Most folks venturing about Wheeling’s downtown district are not able to see the extent of the renovations made recently to the former Riley Building by Kalkreuth Roofing & Sheet Metal, which co-owns the building with Jim Hurley.
They can peek into the beautiful new lobby and clearly see the windows –those white-frame windows. And Hurley admits he became nervous after the first one was installed. Keep in mind the Kaley Center boasts 350 windows.
“Vic Greco found a photo of the building from 1920, and when it was first constructed, it had white windows. It was in the 1970s when the building was re-done that it was fitted with window frames that were darker,” Hurley said. “So when I saw the picture from the 1920s, I immediately thought that we had to go back to the white windows.
“There are 350 windows in this building with 33 per floor and some on the backside, too, and I told my business partner that he would think I was crazy, but I felt we needed to put the white windows in the building,” he continued. “So we did it, but when we put the first one in, we thought, ‘Oh God, how much is it going to cost to paint all of those windows?’”
Those strolling by the building didn’t help either.
“I would see people on the street who were suspiciously silent. No one mentioned the windows, but I know what everyone was thinking: ‘What are they doing?’ And it wasn’t until they were all in and we had the brick cleaned did the building look like we wanted it to look,” Hurley admitted. “It turned out great. It really did.”
Kalkreuth Roofing owns roots in Wheeling that date to nearly a century ago, when co-owner John Kalkreuth’s grandfather and uncle founded the company in the 1920s. In 1984, Hurley, a native of the Philadelphia area who earned his industrial engineering degree from West Virginia University, and Kalkreuth partnered and since have guided the company to nationwide status. These days Kalkreuth Roofing operates offices in Frederick, Md., Columbus, Ohio, Lexington, Ky., and Pittsburgh, as well as its headquarters in downtown Wheeling.
Hurley, who also earned a mechanical engineering degree from Penn State, said during the summer months the company employs between 400-500 field workers, and collectively the offices have approximately 125 employees.
“Our work on hand right now is 50 percent more than what we had at this time last year,” Hurley reported. “Now that’s a crazy jump that’s just happened, but we don’t want to grow that quickly, and we’re not trying to grow that quickly. It just happened because there are a lot of big projects this year.
“Most of those jobs are commercial jobs, and the only office that continues to do residential work is the Wheeling office,” he continued. “We do the residential work here because we know so many people, and they call us.”
As far as what metro area Hurley and Kalkreuth are eyeing up for yet another office opening, it doesn’t work like that with this roofing company.
“We don’t pick a market and say that we need to be in that market. Our growth is more organic,” Hurley explained. “Our offices evolve. Before we opened an office in Columbus, we were already doing a lot of work there, so after a while it just made sense to open the office there.
“Ohio State is one of our biggest clients in Columbus, and they have called us for some pretty big jobs, but then they would call for some smaller jobs, and that made it tough to get them those services,” he said. “So the offices develop themselves based on the amount of work that we received in those areas. Where the next one is going to be is something I can’t answer right now.”
Going green is the trend now in building construction and roofing, Hurley said, and the PNC Tower is a prime example. The building, located along Fifth Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, now has a roof that collects rain water for toilet use.
“Architects are now specifying in their designs products that will last a long time, and those products are good for the environment. And that trend is really just getting started,” he explained. “There’s no end in sight – not during my lifetime anyway.”
“The PNC Tower in Pittsburgh is the greenest office building in the world right now. We also did the Queen City Tower that is the tallest building in Cincinnati,” Hurley said. “We’ve done several arenas like the Yum Center in Louisville, and we did the Washington Nationals’ ballpark in Washington, D.C. And there have been hospitals and airports and many others.”
Purchasing the former Riley Building and transforming it into the Kaley Center was a multi-million-dollar decision that was contemplated for some time by the business partners and, in fact, moving away from the Friendly City was a part of that conversation.
The more the two discussed it, Hurley said, the more it made sense to invest in downtown Wheeling.
“This is where it all started in 1984, and most of us are from here,” he said. “By 1986 we knew that if we were going to survive that we would have to reach out to other markets, too. The 1980s was a tough time, but that’s when we expanded the business but still stayed here.
“That is when we opened the Maryland office, and it was a completely different world there. It was growing there,” he said. “Since then we have opened offices in Columbus, Lexington, and Pittsburgh, but most of our people are from the Wheeling area. We didn’t want to disrupt everyone’s lives and move from here, and it’s worked out great for us.
“Buying it was the easy part. The renovations were extensive with all new electric, all new plumbing, and new elevators; there’s now a sprinkler system in the building, and all of the floors where our offices are located were gutted. This building was a huge commitment,” Hurley added. “But we do believe in the future of downtown Wheeling, and more importantly we believe in ourselves and in the people in our organization.”
(The photos of the completed projects provided by Kalkreuth Roofing; all other photos by Steve Novotney)