by Lee Gutowski
Dale Jones sat on a porch in Riverwest recently for an interview with the Riverwest Currents. Porches are his natural element at the moment; from this porch, Dale can point out more than one that he’s built or worked on right on this very block. And if you happen to be passing by his home on Bremen Street at 6:30 a.m. or thereabouts, you’re likely to see him on his porch, drinking coffee and getting ready for his work day.
Although he can build a house from the ground up, and has worked many large-scale construction jobs in his day, he’s happy to be this summer’s “porch guy.”
“I’m trying to do a lot of porches this year. There’s a real need here in Riverwest. That’s my plan this year. Right now at this moment (with COVID-19), it’s very good for me. Lots of people are doing things to their homes now and many need help, or need someone who can do the things they can’t. So I can build a step or a stairway, I can work with them for a few hours a few days and then go to another job right in Riverwest.”
A master carpenter who went to school for and learned “both the theory and the practices” of carpentry in his original country of Belize, Dale has been practicing his trade for thirty years now. “I didn’t just learn on the street. I don’t just put things together. My education has taken me a long way. Once I do something, it’s done right.”
Some people call him Rasta
Dale, who is usually wearing a “loc wrap” or head wrap over his long and plentiful dreads, is a familiar sight in Riverwest. His English is accented with the lovely creole patois of Belize, where the official language is English and most people speak multiple languages. (Dale speaks Spanish too, and explained that it’s helpful for working with other tradesmen wherever he goes.) “Lots of people call me Rasta.”
Belize to Waukegan to NOLA to Riverwest
As a young man, Jones came to the United States in 1996. “I was young and wanted to have plenty of new experiences.” He lived first in Waukegan, where he practiced his trade on some big jobs in Chicago. It was there where one of his biggest challenges came while working on a large commercial building. “We started in the summer, when we put in the foundation, then started working our way up … By the time it’s winter, it’s just about time to do the roof, setting up trusses and stuff. And that was very dangerous, being up on the roof, with the snow and wind. But we had a good team and we were safe.”
Jones headed down to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck, and lived and worked there for over 3 years. “It was pretty bad down there, but it was also fun to live there and the work was very good.”
He returned to our neck of the woods and worked in Wauwatosa for a while before ending up in Riverwest about seven years ago. “It’s funny. Now all the people know me. People here are very friendly, I love it. Sometimes things happen, like I go to McDonald’s to the drive-through, and get to the window to pay, but the car in front of me paid for it already. Or I go to a restaurant and they tell me the bill is taken care of, and I don’t even know who did it. I don’t really eat all that much, but I maybe I should start going out to eat more often,” he joked. “People here are so nice.”
No Limit Carpentry
“Everybody thinks I’m a musician, but I’m like, no I’m a carpenter. I’m a master carpenter. I love challenges, but I don’t think there’s any more challenges for me (in this work). When it comes to carpentry work, I have that drive. I can do it. I like it when it’s something someone thinks is impossible to do, but then I come and take care of it.”
Jones has done all kinds of work on large rental properties to commercial buildings to individual homes. He’s worked on crews from Chicago to New Orleans and in between. Now, he’s in business for himself. His company, No Limit Carpentry, LLC, is a solo thing. “It’s very good because so much of my work is here in Riverwest. This is why so many people know me, at least when they see me. Even if they don’t know my name. You’ll see me all over the neighborhood.”
Jones loves his work. He enjoyed helping out the guys at Sunrise, visiting them every evening at closing time to talk and “make sure they were safe when they were closing the store … I still see Mike and Odeh a lot. I just visited Odeh at his house. He just got done painting the whole thing! It looks good.” He’s also doing some work for the new owners at Sunrise, putting in new plexiglass at the cash registers and making other alterations during the ongoing pandemic.
Talking about the pandemic, Dale explains, “It’s very hard, we have to be careful. Now I’m always working, almost all day and every day. I’m keeping very safe. I have my masks, all my hand sanitizers and cleaners in my car so it’s all with me everywhere I go. The place I’m most exposed is Home Depot, where of course I’m very careful.”
Dale used to enjoy Center Street Daze and all the fun summer parties happening in the neighborhood. It was after a day of partying at Center Street Daze that he was walking home and Mike from Sunrise offered him a 12-pack of beer. “I had this 12-pack and I got home but didn’t feel like drinking more after Center Street. So, I just quit. For some reason.” That was four years ago, and now he’s an avid coffee drinker. “The work I do is hard on me physically, so it’s good not to be drinking anymore. Now that I’m old and my knee hurts,” he chuckles, gesturing to the knee brace he has to wear now. “I just woke up one day and it was like this.”
A youthful looking fellow of 50, Dale is nowhere near retiring. As he says, “I’m not going anywhere. I love it here.” He’s the 11th in a family of 13 children, all of whom “are very close.” Although only Dale and one of his sisters live in the US, they all keep in touch regularly, some even daily. And as much as Dale loves it here, there are dreams of what retirement will look like. It will have something to do with being around his siblings, back in beautiful Belize.
Dale Jones (and No Limit Construction) can be found on Facebook. Check out pictures of his work on Facebook at DJ No Limit Carpentry LLC.