BY: LEAH SHAW
Jim Crowley is thankful for the unconventional business relationship, he has with his customers.
“We’re in their house, so we spend a lot of time in their space and end up learning things about their families,” he said.
The Crowley’s has established friendships with many customers over the years and they had a long time to do so.
Jim is the current owner and operator of Crowley Plumbing, a family business that’s called the southwest sector of Rochester its home for close to 90 years
Three generations and one storefront location ago, Grandpa Crowley, an Irish immigrant started the business on Hawley Street.
“This neighborhood has always been home since my grandfather,” Jim said. “We all went to St. Monica School.”
In 1943, the business moved to its current Thurston Ave. location.
Over the years Crowley Plumbing has witnessed quite a few changes in the plumbing industry.
When Grandpa Crowley ran the business galvanized piping was the standard. For Jim’s father it was copper piping and now that Jim has taken the reins, they rely on plastic piping for jobs that require it.
While, the Crowley’s still use some of the same technology that was used in the plumbing business 100 years ago fixtures that were made then were repairable. Today, everything is throwaway.
“The quality of materials has really decreased,” he said. “There are so many products on the market now. The market is saturated.”
But some things never change for quintessential small businesses like the Crowley’s. They maintain the same employee numbers as the original business staying true to longtime operations.
“Current owner Jimmy like his father before him is always there when we need him, whether it's to fix a stopped drain or bring one of the family's antique cars to the annual 19th Ward parade,” said John DeMott, SW Quadrant Street Liaison at Sector 4 CDC.
Jim doesn’t see his grandfather’s legacy ending any time soon. Pat Crowley, Jim’s mom still comes into the shop every day.
“We were brought up in it, raised in it and we had to work at it,” Crowley said of the plumbing business. “It doesn’t come easily.”
Crowley Plumbing has garnered success in its repeat business. Customers who’ve used Crowley for all their service needs still call the business even after moving out of southwest Rochester into nearby towns, says Jim. They’ve completed jobs for parents and eventually their kids. “His late dad Jim was a fixture in the neighborhood diner and once remarked that he had worked in every home in Southwest Rochester!” said DeMott. “It's that kind of personal connection that enables a small family business to sustain generation after generation.”