For more than six decades, Atlantic City-based Kisby Shore Corp. has been a leading mechanical contractor, with major plumbing and HVAC projects at casino hotels, Richard Stockton College, AtlantiCare, Shore Medical Center and public schools.
Now the company — since 1998 owned by the Lees family — is branching out into residential plumbing, heating and air conditioning, and changing its name to Kisby Shore Residen-tial & Commercial.
Jim Lees, of Margate, said the expansion was prompted by numerous calls seeking local residential plumbing services.
Of the 80 or so signatory contractors in the region recommended by Local 322 of the Plumbers & Pipefitters Union, Kisby Shore is the only one in Atlantic City — or on Absecon Island.
Six weeks after the expansion decision, a storm came and greatly increased the need for service.
“Hurricane Sandy jump-started us into the residential business, just because so many homes are built at curb height,” Lees said. “The water washed in the front and out the back.”
Kisby Shore is known for handling some of the biggest projects in the region, including the HVAC and plumbing for the high-rise surgical pavilion at Shore Medical Center, the expansion/renovation of Mainland Regional High School, and the cafe and player’s club for Resorts’ Margaritaville.
Now it also takes jobs at the other end of the scale: servicing or installing faucets, hot water heaters, drains, toilets, sinks and tubs, as well as furnaces, air conditioning, thermostats and duct work.
Lees, an electrical engineer and former vice president of marketing and sales with Atlantic City Electric, said expanding to residential work required only a few small changes.
One was adding some equipment and changing what is loaded onto trucks working on homes, so they have the tools and materials needed for home jobs.
“And we now take credit cards, something we never did before, because people want to pay with credit cards,” he said.
Residential work also means finding out what people want, as opposed to following a contract spelled out by engineers.
“For example, I have a friend and she wants me to put in a new boiler. I’d be glad to do it for her, but she doesn’t need a new boiler,” Lees said. “Some people want things they don’t need, and others don’t want things they do need.”
Kisby Shore brings to residential work the relentless focus on performance needed for major contracts, so it only uses name-brand products and warranties its labor and materials for a year.
Jim Lees grew up in Atlantic City and learned the trade working summers for his grandfather’s plumbing and heating business.
“The joke was, because the plumbers were large men, whenever they needed someone small for a crawl space, they’d say, ‘Send down the kid,’” he said.
Five years after buying the company from George Kisby, the founder’s son, Lees’ own son James joined Kisby Shore and is an owner.
James Lees, 37, of Margate, a lawyer and University of Pennsylvania graduate, said the commercial side of the business is much larger but that might change over time.
“We hope the residential side has the potential to grow and match the commercial side,” James Lees said.
So far, replacement of flood-damaged heaters and plumbing is growing the residential side — but a shift is expected as summer nears.
“Air conditioning work will come when the weather gets warmer,” Jim Lees said, “when people turn their units on and they don’t work.”
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