History of Kokesh Plumbing

J.J. Kokesh and Son is a family-owned plumbing business that’s been serving St. Louis and surrounding counties for 130 years. Four generations strong, the Kokesh family has built a legacy of quality plumbing in St. Louis.

In 1890, a fresh-faced 15-year-old named Jerry Joseph, or J.J. as he’d soon be known, arrived in America. Stepping off the boat at Ellis Island, his gaze fell westward, towards St. Louis. It was there, fueled by a quiet determination and a mind brimming with ideas, that J.J. would establish a legacy – one built on the simple principles of quality service, respect, and dependability.

Jerry Joseph, “JJ”, was no different than most immigrants in dreaming of America as the land of endless possibilities. Determined to build his own future, wasting no time, he landed a position working in a glass factory in hopes of saving enough to start his own business. At that time twelve-hour shifts were the norm and JJ was a seriously determined young man who would walk 8 miles each morning to his glass factory job, work 12 hours, then walk home 8 miles… all with the sole purpose of saving up enough money for his business.

After learning all he could at the glass factory JJ turned his eye towards mastering tinning. Tinning work was in high demand for the repair of pots and pans, wash tubs, roofs and gutters. JJ, though, recognized the future was in plumbing. At the ripe age of 19, he took all of his savings and paid $1,000.00 for 4 acres of land in Ballwin, at the crossroads of Clayton Road and Baxter Road.

According to a 1957 article in The Missouri Master Plumber newspaper featuring J.J. and his memoirs, J.J. was quoted as saying,

“Back in 1894 during the depression, it was practically impossible to beg, buy or steal a job. I picked up my grip and fire pot, left the city. I stopped at Bellefontaine on Olive Street Road and opened my shop in an old barn.  I circulated my territory in a horse and buggy. My first job was installing water in a house, a flat rim sink and pitcher spout pump. The complete job installed was $15.00. The installation was a novelty in the country and every farmer’s wife wanted one. I was in business!!!!”

On May 6th, 1896, J.J married Josephine and later sired two young daughters, Georgia and Emma and a son, Edward. In 1914, his business was one of the first to buy new service trucks with the company’s phone number emblazoned on the sides. His business territory grew extensively, during this time.

J.J. recognized the ever-expanding need for quality residential and commercial plumbing services. He decided the best way to establish JJ Kokesh and Son as a St. Louis industry leader was to define and implement high quality standards in their every day practices. In 1927, the plumbing code went into effect and J.J. applied and earned his Master Plumber’s Association License. He had high expectations of his employees to always be dependable, professional, courteous, knowledgeable and respectful. With joining the Master Plumbers Association, he became certified, bonded and license

Throughout these years, J.J.’s son Edward was right alongside him digging ditches, repairing plumbing, installing heating and cooling, and learning the business. During World War II, Edward enlisted and was sent to the Philippines. He returned home in 1945 to allow J.J. to retire and take the lead of the company. His first executive decision was to delete electric work from the menu of services. It proved to be a smart move on his part because JJ Kokesh and Sons greatly expanded and even further established itself as a first-class provider of residential and commercial plumbing. Edward earned his Master Plumbers license in 1948.

Around this time, Edward married his sweet heart Helen and proceeded to add Jerry, Carol, Alice and Larry to the family. Helen began working at JJ Kokesh and Son, in the office and was this husband-and-wife partnership that became the heart of JJ Kokesh and Son. Their son Larry decided to go to Rankin trade school during high school, with the intention of learning as much as possible to help with the family business. In 1955, Larry graduated high school, married his sweetheart, Charleen and joined the military service and was sent to Germany for the next two years. His first son, JR, was born in Germany. Upon returning to St. Louis, Charlene followed Larry into the family business under the tutelage of her new Mother-in-law Helen, learning everything she could so that her and Larry, would be prepared to run the business when the time arrived. Larry and Charlean had two more children, Beth and Joseph. Over the next 3 years, Edward and Larry made critical decisions to drop heating and cooling from their services and strictly become a Union Plumbing business. They were wildly successful and as the business grew, they eventually decided to move to Manchester Rd where the action was.

By 1975, Edward felt he had done his best to position Larry to lead the Kokesh brand and retire. Like the Kokesh men generations before him, Larry encouraged his two sons to ride along with him to learn the business. By the late 1970’s he had to expand to a new building further on Manchester Road to house the now 12 employees. The area was growing at a rate that could hardly be sustained. Larry continued to build his team and by the early 80’s, JJ Kokesh and Son had 25 employees and was bursting at the seams to handle the volume of work that kept coming in.

In 1988, when the crash hit the hardest, Larry was shrewd enough to make the tough decisions to save the business by dropping down to 12 employees, deleting irrigation from services, adding light commercial work and custom home and remodeling. It was a serious time for JJ Kokesh and Son but Larry was not to be defeated. His son, JR, was right alongside him and together they held it together. Surprisingly, it ended up being the younger son, Joe, who earned his Journeyman Plumbing license in 2005 and later earned his Master Plumber’s License in 2015.

In September of 2013, Larry officially retired, passing the torch to his youngest son Joe. In keeping with the Kokesh tradition, Joe married his sweetheart Megan in 2014. Then Megan joined Joe at Kokesh Plumbing, bringing a fresh perspective and a knack for organization.

Megan and Joe soon added a 5th generation to the Kokesh family with Jackson and Charlotte.

Today, J.J. Kokesh and Son remains a family-owned and operated plumbing business, serving St. Louis and surrounding counties with the same dedication to quality and customer service that J.J. instilled over a century ago.

But the J.J. Kokesh and Son story isn’t just about us. It’s about the countless families they’ve helped over the years. From fixing leaky faucets to installing new plumbing systems in dream homes, the Kokeshes have become more than plumbers – they’re trusted neighbors, ensuring St. Louis homes flow smoothly for generations to come. With Joe and Megan Kokesh at the helm and the 5th generation already learning the ropes, the future looks bright for J.J. Kokesh and Son.

JJ Kokesh and Sons
408 Kehrs Mill Road
Ballwin, MO 63011