East Bay plumbing contractor celebrates 4 generations and 100 years in enterprise

The LJ Kruse Company in Berkeley, California, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The plumbing and heating company has been continuously owned and operated by the Kruse family since it was founded by Louis Joseph Kruse in 1916. Andy Kruse, president and part of the third generation of leadership, said in a statement, “We are very excited to enter our second century of plumbing, heating and cooling services in the Bay Area. I often think about what my grandfather Louis would say if he saw the operation today. While the past is important to us, we are more focused on the future as the fourth generation is now about to take over.”

Founder Louis J. Kruse was the son of a German immigrant who came to California to prospect in the gold fields of the Sierra foothills. Louis was born in Grass Valley in 1889, and when his father died in a mysterious mining accident a few years later, the family moved to San Francisco. Louis grew up in the city, enjoyed working with his hands, and learned to be a gasfitter at Lick-Wilmerding, then a vocational school.

After the great earthquake of 1906, Louis saw the tremendous potential for tradesmen in the East Bay and moved to Oakland. He built a home in the Rockridge neighborhood and opened his plumbing shop on College Avenue in 1916. After his death in 1946, his son, Edward H. Kruse, presided over the company's rapid postwar growth. The firm now operates in all five Bay Area counties and is run by the third generation, Dave and Andy Kruse. The fourth generation of Kruse leadership is ready to take the lead. They include Janell Kruse Yates VP, Nathan Kruse VP, Ben Kruse union plumber and Will Kruse dispatcher. “We need the youth and the energy that comes with it,” Andy says. “When our grandfather was young, he had a vision, and the next generation does too.”

Nathan Kruse and Ben Kruse; Trimble layout at the Alameda County Courthouse.

The LJ Kruse Company operates two divisions from its 20,000-square-foot headquarters in Berkeley, California. (The building was renovated to LEED GOLD standards in 2012.) The construction division focuses on large commercial and residential projects with a strong emphasis on healthcare and design-build capabilities. The company utilizes in-house CAD, BIM and prefabrication techniques to install complex plumbing and piping systems in new and existing buildings throughout the region. The service division focuses on repairing and maintaining commercial, industrial and residential plumbing, heating and cooling systems. All field work for both divisions is performed by unionized plumbers, pipefitters and sheet metal workers and supported by an office staff of experienced managers and executives. The company is one of the few plumbing companies in the region that offers a range of services, from a one-hour service visit to your home to a multi-million dollar plumbing installation at a hospital.

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