Steuer hangs up hat at A.C.E. Building Service after 44 years

Date: July 22, 2014
Contact: Stan Johnson, (920) 682-6105

After 44 years with A.C.E. Building Service, Jim Steuer, vice president and field operations superintendent, has hung up his hard hat.

Steuer was also one of the commercial construction company’s owners until his retirement. He and Ron Schwalbe, who passed away in 2013, purchased the company from its original owner, Al Eberhardt, in 1984.

Steuer’s entire career was spent with A.C.E., joining it as an apprentice carpenter – a four-year program then – right out of high school in 1970, and then moving on to a foreman role. Most
recently, he spent his time working on a large and accelerated job with Kohler at its generator plant just north of Sheboygan, a 110,000 square-foot addition that “consumed my time from August until I retired,” said Steuer, whose role as field superintendent included all scheduling of labor, material coordination, etc.

He says that even though it’s been more than two months, the fact he’s retired hasn’t fully sunk in yet for him or his wife, Kay, who also retired after working part-time doing payroll in A.C.E.’s offices. “I grew into the role I had and it became a part of me. It becomes ingrained in you and you become a part of the family,” he said.

When Steuer came on board, A.C.E. consisted of 10 to 12 employees; today, it’s triple that. Steuer said it’s a testament to the company and its family-like atmosphere that there are so many of the same faces there today, and that there’s such low turnover. “We were a small, family owned company, and a lot of the businesses we did business with were small companies as well. We had a lot in common with them,” he said. “They became more than just customers.”

Reflecting on four decades’ worth of projects, Steuer says one of his most memorable was constructing a 200 x 210-foot building for Burger Boat on what were not only tight quarters, but a small lot that was bordered by two railroads, a river and a city street. The project even garnered the attention of “Building Profit” magazine. “It wasn’t that big a project size wise, but it was 70 feet tall and the components had to be built in sections, much of that on the ground, and then we used cranes to put the building into place,” he said. “It was the first-ever for this company to do [a project] that way, and the Butler representatives [the metal building manufacturer] were there as well.”

The year 1984 was a memorable one as well, as that’s the year Steuer and Schwalbe purchased the company and established a focus for the company on design/build projects in the private sector. “Al spent a couple of years with us before we bought him out totally. It was the next logical thing to do, and a good opportunity to take the company to the next level,” said Steuer.

According to A.C.E. president Stan Johnson, Steuer’s presence and personality will be very much missed at the company, including unique phrases that Jim was fond of saying. “Anytime Jim would see me shaking my head or get stuck in a difficult situation, he would always say, ‘Remember, it is just a short stretch.’” Another favorite saying of Jim’s, recalls Johnson, is always saying he’d get something done “mid to latter in the week,” which meant Friday at 5!

But most of all, Johnson adds, they will miss his knowledge of the industry. “Jim is leaving behind a strong legacy; we appreciate all he has done to help A.C.E. succeed and keep moving forward.”
As for the next “logical thing” with retirement? Steuer is still figuring that out. He said he’s still a creature of habit, getting up with the birds after years of projects that required start times at 5:30 or 6 a.m. He and his wife are figuring out what’s next, including travel (“we really haven’t traveled much because of the business”) as well as the household “honey-do” list (“Oh, my wife has a list that’s always there for me.”) Steuer thinks he may take on some part-time work in a completely different industry to fill a few of the hours not taken by traveling north to the family cottage or “putzing” in the building he and Schwalbe had built behind the A.C.E. offices.

“Ron and I built a personal building out behind the shop. It’s more of a wildlife recreational area, and we have some trails and ponds and 11,000 trees we planted on it,” he said. “I like to go back there and keep [that acreage] cut.”

A lifelong resident of Branch, Steuer anticipates devoting time to the Branch Community Park he helped to establish in the 1970s and where he used to umpire and coach his kids’ Little League games. “I may just get a little more active out there again” he said. “There’s a lot to figure out. This whole retirement thing hasn’t quite set in yet.”


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