By the Yard
KLK Construction Materials & Trucking provides top-quality materials for commercial and residential enhancements
There is an ancient Japanese proverb that states: “Adversity is the foundation of virtue.” Celebrating 51 years in business, Susan Krystopik, President of KLK Construction Materials & Trucking in South Plainfield, New Jersey, has overcome her fair share of challenges.
The story of KLK Construction Materials & Trucking began in 1969, when Susan’s husband, Ken Krystopik, agreed to go into partnership with an acquaintance. The two men purchased a dump truck and rented a materials yard in Piscataway, New Jersey. Ken had grown up working for his uncle who was in the trucking business. After graduating from high school, Ken worked as a truck driver for a local quarry making deliveries. When the opportunity presented itself to start a business, Ken jumped at the chance.
“While Ken was working for the local quarry, he made a lot of contacts and started building a reputation for himself in the industry,” Susan says. “Having that experience and background made a big difference when KLK Construction Materials & Trucking first started.”
In 1978, Ken and his partner wanted to expand the business, so they purchased a piece of property in South Plainfield and relocated. Forty-two years later, the company still operates from that same address.
In 1980, Ken bought out his partner and single-handedly ran the business until the summer of 2001, when he suddenly became ill and passed away six weeks later. As traumatic as his unexpected passing was, the fact that the Sept. 11 attacks happened two days before his death made an emotional time even more difficult. Despite the devastation of the family’s loss, the tragedy of the Sept. 11 attacks and the impending decline of the country’s economy, Susan felt it was imperative to keep the company going. “I knew our employees and our customers were depending on the continuity of our business,” she says. “But the biggest reason for keeping the company’s doors open was to honor Ken’s legacy.”
However, transitioning from working as an employee to sole owner virtually overnight was no easy feat. “I had always been involved with the administrative side of the business, even while raising our three children,” Susan explains. “As our kids started going to school, I spent more and more time in the office. At the time of Ken’s death, I was working full time. Even though I had been part of the company’s daily operations, it was never on my radar to be in charge of things. Without a doubt, it was an emotional time for me, but I also knew there was really no other option.”
Changing with the Times
In the early days, KLK Construction Materials & Trucking’s client base consisted mainly of local builders and lumber yards. “We mostly supplied crushed stone and sand, which we got from local quarries,” Susan explains. “But as our customer base started growing, we wanted to diversify the business.”
The concept of landscaping homes and businesses was becoming a popular trend, so the company started building relationships with suppliers that provided products like colored mulch and decorative stone. “There was a growing awareness throughout the commercial and residential worlds that landscaping served a lot of purposes,” Susan explains. “From softening spaces around office buildings to improving the environmental quality of a home, it was becoming a hot market and we wanted to be part of it.”
With that decision, the company has not only survived but thrived. With 10 employees and six delivery trucks, KLK Construction Materials & Trucking supplies a multitude of landscape materials to major developers, builders, landscaping companies and do-it-yourselfers throughout Central New Jersey—including dyed and organic mulches, screened and organic topsoil, boulders, sand, and decorative and building stones. The company also supplies salt and ice-control sand in the winter months. “We have a roster of more than 600 clients, ranging from first-time homeowners to large corporations such as K. Hovnanian Companies, LLC.”
The success of the company is due in large part to several family members who have stayed committed to helping run the business over the years. “When each of our children turned 12 years old, they started working at the yard, mostly on Saturdays, doing odd jobs,” Susan says. “They would sweep the floors, clean the kitchen, put away tools or do whatever their dad needed to have done. Today, my son Ken and his wife, Lisa, both work part time for the company. Ken is a mechanic for Warren Township, but he also oversees the maintenance that gets done on the company trucks. Lisa works with me in the office. My youngest son, Kevin, is a lawyer and wears two hats: He has his own law practice and he serves as the General Manager for the family business. My husband spent many years building this great company and our entire family is devoted to keeping his dream alive.”
Susan also credits the loyalty of their employees as another reason for the company’s success. “Several of our truck drivers worked for us until they retired, many of whom had more than 20 years of service with KLK Construction Materials & Trucking,” she says. “Our salesperson, Tim Laspe, just celebrated his 18th year with us. We maintain a family-like atmosphere, which I believe is a key reason our employees stay so long.”
Leaving No Stone Unturned
Despite the company’s overall growth and success, outside factors such as inclement weather or a fluctuating economy can occasionally impact its business.
“Typically, quarries don’t crush stone during the winter months because there’s not much demand for the product and because they send their crushers out for annual maintenance during the slower months,” Susan explains. (A crusher is a machine designed to reduce large rocks into smaller rocks, gravel or rock dust.) “When there’s warmer weather like what we’ve experienced this winter, the cycle gets disturbed. We’ve seen a much higher demand than normal for crushed materials. To stay ahead of our clients’ needs, we have to travel further out geographically to other quarries, mostly in southern New Jersey, to obtain materials.”
But Susan has learned to take these types of challenges in stride and chooses to focus on the positive instead. “I think there are two main factors that set us apart from our competitors,” she says. “We are open year-round, and we own our own trucks, both of which are uncommon in this industry. Being open when it’s convenient for our customers to stop by is a big advantage. But if they prefer to skip the trip and have their materials delivered to their home or job site, that’s where our trucks come in. We have no problem keeping our truck drivers busy year-round, which hopefully keeps our customers happy.”