Kitchen Handyman: Kitchen Tune-Up Plans Retail Storefront

Since Jason Krueger bought his Kitchen Tune-Up franchise in Lincoln three years ago, which operates out of his home, he has concentrated on growing his business enough to open a retail space.

Aberdeen, South Dakota-based Kitchen Tune-Up has been in business for more than 30 years. Krueger bought the franchise for Lincoln in early 2018 and serves customers in a 40-mile radius of the capital city, including some work in Omaha.

The firm does kitchen and bathroom remodeling, which can range from a complete remodel to a basic tune-up such as replacing aging hardware — like handles and drawer pulls — painting, custom cabinets, and cabinet refacing.

The firm will have to grow a little more to make a retail space commercially feasible.
“If I can hire a full-time crew member, I might be able to hire a full-time salesperson,” he said.

Including Krueger, there are six part-time employees.

“One guy who just turned 74 built houses and cabinets all of his life,” Krueger said. “He works three days a week for me. I have a couple of college kids who work around their class schedules and other work schedules. If I get much busier, I’ll need a full-time project manager.”

Hands On

Krueger is still highly involved in all of the projects but hired a part-time salesman about two years ago. He is working to grow the company steadily but is wary of growing too fast.
“[Growing] is easier with a franchise because [the franchiser] helps you out, but it’s easy to get ahead of yourself if you’re not careful,” he said.

The firm is facing the same supply chain issues as other companies, which makes it difficult to get the right supplies when they are needed.

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“I’d figured out how to solve the problem, but I couldn’t get the part I wanted, so I had to do something different,” he said.

Krueger credits the company’s success to “under promising and over delivering.” He does extra things his customers don’t expect at no charge.

“I’ve fixed screen doors and steps,” he said. “We have one customer who is getting new flooring — not from us — be we have an extra trailer, and I put that in their driveway so they could put their furniture in the trailer. Sometimes they don’t even notice some of the things I did. I just think it’s the right thing to do, especially for older people who don’t have kids or a handyman and don’t know how to find that kind of service. Sometimes they’ll just mention something, and I’ll take care of it.”

The Right Fit

Krueger grew up in Hebron but left in 1985 at the end of his junior year in high school when his father, who was a rural mail carrier, moved the family to Kearney so he could get a bigger route. He finished high school in Kearney and did one year of college in Sidney but didn’t like it, so he left to work in a variety of jobs.

In 2002, at the age of 35, he had an opportunity to return to college through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and in December, 2007, graduated with a degree in mechanized systems management from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“I always tell people that [mechanized systems management] is a cross between mechanical engineering and ag engineering,” Krueger said.

After college he mostly worked in the grain industry. He was a job coordinator for a millwright company for two and a half years, then he did project management on projects up to $25 million for ADM in Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota and Missouri. Then he worked for about four years for a farm-based ag company in Henderson where he built grain bins, center pivots and other projects for farmers.

“I’d been looking for a franchise to supplement my income, then the owner [of the Henderson company] decided to make some management changes, so I had to restructure my focus to something I could make a living at,” Krueger said.

He talked to several different franchises including a lawn company, a technology company, and a vending company.

“I really like the people at [Kitchen Tune-Up’s] home office in Aberdeen,” Krueger said. “They have great Midwestern values and a great work ethic. A lot of other companies I talked to were on the coasts.”