Sometimes men send their wives into Bill's Plumbing to buy a part or ask a question. What could the woman behind the counter know about plumbing?
Plenty, it turns out.
Judy Kimler literally grew up in the plumbing business; her parents, Bill and Ann Kimler, opened Bill's Plumbing before she was born. She began working there during her high school years. For more than 30 years, she's occasionally faced builders and customers who didn't want to deal with a woman at a plumbing shop,
Most of them have come around, said Kimler, co-owner and president of Bill's Plumbing. Kimler hopes many of her former nay-sayers will attend the business's 50th anniversary celebration from 11 a.m.-
3 p.m. on Aug. 12. The public is invited for burgers, hot dogs and door prizes.
"I loved working with my dad. My dad started the company to be a family business. My brother started his own business, and my sister moved to Seattle.
"Somebody had to stay," Kimler said with a grin.
Kimler started her career helping keep the books, but she learned the rest of the business, too.
"My dad trained me to do the bidding," she said. He also taught her the nuts and bolts of plumbing, though she is not a licensed plumber. The business employs licensed union plumbers.
Bill's Plumbing does service and repair work, residential and small commercial jobs. When Bill Kimler was alive, they took larger commercial jobs and did excavating and septic systems. When he died in 1995, co-owners Judy and her mother scaled back.
In the mid-1970s, Bill Kimler bought railroad property on Third Avenue and moved the business to its current location. Last winter Judy Kimler and manager Karen Lewis remodeled, brightening the retail space with new displays. They keep up on trends in plumbing when they attend trade shows.
"Water conservation is very big," Kimler said.
"Most all the companies are adapting to that, but the way they've designed them, you won't even notice."
Dual flush toilets and on-demand water heaters also are more widely available.
"Europe has adopted conservation much earlier than we have," she said.
Tubs, toilets abound
The retail store is filled with parts, and the staff is glad to offer advice. The showroom walls are covered with faucets and showerheads. On the floor, an array of tubs, vanities and toilets provides many options for remodelers and builders.
Several vendors will be present for the 50th anniversary party, demonstrating their latest products.
Helping people in the retail store and showroom is Kimler's favorite part of the business, as it was for her father.
"It's amazing how many people want to do it themselves," Kimler said.
"We have the knowledge and can help them. It's all about knowledge, whether it's a faucet or fixture. We know what to do with it, how to fix it."
"There's nothing more satisfying than helping someone pick fixtures and helping people get what they want," she said. They are glad to help the clients of other local contractors, who may not have a showroom where customers can see what they are buying.
Next generation awaits
The business has offered portable toilets since a friend of Bill's talked him into trying them many years ago. They now have 500 units and serve the area from Lake Crescent and Joyce to Hood Canal.
"My grandmother used to help deliver the old metal ones we used to have," Kimler said.
What about the next generation?
Kimler's 7-year-old granddaughter may be Sequim's next woman in plumbing.
"She'll grow up and take over Bill's Plumbing, according to her," Kimler said.
She already can recite the facts about various types of toilets and has a desk in the retail store as official greeter.
"She'll be here helping for the barbecue."
Maybe she'll run the barbecue herself when the 75th anniversary rolls around.
Sandra Frykholm can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Sequim Gazette is located at 147 W. Washington Street in Sequim.
Business hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Phone 360-683-3311, or toll free at 800-829-5810. FAX 360-683-6670.
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