Ken Kumph started Premier Builders of Georgetown, Mass. as a general contracting firm in 1986. Divisions for architectural millwork and cabinetry soon followed. The one-source shop has been a recipe for success.
“We run everything as one company,” says Kumph. “On average, our annual sales are around $4 to $4.5 million and it has been as high as $6 million in the past eight years. We are close to our average now.
“Sales were a little down from March to August (in 2020) but are moving faster now. The cabinet shop volume can be as much as 35 percent of that. It’s a $1.5 million-plus part of our business and we’re just feeding our own work, so we’re going out to bid to other contractors.”
Premier serves the Boston high-end residential and commercial market. It typically has 20 or so jobs in the pipeline, including the renovation of a waterfront home and private country club.
“We work in all price ranges,” says Kumph. “I guess we tend to be pricy in that the projects architects and designers draw are usually pricey. The home values around here average one to ten million dollars. The whole Boston market is really strong and most of the clients that we’re working for are mostly financial individuals, or doctors, politicians or actors.
“I tell everyone we do work for regular people, too. We’ll do small jobs for local clients and so forth but for the most part, it’s people that want to put some money and value into their home for themselves to enjoy.”
Kumph grew up in Danvers, Mass., worked for a contractor after high school, and followed some good advice, which led to a degree in building construction from Boston’s Wentworth Institute of Technology. “One of the older carpenters took me under his wing and suggested I go back to school, so I did,” says Kumph. “After I got my degree, I worked with a couple of friends building houses until I started my own business.
“I started small with the cabinetry about 18 years. But it became a real good part of our business and has opened up into a full millwork division. I have a cabinet shop manager, state-of-the-art equipment, and we do our own finishing.”
Kumph is a 12-year member of the Cabinet Makers Association and its current vice president. He’s a big believer in putting the profits back into the business.
“We started with old table saw and built it from there. I do like quality and investing in the right tools for the guys. I tend to purchase them rather than lease them. We don’t like to be in debt,” he says. “Our C.R. Onsrud CNC router, purchased five years ago, has been a game changer. It paid for itself in two years.
“We have a couple of big commercial accounts. We do their corporate offices and we’ve been as far from here as Islesboro, Maine, so we have to take a ferry over with trucks, and we go down to Greenwich, Connecticut and New York City. One of our clients has offices in West Palm Beach, Florida and we’ve gone down there to do million-plus millwork packages including boardroom tables, corporate furniture, credenzas, and wall paneling, all from our millwork shop. That has its challenges at times but it’s pretty rewarding to know that we can build it up here and ship it down. I send a crew down to install it. We’re fortunate the clients we have are willing to pay for that type of work.”
A surge is coming
Navigating the pandemic hasn’t been easy. “I tried to bull through it all,” says Kumph. “Last March, when Covid started to really break, all our clients put their jobs on hold. We laid off about half the staff, but we brought them right back in four to six weeks. So, March to August was kind of weird and spotty, we were working, but it was unknown.
“Since August it has been unbelievable. We are as busy as we’ve been in over 30 years with work that we currently have, work that we’re bidding on and opportunities ahead of us. It’s all repeat, referred, or high-end, the type of work we do our best at. We’ve got some guys working overtime in the shop.”
The pandemic has created new leads with so many families working and schooling from home. Kumph’s noticed an influx of built-ins and other projects dedicated to home office or homework areas. Some are spending big. One long-term client added a fireplace, bar, bedroom and spa to an attic of a Victorian home.
“I think there’s a surge coming. I think people are starting to realize this really might be around for a while.”
Kumph’s middle child, 29-year-old Matthew, also went to Wentworth and is a project manager at Premier. He’s in line to take over some day.
“I’m not sure what we’re doing yet but I’m 58 and not ready to stop. I want to be the kind of person that brings business through my relationships but let him manage the day to day,” says Kumph.
“For me, at this stage in my career, I enjoy the idea of having it be a successful business beyond me, the idea to be able to transition to the next generation. I don’t know what that looks like, we’re working with people to help us with that along the way, but it’s an interesting thing. It’s great to be able to mentor, bring the business in and have the guys run the work and have it come out the way I want it to come out and maintain a good name in the industry.”
Contact: Premier Builders Inc, 113 Jewett St., Georgetown, MA 01833. Tel: 978-352-7002. www.premierbuildersinc.net
This article was originally published in the March 2021 issue.