As a history lesson of the electrical industry, we have compiled several short stories on the legends you made the industry possible for Team K/E. Of course our favorite is the story of our founder:
On June 6, 1935, Wayne Frederick Kuchenmeister was born to Frederick Albert Kuchenmeister and his wife Dorothy Ballard Kuchenmeister. The first of three children, Wayne Kuchenmeister began his life in Macomb County, Michigan. Wayne received his education in the public schools of Roseville, Michigan near Fourteen Mile and Gratiot.
Wayne was an enterprising young man who began working at an early age. In the mid 1950s, Wayne took a job with the Bundy Tubing Company, a supplier to the auto industry. It was around this time that Wayne met the girl of his dreams, Barbara Faye Belcher. After a whirlwind romance, Wayne and Faye tied the knot on February 12, 1955.
Early in 1956, Wayne was laid off from Bundy Tubing. Since, Wayne and Faye were expecting their first child, Wayne decided he’d rather be gainfully employed than go on unemployment. It didn’t take Wayne long to find his next job as truck driver for Mill & Howard Wholesale of Mount Clemens. Wayne was to start his new job on May 8th, but Faye had other plans. Cheryl, their first child was born on that day and Wayne was given the day off to spend with his family. At work the next day, Wayne began to show his enthusiasm and was soon promoted to counter salesman.
Most of Wayne’s family sold auto parts in the area and were very surprised to now have an “electrical expert “ in the family. Wayne liked his job and the people he worked with. This was the business he would build his life around.
With the experience he gained as an electrical parts salesman, Wayne was then hired as warehouse manager for the Arnold Young Company, an electrical parts sales agency. It was during this period, on November 10, 1960, Faye gave birth to their first son, Rock. Wayne decided it was now time to move to sales, where he could make more money. For the next two years Wayne traveled Michigan selling to the electrical industry.
Meanwhile, Wayne’s father tried unsuccessfully to persuade him to join the auto parts business. However, Wayne now had the electrical wholesale business in his sights and by this time Mill & Howard Wholesale had closed the business in Mount Clemens. Wayne recognized the potential local electrical market and began to look for a building. It was also a good time to look for a larger home, because on September 9th of 1962, Faye gave birth to a third child, Randall.
For the new business, Wayne thought that a working partner would be helpful and what better a partner can a man have than his own brother, Norman? The partnership began on December 1, 1962 as “Kuchenmeister Electric Supply”.
Originally a feed storage shed, their first building had been part of the “Mount Clemens Farmers Mill” property. Their first business slogan was “Service”, which later became “Who serves you faster? Kuchenmeister”. Offering fast service was only part of the effort which helped the business thrive. Hard work, long hours and family cooperation tied together the successful electrical wholesale business for more than 25 years.
After twenty-six years, Wayne and Norman decided it was time to divide their business and prepare for the next generation of Kuchenmeister’s in the electrical supply business. After months of planning, the splitting of the business was conducted over a normal weekend and both new businesses opened October 31, 1988. Many trading partners of Kuchenmeister Electric thought the split would never work, but both new business continue to succeed years after the split. As his part of the division, Wayne formed the K/E Electric Supply Corporation and continued to managed the business while turning the reins to his children.
For several years, Wayne has liked to tell people that he is retired, but anyone who knows him will tell you a different story. Most of the year you can still find Wayne wearing many different hats and the occasional “green coat” around K/E Electric Supply. Counter sales, warehouse manager, public relations director, story teller and “specific problem solver” are titles that Wayne Kuchenmeister earned. His favorite title has always been “Coordinator”.
Wayne is a man who looks forward to each morning. He enjoys the other employees and often sides with them against the “new management”. His children love this, of course.
More than forty years in the electrical industry have produced a rich life for Wayne and his family. Many friendships have developed and various opportunities to serve the community, while earning a living. Along the way, Wayne has always been a true friend to the industry, promoting a strong independent company that is fair to its customers, employees and vendors.
Wayne Kuchenmeister never really retired from the Electrical Industry. Rather than retire, he pulled a “classic Wayne” and entered a meeting of the new management saying… “I really don’t want to retire, I think I’ll just QUIT”.