto-Rooter franchise areas. These extended his company operations about 30 miles north to take in the Redlands area, and about 50 miles east through the Coachella Valley, whose principal desert cities include Palm Springs, Palm Desert and Indio – also growing rapidly.
Jim purchased the Vista, CA Roto-Rooter franchise in 2001 which covers north county San Diego. He also purchased the Santa Barbara Roto-Rooter franchise in 2008 covering the entire Santa Barbara County.