Real Joe the Plumber has Clovis ties

Staff and Wire Reports

DALLAS — There’s one “Joe the Plumber” who is already better off thanks to John McCain and Barack Obama.

Phones rang off the hook Thursday in the Amarillo office of plumber Joe Francis, whose Web site became an instant Internet curiosity the day after the final presidential debate.

Francis spent seven years in Clovis, where he moved after high school and still has family.

“Today’s been better,” Francis said Friday. “We’re still getting calls and selling the ton out of these T-shirts. We’re just going with the flow.”

McCain and Obama made multiple references to Ohio resident Joe Wurzelbacher — now famously “Joe the Plumber” — while sparring over tax policies.

But the name-dropping also reached to West Texas, about 1,200 miles away from the Ohio plumber, where the 1988 Hereford High School graduate found his business suddenly in the spotlight.

Entrepreneurs hoping for a quick buck have called about buying the Web address — for as much as $800,000, according to Internet buzz.

Francis doubts some callers’ financial liquidity.

“We’ve had people call in and offer more than that, but nobody’s come up saying, ‘I’m going to wire you this money,’” Francis said. “I don’t know if they’re legit.”

The majority of callers are wanting T-shirts with the company logo, which features a droopy-eyed cartoon plumber revealing the ubiquitous “plumber’s crack” above his pants.

“I’m taking orders,” said Ronnie Bishop, the office manager. “It’s kind of wild.”

While Wurzelbacher hasn’t said who he’ll be voting for in November, Francis said he’s leaning toward McCain, but the publicity provided might move him into the “solid McCain” category.

“He’s scratched my back,” Francis said, “so I guess I should scratch his.”

Bishop said their small plumbing outfit started getting calls during the debate. The publicity kept Bishop busy again Thursday with offers for the Web address, T-shirts and interviews with media.

But any uptick in calls to unclog drains or fix busted pipes?

“I hope it keeps us busy,” Bishop said. “We’re not too busy, though.

Francis worked on and off for Chris Cummins and Cummins Plumbing from 1989 to 1996, when he went to Amarillo.

“I learned a lot from his business,” Francis said, “how to treat customers, which helped me build a successful business over here.”
Joe the Plumber has been in business since 1998.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.