As a 23-year-old, Kevin Cohen had no intention of starting his own plumbing contracting business.
“I didn’t want to,” he says with a laugh. “My dad (Glen Cohen, who still operates Glen Cohen Plumbing) said I probably should do it. I had a great job before, but I needed some new challenges. It’s fun learning more things. Plumbing is plumbing, but running a business is a different challenge. I went back to school, took some business classes and started slow.”
Eugene, Ore.-based Kevin Cohen Plumbing is closing in on its 15th anniversary and now features seven vans that cover a 150-mile radius performing service, new construction and process pipe work.
The four newest vans in the company’s fleet are Sprinters, including a recently purchased Mercedes Benz model. “The Sprinters drive well,” Cohen, now 38, says. “They are easy to get in, they turn well in smaller subdivisions and are easy to park. It rains a lot up here, so it’s nice to be able to go in and out of the truck and keep everything dry. We have them racked from top to bottom. You can keep quite a bit of stuff in there. And they are great rolling billboards.”
The wrapping (currently done by Eugene-based Imagine Group) on Cohen’s vans has evolved over the years. His first wraps featured red lettering, but the color scheme has since changed to blue and white. “The red fades away,” says Cohen, a third-generation plumber who still is the youngest plumber to receive a journeyman plumber’s license in Oregon (earned at age 21). “If you look at the truck from 100 or 200 ft., the blue and the white doesn’t go away. It really stands out.”
So does the wrap’s design, which features a blueprint and pipe motif. “I’ve always liked the look of a blueprint,” he says. “It’s amazing how much work goes into designing these things.”
The wrap on Cohen Plumbing’s newest van will undergo some slight modifications to better highlight the company’s 24-hour same-rate service. “The wraps change when our services change,” Cohen says. “We’ve never advertised our 24-hour service. We offer 24-hour service at the same price as our day rate. We have one or two guys who work a swing shift and a weekend shift.”
Cohen notes his company benefits from television commercials (with scary movie themes) it runs in the local Eugene area and from its presence at home shows. He says the company generated $100,000 in business from the three home shows it attended last year.
Process pipe work, especially in breweries, continues to be a key revenue source for the company. “Beer is big business up here,” Cohen says. “We work on several breweries and wineries. We got called to put a pressure-reducing valve in a brewery and kept doing work for them over the years. Now they are close to being the largest microbrewer on the West Coast.”
Cohen is a major proponent of using sustainable products and systems on jobs and makes sure his employees are trained on the latest green products, trends and technologies.
“We only promote the highest-efficiency products,” he says. “We send our guys to school all over the place. Education in our field is super-important.”
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