Kenneth Klare, the founder of Custom Outdoors, has always been a dreamer. From his earliest days, he held aspirations of becoming a business owner, but the path to achieving that dream was no walk in the park. The backdrop to his journey was the Texas of the 1980s, an era marked by both challenges and opportunities.
Texas Teenage Grit
Like many teenagers of that time, Kenneth grew up in the heart of Texas, spending his formative years enduring the relentless Texan heat while working hard. The 1980s were a period of economic hardship for the state, with the oil and agriculture industries experiencing a sharp decline. The ripple effects of a nationwide recession were felt in Texas, where overall unemployment rates soared above 20%.
A Different Texas
Those were days when Texas looked very different from what it is today. The bustling I-10 consisted of only two lanes heading east and two lanes heading west, a far cry from the expansive highway it would later become. Sugarland still lived up to its name, cultivating fields of sugar, and the rice dryers in Katy served their original purpose – drying rice. Westheimer Road featured medians with lush greenery, while the Transco Tower (now known as the Williams Tower) was still under construction. Minimum wage was a modest $3.35 per hour, and Texas teenagers like Kenneth were driven to make the most of what they had.
An Unconventional Path
Kenneth began his journey in the pool business, initially digging plumbing trenches and eventually working his way up as a plumber. Graduating from high school, he found few job prospects available to him. So, he made a pivotal decision and enlisted in the U.S. Army, specializing in carpentry and plumbing as an Engineer.
Soon after his enlistment, the world changed. War broke out, and as a junior member of his platoon, Kenneth was entrusted with the role of a squad leader, leading a team of construction engineers during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. His time in combat was transformative, fueling a burning desire within him.
From Soldier to Entrepreneur
Upon returning to Houston and civilian life, Kenneth Klare was no longer content to be just a foreman in the construction industry. He aspired to become a business owner. Encouraged by his supportive wife, Laura, he embarked on a new chapter, taking a leap of faith in 1996 to start Custom Outdoors. His vision was simple yet profound: build the finest outdoor structures possible.
After 27 years, that dream remains unwavering. Kenneth continues to personally engage with customers, making sales calls and crafting outdoor living space designs. Laura plays a pivotal role, handling construction drawings. Their son, Eric, serves as a project manager. While the team has grown, the materials and processes have evolved, the core vision endures: to create the highest quality outdoor living spaces.
Competitors Come and Go
Over the years, Custom Outdoors has witnessed the rise and fall of many competitors in the industry. Some of the larger competitors have been absorbed into larger corporations, while others, the smaller ones, found themselves under the ownership of private equity groups. Many have tried to make their mark in the field of outdoor living spaces, but a vast majority did not stand the test of time.
In the early years, we didn’t secure every project we quoted. However, it’s gratifying to see that many of those projects are now in need of repair and refurbishment. These outdoor living spaces were originally constructed by our competitors who, unfortunately, are no longer in business.
Custom Outdoors has defied the odds and maintained its status as a trusted and renowned name in the industry. The passing of years may have brought changes, but it has not dimmed the company’s enduring commitment to its customers.
Values Woven into the Fabric
Kenneth’s values of honesty, integrity, and passion for constructing exceptional outdoor living spaces are deeply ingrained in Custom Outdoors. The passing of years may have slowed Kenneth and Laura down, but their dedication to family and customers has only strengthened. Now, grandparents, they remain committed to the same vision, ensuring that the legacy of excellence endures. If your not part of the Custom Outdoors family, give us a call. We would love to have you.
27 years and thriving.
Custom Outdoors has been dedicated to crafting premier outdoor living spaces for over a quarter of a century, and our passion keeps us moving forward. The opportunity to meet and serve all of you has been an incredible blessing, and we’re excited to continue our journey into the next 27 years and beyond. Thank you for being a part of our story but most importantly, thank you for allowing us to be a part of your life.