Case Studies

Knez Building Materials Company

Three generations of distributing building materials and contributing to landmarks

For more than five decades, Knez Building Materials (KBM) has been a family-owned business. Now in its third generation of management, KBM is a leading supplier and distributor of building materials, plaster, insulations and drywall. Headquartered in Tigard, Oregon, KBM maintains the ability to complete any project regardless of size or scope for commercial and residential clients.

KBM’s roots date back to the early ‘50s when John Knez Sr. found himself building houses with his brother Lawrence as well as working for Fred Alt, a plaster supplier and manager of A. McMillan & Co. Starting at the bottom, John Sr. learned all he could about the industry and continuously made contributions to the growth of the company, eventually becoming a salesman. As years went by and more stores and people came and went, the McMillan family decided that it wanted out of the business. They approached John Sr. with an opportunity to buy the company.

Knez Building Materials Company

After purchasing the company, John Sr. hired his sister Violet to run the books and eventually brought on his five children to help out. The Knez family continued to run the company for two years under the banner of McMillan until its close in 1972. John Sr. was approached by a local wallboard company, Grey Co., to run his shop in Tualatin where they worked for two years until G.G. Gray retired in 1974, selling the company to the family, at which point they changed the company’s name to its current branding: Knez Building Materials Co.

With six locations, throughout the greater Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington, area, KBM is able to ensure easy order pickup and drop-off. The company’s complete product line runs the gamut of metal framing products, drywall, plaster, joint compound, FRP panels, fasteners, insulation, plastic trim and acoustical ceiling products. With a skilled and experienced sales team, KBM is able to coordinate with customers to identify which products are best suited for each project.

“We don’t like to limit ourselves,” says John Knez III, co-owner and sales director at KBM. “Our family is incredibly driven to be the best, and I am incredibly lucky to have learned from the experience my grandpa, dad and family have provided here.”

Knez III joined the family business at the age of 15 and witnessed KBM blossom into the full-service building material supply company it has become today. All three generations of Knez family members still work at KBM, including John Knez Sr., who recently turned 89.

KBM has focused heavily on the downtown Portland market. The company has been fortunate to contribute to some of the area’s largest developments in the past 50 years. KBM’s portfolio includes major Portland, Oregon, landmarks including The Rose Garden Arena, Koin Tower, and the Wendell Wyatt Federal Building. The company continues to be involved with numerous downtown Portland high-rises, such as the Overton Towers, The Ella, The Encore, River Scape and Burnside Bridgehead. “The Pearl District has become a very prominent area of downtown,” adds Knez III.

KBM offers its clients a 100 percent free estimating service on insulation. A KBM employee meets with each client and takes precise measurements of the space to provide a comprehensive projection of the cost of insulating and weatherizing a home and determine which materials are best suited for the job.

With the population of Oregon and Washington increasing, KBM has capitalized on the tract housing market. “We’ve been providing a lot of the drywall and insulation for the tract homebuilders in the area,” says Knez III. “The market has been expanding for the past three or four years and should continue on that path. People want to live here.”

The diversity in projects and clients has contributed significantly to KBM’s success over the years. “That’s what keeps us here,” says Knez III. “A lot of the bigger companies stick to a certain market. Our motto has always been to serve everybody, whether they need one piece or 10,000 pieces.” KBM is also open to the public and does not require customers to open an account or obtain a builders license. The pricing is consistently equal as well, regardless of the customer. “My grandfather made it that way back in ’63 and we carry on that spirit.”

Every delivery of KBM products comes with the guarantee that a KBM employee will help the client get the products precisely where needed. The company operates a fleet of specialized boom trucks to lift orders up top 4,000 pounds as high as 60 feet in the air, as well as a set of sky forks for most heights above that. The extra service element ensures construction crews and customers avoid risking injury carrying heavy loads up flights of stairs and other hard to reach areas so that crews can get straight to work.

The next few years will likely continue to bring a steady stream of work for the KBM team. No matter where the company chooses to roam, Knez Building Materials Inc. will always rely on its superior service and family atmosphere to find sustainable success.

This article is dedicated to Jeanne Knez. Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Great Grand Mother. 6/8/1929-5/17/2016

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