‘Honey Do’ business born out of pandemic still thriving

Tony Rissley stands outside is Sugar Hill home. Tony's auction business took a bit hit with the pandemic and he knew he'd have to find another way to bring in money. He'd always had an interest in handiwork, so he took advantage of the free time, learned many new skills, and had plenty (very funny) "fake it till you make it" experiences when he launched a new business, Tony the Bearded Builder. He's tackled an array of building projects, inside and outside of homes, and maintains a fully booked calendar. The mid-pandemic leap of faith was worth it. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

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Tony Rissley stands outside is Sugar Hill home. Tony's auction business took a bit hit with the pandemic and he knew he'd have to find another way to bring in money. He'd always had an interest in handiwork, so he took advantage of the free time, learned many new skills, and had plenty (very funny) "fake it till you make it" experiences when he launched a new business, Tony the Bearded Builder. He's tackled an array of building projects, inside and outside of homes, and maintains a fully booked calendar. The mid-pandemic leap of faith was worth it. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

When the pandemic threatened to make Tony Rissley’s auction business obsolete, he wasted no time creating a new business.

“2020 was slated to be the best year for Expo Auctions,” said Rissley, of Sugar Hill. “My vision for the company, which I’d had nearly six years at the time, was coming to fruition. But when the world shut down that March, my entire calendar for April, which had been packed, disappeared overnight.”

Before panic mode could take root, Rissley wrote a post on Facebook, asking if anyone could recommend part-time work. He then traveled to Michigan to visit his parents, who hired him to do intense yardwork: clearing land, cutting trees, hauling lumber. Rissley posted photos from the job on FB, sharing that he’d be willing to help if anyone needed assistance with jobs around their home.

He created an online flyer promoting “Tony’s Honey Do List.” “Not licensed, not insured, just trying to make it through this pandemic,” the flyer boasted with full transparency.

The first job call came from Johnny Moreland, a friend from Rissley’s gym.

“I told Tony I had a list I couldn’t get to, and he said he’d do it all,” said Moreland. “He pressure-washed and stained my fence, he pressure-washed my driveway, and did some landscaping. He did an outstanding job. I told him it was better than I would have done, no doubt.”

It was in that moment when Rissley decided on his credo: “I promise to do as good a job, if not better, than your husband would have done!”

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Tony Rissley works on a project outside his Sugar Hill home. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Tony Rissley works on a project outside his Sugar Hill home. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

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Tony Rissley works on a project outside his Sugar Hill home. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Throughout the summer of 2020, Rissley completed countless honey-do lists. He hung curtain rods, landscaped, installed a basketball goal and even built a 52x12 foot bocce ball court.

“When the guy called and asked if I could do it, I said ‘yes, of course!’” said Rissley “Then I immediately went to Google to learn how to do it. A month later it was done, it was beautiful, and it looked like I’d been building bocce ball courts forever.”

As the months passed, the jobs became more detailed and required more skills. Rissley took on custom building projects and loved the new challenges.

“I converted two 100-year-old pianos into bars, then shared the photos on FB,” said Rissley. “People would message me, I had referrals, and calls. Everything spiraled quickly and the requests were great. I was asked to build shelves, custom bunk beds, even triple bunk beds, barn doors, a farmhouse style bed – I loved it.”

Often referred to as “Tony the Auction Guy” in his other business, Rissley, who maintains a long, full beard, decided to create a new persona: Tony the Bearded Builder.

Rissley’s dad never would have guessed his son would enjoy this kind of work.

“My very first project I remember is when a buddy and I wanted a basketball court,” said Rissley. “Dad showed me a spot, we dug it out, framed it out, dad bought a dump truck full of sand, he bought gravel, and rented a cement mixer. He told me, ‘Pour your own court and I’ll buy you a basketball hoop.’ So, I did. If we wanted something done, my parents would guide us and help with resources, but we had to figure it out and put the work in.”

There was always a renovation in his childhood home, recalled Rissley. His dad was constantly painting, building stairs, removing walls, and so on. Rissley vowed to one day make enough money to hire someone to do such jobs.

“But here I am, grateful that I paid attention to my dad all those years and that I learned from him,” said Rissley. “He always figured out a way to get it done, and that’s exactly what I’m doing now. I always figure it out.”

The gumption and diligence Rissley has shown in a time of uncertainty has been an inspiration.

“I told him he is the example of what society should have done through the pandemic,” said Moreland, of Buford. “He didn’t spend time complaining or waiting on a hand-out. He’s the example of how I want my kids to face adversity. He’s impacted a lot of folks; he’s learned a lot. He is the feel-good story, the silver-lining story from the pandemic. He’s the prototypical American dream, born in a time of chaos.”

Though his auction business is thriving once again, Rissley has no plans to hang up his toolbelt.

“The two businesses are a great balance for me,” said Rissley. “I have the opportunity to flex different creative muscles and I enjoy both jobs thoroughly. No day is the same and I love that. Different people, different locations, and, best of all, I’m self-sustainable. I can’t control what’s going on in the world, only what’s right in front of me, like how I make money. I make no room for negativity and always remember that what I put into this world is what I’ll get out of it.”

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Tony Rissley works on a project outside his Sugar Hill home. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Tony Rissley works on a project outside his Sugar Hill home. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

caption arrowCaption
Tony Rissley works on a project outside his Sugar Hill home. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner