August 1, 1953 was the time that John Knez Sr. found himself working for Fred Alt, a drywall supplier and manager of A. McMillan & Co., a company that had been running for quite some time. The company, opening sometime in 1902, started hauling sacks of plaster to nearby homes and various job sites all being delivered by two men with a horse and wagon.
John Sr. started out at the bottom. Sweeping floors, carrying sacks of plaster, and putting orders together were his daily routine. Eventually he started to work with the crews delivering plaster and other materials. Soon after as the industry changed they began delivering drywall as well.
John Sr. continued working for A. McMillan making deliveries and learning all that he could about the industry making continual contributions to the company.One day he was approached by the company owners and asked to become a salesman (where we're sure if any of you know John Sr. today, this was his true calling.) All the while John Sr.'s business skills were growing, his family at home was growing as well. With five children under one roof John Sr. needed to find another source of income so he started working with his brother Lawrence building houses on the side. John continued working two jobs like this for sometime until one day his manager, Fred Alt came to him with the news of his retirement. With the offer to become his replacement this once again gave John Sr. the opportunity to advance in the company. More years went by and after more stores opened and more people came and went, the McMillan family wanted out. McMillan came to John with the offer of the company knowing he could leave it to a man that would give his company energy and life. John Sr. agreed. Taking on his sister Violet to run the books and hiring on his 5 now growing and able children to start working for the family John Sr. started on a new venture to grow his company. Working together as a family the Knez's continued to run the company for 2 years under the banner of McMillan until moving shops to a lease space in Tualatin. There the name was changed to what is now Knez Building Materials Co.
In 1974, after 2 years of working, growing, and saving, the family finally purchased their first warehouse in Tigard on Hunziker Street. With hard work and family ties kept tight, the Knez's continued to run the company under the strong beliefs that having the best quality products and service is the way to success. This is something that the company put forth on a daily basis under the watchful eye of John Sr. as the company continually grew. Getting jobs done in the most efficient, timely, and safest fashion possible are what allowed the Knez family to easily expand the company.
Starting in 1977 with the opening or our Vancouver, Washington store (moved to current location in 1994) to the opening of our Salem shop in 1981 we kept building upwards. In 1981,'83, and '84 we opened up our Springfield, Hillsboro, and Bothell stores (All 3 Now Closed). From there we moved onto the opening of our now corporate headquarters in Clackamas in 1986, as well as the opening of our downtown location.
None of this could have been done without the family sticking together and doing their part. John Sr. created a sense of togetherness and made sure everyone could contribute in their own ways. It has allowed the company to expand far beyond what it once was. Today his 5 children and second generation of Knez's now run it. John Jr. is the now President/Operations manager of the company, Joe is the Vice-President/Mechanic making sure all 50 trucks and 25 other pieces of equipment are in full running order, Katherine is the Corporate Secretary/CFO, Joann is the Co-Treasurer/Accounts Receivable, and Janet is the second Co-Treasurer/Accounts Receivable. Our company started with only 5 flat bed trucks, 1 boom truck, and 10 employees.
We now employ over 150 dedicated and loyal employees that are all considered family, operate out of 6 locations, and run 50 trucks on a daily basis to serve our ever-growing and muchly appreciated customers. What was once the view of one man is still the goal of the company today. "The key to success is to get along and help each other, to get the job done, and to do it with a sense of pride." With this in mind the second generation Knez family, as well as the now upcoming third generation, will continue with our mission of becoming the biggest and best drywall supplier in the Northwest.