Two Poor Teachers is actually One Poor Teacher now– namely founder Ken Nies –but the name fit when Nies and Tom Pennell started the kitchen and bathroom remodeling company in 1999.
Pennell stopped being a partner 2 1/2 years later. By that time the company was established so why mess with success by changing the name? Besides, Pennell still helps out on projects.
Nies has a background in construction and the business started out as way to provide a financial cushion for him during uncertain times in his first choice of careers, teaching.
“I started out teaching in Buffalo and there were layoffs. In 1995. I was a high school disciplinarian handling students on suspension or detention,” he recalled.
He was living in New York then. His career in education started after he graduated in 1992 from Brockport University, a school in the State University of New York (SUNY) system. He went to graduate school at Canisius College in western New York state. He worked with disabled individuals before taking the school disciplinary job in Buffalo.
He was laid off in Buffalo but he soon had four other job offers to consider, one of them in Fairfax County. He accepted it, relocated here and worked as a physical education teacher from 1996 to 2001 at Wakefield Forest Elementary School.
“About 1999 the cost of living started rising,” he recalled and so he started considering ways he could supplement his income.
Working in the building trades seemed a natural fit given his background.
“I have a construction background through my family. I did construction work during the summer and roofing ever since I was 12 years old,” he explained.
He began doing construction projects on the side while continuing to teach. Then his part-time job began to eat up more of his time.
“I started getting more calls and I decide to go fulltime in 2001. My partner at that time was a Fairfax teacher, too,” he said of Pennell, and the two decided to go into business together.
Two Poor Teachers specializes in kitchen and bathroom remodeling work that starts with helping the customer come up with a design plan that suits the need. They do some commercial work but 95 percent of their customers are residential.
Nies has a project designer, Jeremiah Klein, and a project coordinator, Reggie Reynolds. He employs two five-man crews who do the hands-on remodeling work itself.
The company has a mobile design center that was once a bookmobile. Now it’s outfitted with faucets, floor samples, light fixtures, tiles and countertops. It serves as a showroom on wheels that can be driven to the customer so that product samples can be viewed from home rather than having the customer travel to a showroom.
Two Poor Teachers does its own installation work without any subcontracting.
“All our work is done in-house,” Nies said. “That’s why we’ve been so successful.”
Two Poor Teachers serves the area including Alexandria and Arlington, Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William counties.
“We’re competitive (in pricing) and shoot to be the middle guy” among outfits doing the same work, he said.
Customers need only put 10 percent down. They are given guaranteed start and completion dates. Free estimates are provided. The company is fully insured.
More information about Two Poor Teachers can be found on its website at twopoorteachers.com. The phone number is 703-999-2928.