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Carving a new path

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THE ROOKER WAY: From left: Ann Rooker assists her husband, Chris Rooker, in the assembly of a cabinet.
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TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK: From left: Chris Rooker and an employee prepare a plank of wood to be made into a piece of custom cabinetry.

BY Paige Conley - pconley@perutribune.com

In a tale full of ups and downs, local business owners Ann and Chris Rooker are thankful to Miami County charity Helping Hands for their restart.

The Rookers moved to Peru in May 2007 from the Palm Desert area of California after they decided they needed a change of scenery.

At the time, Chris Rooker was working for Biesse, a company that makes Italian CNC machines and had the option to go anywhere he wanted.

Peru seemed like a good choice since Chris Rooker was, originally, from Michigan and he had family in the area.

Eight months later, he was laid off from Biesse.

On top of that, it was the bottom of the recession and jobs weren’t easy to find, said Ann Rooker.

“We went from making really good money to $350 a week on unemployment until I found something else,” Chris Rooker said.

Suddenly, the Rookers had to learn to live without certain things they had grown accustomed to having on their other budget. It was also during this time that they met Hershel Manhart, the founder and CEO of Miami County Helping Hands.

Once Manhart learned about the Rooker’s situation, he told him to save $100 a week by going to Helping Hands to get his groceries to help them have extra money to pay the bills every week.

According to Ann Rooker, they received assistance from Helping Hands for almost three months until Chris Rooker began finding odd jobs to save money. Eventually, the pair were able to buy an foreclosed house they remodeled and flipped.

Fortunately, Chris Rooker was able to find his way back into the machinery business by fixing machines for the same company that had laid him off when he first moved to Indiana.

This time he was working for them as a contractor.

“He’s the kind of guy that sees a need and fills a need,” Ann Rooker said. “He’s a go-getter.”

However, the job kept him away from home too much, which was hard for his wife and their young son.

In response, Chris Rooker decided to rent a building in Peru where he could have the machines delivered to him. He’d fix them in his shop and then he’d ship them out to where they needed to go.

In a twist of irony, the building Chris and Ann Rooker rented was the old Helping Hands building; the same one they had gone to when they needed help.

“What are the odds,” Ann Rooker said. “God is so amazing in how he just directs our life.”

Chris and Ann Rooker stayed in that building for about eighteen months before they purchased the building on 53 W. Spring St, where their business still sits.

Over time, the business evolved from machinery into cabinets after Chris Rooker began purchasing equipment to make them.

Chris Rooker has worked in cabinet shops, sold software for the cabinet industry, and sold machines and serviced them.

“I know the cabinet business,” Chris Rooker said. “I’ve been in it since I was eighteen years old.”

That was five years ago and now he and his wife own Cabinet Guy, a custom cabinetry business for commercial and residential buildings.

“We hire local, we make our things in America, and we’re real proud to be Americans,” Ann Rooker said.

Chris and Ann Rooker have gone through many trials to get where they are today including moving to Indiana and being unemployed. However, while their business is booming and life is better, there are still challenges that lie ahead of them.

The Rookers are already the proud parents of one son, Vincenzo, 14, who helps in their business and hopes to take it over one day.

Vincenzo also hopes to be the big brother of three younger siblings.

Right now, the Rookers are on a journey to adopting three children, two girls and one boy, who they already consider their own.

There have been complications in the process, but Chris and Ann Rooker have faith that everything will work out.

“God’s working it out,” she said. “When God tells you to do something he doesn’t do it without supplying your needs.”

The Rookers have gone through many challenges that have set them back, but those challenges have also led them to where they are today.

They’ve met many new people and have made many great friends, said Ann Rooker.

As for their trials, Ann Rooker believes that they had to go through all of those things for a reason.

“God brought us through all that,” Chris Rooker said. “We wouldn’t have had it any other way.”