In 1947, Neil and Arlene Kelly started a remodeling company in the basement of their Kerns neighborhood home with a $100 investment. Seventy years later, the Neil Kelly Company, now headquartered at 804 N. Alberta St. in the Humboldt neighborhood, is the third largest design-build remodeling firm in the country, with more than 200 employees and five locations. Though no longer a small business, the company remains family-owned and inspired by the Kelly’s commitment to their customers, employees and community.
“My dad was basically a farm boy from Minnesota who came to the Northwest during the depression to find work,” said Tom Kelly, who succeeded his father as president of the company in 1979. “He worked on the Grand Coulee Dam and eventually the Kaiser shipyards in Portland. After World War II he took a job selling for a home improvement company but didn’t feel comfortable with their integrity.”
“Integrity is built into the company,” said design consultant Karen Richmond. “When you offer a great quality at a fair price, when you do your job well and are always striving to improve on that job, there’s no way it can’t be a win.”
As the company grew, Neil Kelly continued to innovate. He moved the company out of its basement location and into a remodeled 1930s gas station at 735 N. Alberta St. In the 1970s, he pioneered the design-build remodeling process, and became one of the first certified kitchen designers in the nation. He supported his employees’ professional advancement, including the women in the company, during a time when construction was an industry staffed almost exclusively by men. Longtime design consultant Martha Kerr became the first Certified Bath Designer in the country in 1975 and went on to become the first woman president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association.
“My father was someone who believed deeply in giving back to the industry as well as the community,” said Tom Kelly. “I inherited that philosophy to act civically and locally. As a company, we are proud to have employees who have honored this philosophy to become local and national leaders.”
Neil Kelly passed away in 1995 and in 1998 the Albina Rotary Club established a scholarship program in his name. Both Neil and Tom Kelly have served as chairs of the Portland Development Commission. All eight of Neil and Arlene’s children and their many grandchildren and great grandchildren have made significant contributions to the community and continue to weave the Kelly name into the fabric of our neighborhoods. In 2014, the Neil Kelly Company earned B Corporation certification and was among the first group of businesses to adopt Oregon Benefit Company status.
“Receiving B Corp certification was a way of formalizing and driving our values deeper,” says Julia Spence, vice president of human resources. “Our values – quality craftsmanship, treating people well and doing right by our employees and customers – are timeless and classic.”
“We stand behind our work and are well known for our high level of corporate responsibility and commitment to the community,” said Tom Kelly. “My legacy is to leave the company as strong as ever with its values in place and let the next generation of company leadership move forward.”
For more information, call 503-288-7461 or visit www.neilkelly.com.