Kully Pipe and Steel Supply, a family-owned and operated company that began 85 years ago as a hide and wool salvage business, is now a major supplier of structural steel, pipes, and wholesale and retail plumbing supplies servicing greater Nebraska and southern Kansas. While Kully Pipe and Steel Supply specializes in new steel products, the company continues its salvage business through City Iron and Metal, or Cimco.
Lou Kully, company president, is the third generation of Kully’s to be involved in the family business. His son, Jeff Kully, is the secretary-treasurer and operations manager.
In 1920, Lou’s grandfather, Louis, entered into a partnership with Gabriel Rosenberg, owner of Hastings Hide and Fur. Eventually, the partnership ended and Louis retained control of Hastings Hide and Fur. He expanded the business to include scrap iron forming Louis Kully and Sons. In 1941, the business was sold back to the Rosenberg family when Louis died. In 1946, Louis’s son, Yale, returned from World War II service and started Kully Iron and Metal. Yale began with $200 and an old pickup.
At first Kully Iron and Metal handled only scrap materials. In the 1950s, though, it expanded its focus selling new steel and pipe. Lou, who had worked for his father while he was in grade school and high school, joined the company full time in 1971 when he graduated from the University of Nebraska.
Lou’s aspiration was to go to law school but he began working in the family business when both his father and uncle, who was also involved in the business, became ill.
“There was no one left to run the place,” Lou said, “and after a while, I had no desire to go to law school.”
Lou and his father worked together until his father died in 1998. In 1991, Lou repurchased the old Hastings Hide and Fur company, the last scrap metal company in Hastings, eventually changing the name to Cimco.
The following are managers of Kully Pipe and Steel Supply’s divisions:
- Steel: Fred Vaupel
- Plumbing: Bruce Fox
- Steel rebar and fabrication: Mike Lamoree
- City Iron & Metal
Kully Pipe and Steel’s light fabrication division accounts for about 50 percent of company sales; structural steel and rebar division accounts for 30 percent; and plumbing supply and fixtures account for 20 percent, said Lou.
Kully Pipe and Steel has sold plumbing supplies, such as pipes, valves, and fittings, for a number of years. In 1995, the company responded to customer needs and began selling brand-name plumbing fixtures, such as toilets, sinks, and showers. The plumbing fixtures inventory can be viewed in the showroom located at 300 South Colorado.
“We can sell to the small individual and to the major contractors and developers,” Lou said, “No customer is too small or too big. We’re an old company, so people know who we are.”
Kully Pipe and Steel has salesmen who hit the pavement marketing the products to any entity that could use them: plumbing companies, grain elevators, hospitals, and municipalities in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and parts of Colorado. Lou said 80 percent of the products sold are to businesses such as welding shops, contractors, and municipalities.
Lou said he likes “the wheeling and dealing, buying and selling” that are involved in the business. “Every day is different,” he said, “You never know what’s going to happen.”
He said the key to having any successful business is hiring the right people. The company has 67 employees: 52 who work for Kully Pipe & Steel and 12 who work for Cimco. While the total is down due to the recession, Lou said he expects to hire more employees soon.
In addition to the plumbing showroom, recent expansions include a 15,000 square foot building constructed in 1995 to house the structural steel division. Future expansions are being planned. The company recently acquired railroad right-of-way property from the Union Pacific. Plans are to build new offices and a 33,000 square foot warehouse. He also hopes to expand the steel, rebar and pipe division of the company.