When the global pandemic hit in early 2020, Matt Hoover was prepared to pause his business.
He recalls the day — Monday, April 13, 2020.
But that all changed when a tornado tore through East Brainerd on Easter Sunday night, April 12. Hoover and a posse made up of workers from his company and Southern Grove Construction, which is owned by his brother, Adam, went to work in Legends, a subdivision that had been hit particularly hard.
"We went in there with guys, trailers, chain saws and plywood and cut our way all the way to the back of Legends," says Hoover, who adds that his company teamed with his brother's to do 13 jobs of various types in the upscale neighborhood.
In the three years since, he says, Matt Hoover Construction's average annual revenues have increased sixfold.
"We vaulted to a higher level" as a result of that 2020 work, Hoover says, "and we've been able to sustain it since."
Hoover says his company's done that by establishing a foothold in roofing that's high-end — from materials to technique. He says he's taking calls, but booked solid through the end of 2023.
"We do everything," he says, "but if you want something special, that's our niche — we do slate. Copper work, and hand-solder everything on site. Shingles are $110 per square. We've done jobs with tile from Italy that are $4,000 per square.
"Other roofers have billboards. Not us — a lot of our work comes from word-of-mouth. It's hard to compete with companies that do 30 roofs a week. That's a quantity model, and that's not who we are."
Hoover says his company also does a lot of work for larger clients, such as the University of the South, Baylor School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
"And a lot of churches," he says, adding that faith has played a huge role in his life, which he says has included sexual abuse at the hands of a teenager when he was not yet 10. Later came drug addiction, incarceration and divorce.
"That's all part of my testimony," Hoover says. "I was lost for a long time, but I'm a Christian now."
A standout wrestler at East Ridge High School in the late 1990s, Hoover says he enrolled at UTC. He recalls that he walked on to the wrestling team, but seldom went to class.
"I liked to wrestle and party," he says.
Hoover says that before UTC could dismiss him, he joined the U.S. Navy, where he underwent SEAL training and was excelling until he suffered an injury — and got hooked on painkillers.
"I was running 13 miles a day and doing five-mile ocean swims in three hours," he recalls. "I was training with the greatest in the world before I got hurt."
Hoover says he came home after his 2003 discharge and quickly got into trouble, beating two men so badly that he was charged with aggravated assault and attempted murder.
"I was sitting in the Hamilton County Jail with a $150,000 bond," he says. "I'd gone from (Navy) elite to the county jail. My life was in shambles. I was a mess."
Then, he says, a random visitor came to see him on a Wednesday night.
"July 11, 2003," Hoover says. "His name was Vernon Sneed, and he'd been preaching in prisons for about 10 years. He told me that Jesus loved me. And I gave my life to Jesus that night.
Hoover says that because the men he was accused of assaulting didn't show up for his trial, a sentence that could have been 15 years became 11 months and 29 days. He says the bulk of that time was spent at the Hamilton County lockup and Chattanooga's Silverdale Detention Center.
After his release, Hoover says he refocused on his roofing business, welded on the side and took online classes at the now-defunct Tennessee Temple University. He later served as a youth pastor, did some teaching and worked in homeless shelters.
He admits to a drug relapse in 2014 and a divorce but adds that now, at 42, he's been clean for nine years and is and married again, with three younger children in addition to two from his first marriage. He teaches most Thursday nights in the Renew Ministry at Calvary Chapel's campus on Chattanooga's Southside, where he's been a congregant for the last decade.
And he says Matt Hoover Construction made a significant financial gift earlier this year to the Katie Beth Carter Memorial Institute, a school in Nicaragua built and operated to honor the memory of its namesake, a graduate of Heritage High School in Ringgold, Georgia, who died in a 2016 automobile accident.
"God has poured his blessings on our efforts," Hoover says.