© 2017 Kencor Stairs
During World War II, a young army private named Frank Corso was stationed in Belfast, Ireland. While there, he met and fell in love with a local girl named Jean Kennedy. When Frank's unit shipped out to Europe, he arranged for Jean to immigrate to the United States and to live with his family in Villa Park, Illinois. As soon as Frank returned home on leave, the two were married. After the war ended, Jean sent for her 17-year-old brother Tom to come join her in America. Eventually they were able to send for the rest of the Kennedy Family.
Tom and Frank were both working in the carpentry and cabinet making field. Tom started to work in a shop that also made custom stairs. It was here where he learned the tricks of the trade and perfected his craft. After the owner decided to close down the shop and retire, Tom found a job working at a millwork company. Many of the builders he worked with in the past continued to call him asking if he could build and install the stairs in the new houses they were building. (To this day, we work with many of these builders.)
In the Fall of 1961, Tom Kennedy Sr. and Frank Corso started Kencor Stairs & Woodworking in a small 500 square foot workshop. (The company name combines the first syllable of their last names.) Kencor was the first custom stair building company in DuPage County. Two years later, Frank decided to leave Kencor to pursue other opportunities. Tom continued on, and eventually built a 6,000 square foot building, right around the corner from the original location. Kencor utilized 4,000 square feet, and rented out the other 2,000 square feet to help pay the mortgage. This is how things remained for the next 23 years.
After finishing college in 1983, Tom Jr. joined the company ranks. He had worked at Kencor over the summers, but was now ready to begin learning the trade from the bottom up. He started off sweeping the floors and doing other tasks around the shop. With his father’s guidance, Tom Jr. learned all aspects of the business. In 1992, Tom Sr. decided that it was time for him to retire and enjoy some of the fruits of his labor.
Tom Jr. took over the reigns of the company, fully aware that he had some very big shoes to fill. Times were changing, and new advancements in technology were being developed. Before long, he realized that he would need to do things differently than his father had. Slowly over time, he began investing in new machinery. The first major purchase was a new state of the art CNC Router. Tom felt this was necessary to prepare the company for the future. He searched for ways to produce additional revenue to offset the equipment cost, and began machining custom guitars for a locally based guitar manufacturer. He continued to do this for the next five years until the guitar company invested in their own CNC equipment.
Kencor Stairs and Woodworking continues to be a family owned and operated company. While Tom Sr. and Frank may no longer be with us, we will continue to keep the traditional old world values that they started with, and in doing so will help to keep their legacy alive, while moving into the future.
Kencor Stairs & Woodworking continues to live by the company motto set down by Tom Sr, “If you wouldn’t put it in your own house, don't put it in someone else's house".
Kencor Stairs Original Shop Photos
Our Founders Tom Kennedy Sr (Left) Frank Corso (Right)