A Solid Foundation
A brief history of the Kuhlman Corporation.
Adam Kuhlman, 1901
Kuhlman Corporation contributed to the region’s history for five generations, supplying the construction materials used to build Toledo and its surrounding communities.
The Kuhlman Corporation name traces back to Adam R. Kuhlman, a German immigrant’s son who toiled as a bricklayer and masonry contractor. In the late 1890s, Kuhlman and Richard Kind formed the Kuhlman-Kind Co. and began selling building materials to the construction trade. In 1901, Kuhlman-Kind merged with three other companies to become Toledo Builders Supply. Adam Kuhlman was vice president of the new firm until 1916, when he became its president.
Toledo Builders Supply operated yards on Cherry Street and East Toledo’s Main Street. More locations followed on Water Street, South St. Clair Street, Sylvania Avenue, and Dorr Street. In 1902, Adam Kuhlman invested in a Consaul Street brick-making firm called the Ohio Brick Co. Brick-making operations continued until the site ran out of clay in the early 1940s.
Leaving Toledo Builders Supply in the mid-1920s, Adam Kuhlman ventured out to launch the Kuhlman Builders Supply and Brick Co. His new company became a success, and in 1928, Kuhlman Builders acquired Toledo Builders Supply. Adam became a solid civic presence in Toledo, leading the Chamber of Commerce, YMCA, and Lutheran Old Folks Home.
A Pioneer in Ready-Mixed Concrete
In 1928, Kuhlman became the first company in Northwest Ohio, and among the first in Ohio, to enter the ready-mixed concrete business. Its first mixer had a two-cubic-yard capacity and cost $3,000. During the Great Depression, a fleet of five concrete mixer trucks helped keep the company afloat by giving Kuhlman a competitive edge when bidding on the few construction projects underway.
Today, Kuhlman retains its position as the region’s foremost supplier of ready-mixed concrete. The company mixes hundreds of concrete formulations to meet exacting project specifications, supplying projects from residential driveways to complex industrial facilities.
A Second Generation
In addition to business slowdowns, the Depression era marked the passing of Adam Kuhlman. Following his death in 1933, the company passed to his sons, Charles and Edwin. Charles was elected president while Edwin ran daily business operations. Like other companies, they struggled. But the brothers kept the company operating through the economy’s leanest times.
During World War II, industry declined again as equipment and supplies became subject to rationing. But, a post-war building boom helped the company grow again.
Charles Kuhlman died suddenly in 1956. A thoughtful, kind man of few words, Charles summarized the company’s philosophy when he asserted, “A sale is never made until the customer is totally satisfied.” He was succeeded as president by long-term Kuhlman employee Clyde Stevenson.
Under Stevenson’s reign, the company completed several ready-mix acquisitions, including Koder Concrete and Supply, Inc. and Carl Zenz and Associates Co. The addition of Knapp Ready Mix, Inc. extended Kuhlman’s concrete operations into Southeastern Michigan.
The purchase of Wood County Transit Mix added the Bowling Green, Ohio territory. The company also built a state-of-the-art headquarters on Collingwood Boulevard, which would be its home for nearly 40 years.
Upon Stevenson’s death in 1967, Marion S. (Bart) Bartholomew, Charles Kuhlman’s son-in-law, took over the firm’s helm. Under Bartholomew’s direction, the company expanded into new areas, beginning with development of the 100-acre Charles E. Kuhlman Industrial Park along the Maumee River, now the site of the company’s large multi-purpose “Yard One” operation that produces concrete and sells building and warehouse bulk materials. Bartholomew also led Kuhlman into supplying concrete for power plant construction, an exacting specialty.
In the 1960s, Kuhlman engineers and their counterparts at Detroit Edison perfected K-Krete®, a unique concept and product known as controlled density fill. Engineered to produce a flowable fill that does not require compaction, K-Krete does not shrink or settle and is competitive with compacted granular fill. The product is available worldwide.
The past four decades have witnessed the ongoing development of Kuhlman’s construction products business. Its vast product offerings include ready-mixed concrete, decorative and stamped concrete, brick, stone, hardscape supplies, sewer & water materials, concrete forming systems, and more. In addition to its retail locations, Kuhlman maintains a robust online catalog where customers can purchase various materials and products to conquer many projects.
Kuhlman Corporation celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2001. It moved its main office to Arrowhead Park in 2005. The building showcases numerous Kuhlman construction products to architects, builders, and homeowners and has received praise for its architectural design.
Joining The Gerken Companies
In 2021, The Gerken Companies acquired Kuhlman Corporation, retaining its leadership team and employees and continuing to invest in its people and assets to serve Kuhlman customers in Northern Ohio and Southeastern Michigan.
“Kuhlman was a natural fit for us because of their 120-year tradition of quality materials coupled with a focus on employees and safety,” Gerken President Brent Gerken said at the time. “Their commitment to making their customers successful aligns perfectly with our culture and vision.”
Over five generations, Kuhlman Corporation became one of the region’s largest producers of ready-mixed concrete, a diversified wholesale distributor of quality construction materials, and a leading supplier and hauler of quality construction aggregates. Kuhlman contributed to the area’s history by supplying the materials used to construct Toledo and its surrounding communities for more than 120 years. And in the spirit of bricklayer Adam Kuhlman, who entered the building supply business in 1901, the company remains 100 percent customer-driven.