The inspiring story of Kuhn Construction, now a father and son operation in Islip – Greater Long Island | Salisbury Pipes

The best in home remodeling on Long Island.

Jeff Kuhn was an English teacher in West Islip in the 1980s. At the time, many public school teachers needed side hustles to pay their bills.

Kuhn’s sideline was repairing roofs and installing windows.

And business boomed, especially after Hurricane Gloria hit Long Island in 1985. That was before cell phones.

“The phone rang in the English department’s office and everyone knew the answer: ‘Kuhn Construction’.”

Kuhn, now 70, remembers that time with a smile.

Eventually he took a year off from education to do this business thing.

He never looked back.

Today, Kuhn is the owner and President of Kuhn Construction, Inc., which specializes in kitchens, bathrooms, additions, finished basements and complete home remodeling at 417 Main Street in Islip.

The company completes approximately 25 to 35 major design and build projects annually, averaging between $80,000 and $100,000.

What made his business so successful? The answer is simple, at least for him.

“To be honest,” he says. “Do what you say.

“That’s all people want.”

The Kuhn building process

What people also want is leadership.

“Our designer will hold hands during the design and selection process. People really like it,” he said, especially when they’re used to contractors telling them to go to the tile store, “where their heads will explode.”

That’s the design-to-build process, which wasn’t exactly common in the 1980s.

“We accepted the concept early on,” said Kuhn. “We would meet with people, get a scope of the project, then set a budget range and design towards that budget range.”

This is still the case at Kuhn Construction today.

Except that in 2022, instead of Kuhn working out the designs himself, there will be a huge team of experts on hand.

“I could do enough [three decades ago] selling a kitchen,” he said. “But then I started hiring freelance designers. Now we have our own designers and we work with a local architect who we have worked with for 25 years.”

Kuhn’s team also takes care of the necessary permits for the packages.

“What makes us different is the process,” explains Kuhn. “We’re not a contractor who throws a number at you and then never hears from them again. We come to your home, get to know all your wants and needs, then come here to discuss scope and budget.”

Once a “partnership” is forged, planning begins, in the language of Kuhn Construction.

Thoughts, ideas and finally a plan crystallize in the Islip showroom.

The story continues below the Kuhn Construction project gallery.

An industry in transition

Decades ago, kitchen, bathroom and home renovations were rare. Older Long Islanders will tell you that renovating a home is a relatively new trend.

Generations before have focused on upkeep and maintenance, not style.

“In the beginning there were repairs and maintenance,” says Kuhn. “They swapped out the cabinets because they were literally falling off the walls. Now, with the internet, social media and HGTV, people have all these ideas.”

Aesthetics aside, Long Islanders these days are looking for more space, he said of the latest housing trends.

This ranges from clients looking to remodel a basement for their older children, or more recently additions and garage conversions to welcome parents and in-laws.

“The in-laws’ apartment is big right now,” said Kuhn. “We have kids who buy their parents’ houses, and then we create an apartment for the parents, who are now snowbirds, so that when they come back to Long Island every summer, they have a place to stay.”

If it sounds like a good idea, that’s because it is.

And once Kuhn Construction has done it for a family on the block, neighbors and friends think about it—and want the same.

Especially when homeowner reports are glowing.

“We get a lot of recommendations,” said Kuhn.

The next chapter

The Kuhn Construction showroom at 417 Main Street in Islip.

As for the longevity of the business, Kuhn Construction, which has been in Islip for four decades now, hasn’t just been booming.

“There was a lot of downtime,” Kuhn said. “But I had great faith in God. Lots of trust. This is very important.”

Along the way, God blessed Kuhn and his wife Ruth with a son, Zach.

All of this is now paying off for the future of the company.

After graduating from Islip High School and SUNY Oneonta, as well as years working in sales in New York City, the younger Kuhn has now fully joined the Kuhn Construction team.

Conversations between father and son had been in the works for years.

Eventually, Jeff caught up with his son in 2019.

“I said, ‘If you’re going to try this, we have to do it now,'” Jeff recalled.

You see, Jeff Kuhn also wants to be a snowbird.

Zach joined the team in June 2019.

He’s never been happier.

During sales talks, the father explains, it is important to have a Kuhn at the table. For generations that have met Jeff Kuhn, it’s not a good business idea to bring in a stranger.

“It’s a huge benefit,” Jeff said of the arrangement.

And Zach’s presence will help ensure another four decades of business activity.

But the younger Kuhn knows that many challenges await him.

“Personally, I’ve only seen good times in these three years so far, it’s been almost an easy time to sell,” he said. “But I know it won’t always be like that, but I also know it’s important to stay consistent and keep the team, and never grow too big or take on too many jobs.

“This company is about holding hands,” he added. “It’s a white glove, a concierge service.”

The family vow, it will stay that way.

Contact Kuhn Construction, Inc.

Above: Jeff Kuhn with his son Zach in the Kuhn Construction showroom in Islip. (Michael White)

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