Jim Kaufman stands outside the shop on his last day in business.
by Dave Warner
The name Kaufman has been synonymous with plumbing, heating, and electrical work for decades in Little Falls. It goes back to Otto Kaufman, then James Kaufman, and then his son Jim. Now, though, the City will be flushing away their troubles without a Kaufman involved.
This week, after 43 years in business, the younger Kaufman has sold the business to Central Plumbing & Drains out of Herkimer.
Kaufman hadn’t been thinking about plumbing when he graduated from Little Falls High School in 1972 and went to Herkimer College. “I was working part-time back then for Dad and Bob (Davis). But when I went to college, I was working at Nichols Department Store in Herkimer. I think I was an assistant manager.”
His studies in college were marketing and management, and he had planned to use those skills to continue a career in retail. “I was prepping to get into retail management and one of the assistant managers I was working for told me I was friggin’ crazy. He said ‘your fathers got a plumbing heating business down there and you’ve got a chance to take that over?'”
The manager told him that if he wanted to stay in the business, then he could expect to be working every weekend and holidays. “When everybody else is out having a good time, you’re here working, especially once you get into management,” the assistant told him.
So Kaufman started thinking about it a little bit. “At that time, I’d only worked with dad for a little while before he left in 1975. I did one year up at the college and then ended up working for them here full time.”
Davis had diabetes, so Kaufman was doing most of the work. “He’d do about half a day and then get really tired.”
“I think it was about 2000 that I talked him into selling me the business. I said ‘hey listen, I’m doing all the work anyway and if you’re not going to sell me the business, I’m going to have to go out on my own’,” he said.
Davis thought about it and then one day called Kaufman up on the phone and did the deal. “I was just in here one morning running the whole thing signing his name on my own paycheck and stuff because he was sick at home and he said if you want the business, it’s yours.”
Kaufman walked across the street and told Rob Malone what had been said and stated that he had to move quickly on the deal. “That was a Monday or Tuesday and by Friday we had Bob down here signing the paperwork. It was all history after that.”
“I’ve been walking through this door for probably 43 years because we started at 315 South Ann Street when we were over next to where the historical society is, which is now the entrance to M&T Bank. We had a shop right there, and we moved from there up to Main Street,” he said.
When he called up Verizon to change the phone number over, she told him the number had been in existence for 49 years. “That didn’t include the phone we had down there which was probably M1233 or something like that. You didn’t get the 823 number till you moved up here.”
Kaufman said that number only takes you back a few years, and said, “Kaufman and Davis has been around since 1959. That’s the year Bob and dad started together.”
When asked what he’s going to do in retirement, he said, “I really don’t know at this point. Catch up on some of the stuff I’ve been putting off for years. All my friends that worked in factories or offices, by the time they had worked as long as I have, had six to eight weeks of vacation saved up to do their projects.”
“I’ve never had any longer than a week’s vacation and a lot of times you’d get on a project around the house and the phone would ring and you’d have to go out on an emergency call. So now, I might just take my fishing poles out and get a fishing license and do some fishing or something.”
He says that he’ll probably still dabble in plumbing once he gets clear of everything. “Right now I’m just going to relax for a month or so until the hot weather clears out and then figure something out.”
Editor’s Note: Full disclosure – Jimmy Kaufman is my brother in law, so I had to start the story out with JUST a little bit of humor.