7 Decades of Excellence—The Legacy of Kay Builders

7 Decades of Excellence—The Legacy of Kay Builders

The Kay Builders logo over an aerial image of Lehigh Valley.

January 17, 2023

What began as a shared dream between father and son in the early 1960s ended up being the start of a legacy that has now lasted 7 decades within the homebuilding industry. Kay Builders originated with a desire to better the lives of the individuals who called the Lehigh Valley home and to create new home communities that would stand the test of time. While the homebuilding industry has constantly evolved over the years, Kay Builders has never wavered—and our team knows that to move forward and continue such an incredible legacy, we can’t forget to look back and appreciate how we were able to get here.  

At the heart of the company 

In 1961, Kay Builders was founded by Dick Koze and his father, Mickey, with assistance from Dick’s wife Phyllis. The team quickly broke ground on their first development, Allen Crest in Whitehall Township. With his father’s business experience as owner of a large painting company, Dick’s engineering background and business degree from the Wharton School and the Psychology degree with business courses Phyllis had from Penn, what followed was the start of an incredible legacy story that includes over 35 new home communities and counting

“Our first home was the first home built in Allen Crest,” explained Phyllis. “Adjacent to the land was an owner who raised horses. We chose a cupola with a horse weathervane for the roof top  and that was the inspiration for the original Kay Builders logo.” 

The home soon became much more than a simple first step in the newfound homebuilding company. It was a place for their children to grow and their family to share in all of life’s joys. It quickly became the focal point of the entire company’s main goal—to build relationships, a sound reputation and trust with their homeowners and to build houses that quickly felt like home. 

In the early years of the company, it was not uncommon to see Dick operating the heavy equipment and working with the team on the individual homes during the week before donning his suit and tie on the weekends when he would take his portable TV to the spec home and sell  to potential buyers who might visit. Their home was the 2-story model that potential homeowners would walk through to get a sense of the layout. The garage, converted to an office, never held a car, and many original contracts were signed at the Koze kitchen table. From a young age, it was apparent that their son Rick also had a knack for the business. 

“When Rick was a toddler, he would sit on the toolbox in one of the garage closets for hours, and he sawed at the drywall with a small tool. There were holes inside the closets,” Phyllis reminisced. “But it kept him amused for hours.”

In every respect—the business was a family affair. 

Adapting to industry changes

With each passing year, Kay Builders continued to grow their reputation of reliability and stability throughout even the most uncertain times in the industry—and soon, those years quickly turned into decades. 

The inherent success of the business was due to the innate knowledge Dick Koze had of the area and the homebuilding industry as a whole. When opportunities arose, he never hesitated to pursue them, and in the 1970s, Kay Builders became the sole builder for Shepherd Hills, a golf course community in lower Macungie Township. Over the next several years, he quickly filled the stunning community with unique townhomes and single-family homes.

Throughout that same time, major highways such as I-78 drew more individuals to the Lehigh Valley. Major builders began to recognize the area’s potential. Dick and Phyllis worked in tandem to continuously update their marketing strategies and their business in order to stay top-of-mind for buyers. Decorated models became a necessity, and the Kay Builders offices were moved to the Shepherd Hills model home. 

When the first oil crisis happened in the late 1970s, the industry saw mortgage rates rise to 18%. What could have ended the company only proved to the region that Kay Builders was here to stay. Dick’s Wharton School background enabled him to work with mortgage companies in creative ways showing buyers how they could afford the temporarily high mortgages with refinancing and second mortgage options. This sense of determination is a family trait. Rick Koze bought the company in 2002. Having grown up in the construction business, Rick remembers digging sewer lines and tarring foundations before he was a teenager. After receiving his driver’s license, he enjoyed operating the heavy equipment and driving the dump trucks. In 2008 when the housing market softened, some of the large builders left the area and smaller builders couldn’t get financing. Rick was approached by a bank that held a large tract of land from a developer who had pulled out. With a degree from Yale and a prior large company career in Mergers & Acquisitions, Rick was able to help the bank restructure the terms and successfully built the Trio Fields community of CUSTOM-i-ZABLE townhomes and single-family homes in Nazareth Township.

Celebrating the milestones along the way

Through three generations of homebuilders and 7 decades, Kay Builders has become a staple in the industry. With awards such as Builder of the Year, Community of the Year, Builders Association Model Home of the Year and Decorated Model Home of the Year under our belts, 35 new home communities built and close to 5,000 or more homes constructed throughout the region—the legacy that began with a father and son over 7 decades ago has continued to see a rise in excellence, hard work and dedication with each passing year, and we can’t wait to see what the next decade has in store. 

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