Robbie McGregor has spent many a Christmas Eve in strangers' dark back yards, cobbling together some lucky kid's new trampoline or swing set by the moonlight.
Sometimes he wears a Santa hat. That's fitting, because clients have told him that he saved their Christmas.
McGregor runs Robbie's Assembly Service from his Clearwater, Florida home. He and other professional assemblers rescue the people who buy pingpong tables for their kids or computer desks for their spouse, then balk at the big boxes of loose parts and the words "Some Assembly Required."
December is McGregor's busiest month: Six days a week, he rises at 5 a.m. to chart out the day's routes. Then he and his crew he has four full-time subcontractors, a fifth at Christmas set out before dawn in teams of two to tackle assignments throughout west-central Florida. They don't finish until 7 or 8 p.m.
"I don't have time to do very much at Christmas," McGregor said, "except take care of business."
t's not that the average person can't figure out how to put together a desk, said Mehrle, who runs an assembly service in Columbus, Ohio. But some don't have the time, or the right tools, or the patience to meticulously read the instructions.
Three-quarters of McGregor's December jobs are swing sets, which can take anywhere from one to six hours to assemble. He also puts together a lot of exercise equipment, basketball hoops and Power Wheels cars this time of year.
The two weeks after Christmas are almost as busy as the preholiday rush - that's when McGregor hears from the people who thought they could put together their kids' presents.
The rest of the year, McGregor gets requests for more sheds, furniture, even spiral staircases. McGregor plans to set up a Web site next year, though most of his clients find him through word of mouth.
McGregor's fees vary by the difficulty of the job, the number of crew members required and other factors. A good rule of thumb, he said, is that a two-person crew can be hired for about $70 an hour.
Photo by charityadvantage.