The people at Kelley Companies know art is more than a picture on the wall. The company creates its own brand of art through its work with home and business necessities such as gates and rails.

President and CEO Breck Nelson explained Kelley Ornamental Iron division provides residential and commercial facilities with ornamental iron fences and gates; custom interior rails; exterior patio, deck, and entry rails; window bars and security doors; and drive gates. The Peoria Awning Company division provides fabric and aluminum awnings, patio enclosures, fabric structures, and more.

“Business is split about 50-50 between residential and commercial customers,” Nelson said. “Residential projects tend to run one-third interior work and two-thirds exterior work, such as railings or fences. Commercial projects vary from dumpster enclosures to light structural work.”

Some customers have a good idea about what kinds of work they want done, though nearly everyone trusts the Kelley experts to guide them. “Most, if not all, of our residential customers want design help. We’ve invested heavily in our showroom, as well as picture books to display the many options available. Each customer receives a drawing with a complete description and cost breakdown of their project,” he said.

Nelson said even if clients don’t have any ideas about what they’re looking for, Kelley can help. “Again, our showroom has been a big boost in educating our customers about what’s available. The staff at Kelley will guide clients through the process and help them make the bets decision for their needs.”

A Company’s Evolution

Although Kelley Ornamental Iron, as well as Peoria Awning Company, has always been a custom shop, designing and fabricating all their work locally, it’s gone through many changes since Tony Usedley began the company in 1941. “The shop was located in Pottstown, and Doug Kelley was Usedley’s apprentice until he bought the shop in 1976. The company name then changed to Kelley’s Ornamental Iron. I bought the company from Doug’s wife, Barbara, in November 1996 after Doug’s death, and the name changed to Kelley Ornamental Iron.”

A new office and shop was constructed in the Peoria County Industrial Park, and Kelley moved in spring 1998. “There, the company grew from two original employees to approximately 25,” Nelson said. “Kelley opened an additional sales office in Bloomington in August 2000, and in April 2001 Kelley Ornamental Iron opened a second company, Prairie Fence Supply, to break into the vinyl fence and commercial chain link market.”

Another opportunity cropped up just three months later, when the company acquired Peoria Tent & Awnings’ awning and tarp division. “Dropping the ‘tent’ in the name, it became Peoria Awning Co., and Kelley Ornamental Iron then became Kelley Companies,” he said.

In December of the same year, the facility in Peoria County Industrial Park was destroyed by fire. But what seemed like a setback at first actually turned out to be a blessing. “Although business records weren’t damaged, all fabrication equipment was a total loss. Through the fire, however, Kelley Companies was given the opportunity to review all aspects of its business. Combining it all in one location, 3307 West Farmington Road, and consolidating production and installation crews gave Kelley Companies the ability to focus its efforts to become a premier ornamental iron and awning company. Kelley Companies has grown to more than 34 employees, with more than $2 million in sales,” Nelson said.

The company’s initiative shows. Nelson said in the residential market, Kelley has worked in nearly every neighborhood in Peoria. “We’ve done everything from security doors and window bars in some troubled areas to drive gates and fences in very prestigious neighborhoods. The largest residential project to date, however, found Kelley in north shore Chicago fabricating 130 feet of interior rails, numerous ornamental exterior rails, as well as an ornate drive gate to the estate. Every item was crafted here in Peoria, crated, and shipped to Chicago, where our staff installed everything. The logistics were very complicated, but the end result won Kelley Ornamental Iron two national awards. Since this project, Kelley has worked on numerous estates in the Chicago area and has several projects presently ongoing there.”

Though Kelley is a local company focused on the tri-county area and Chicago, Nelson said Kelley is currently looking at promising projects in Missouri and Florida. “We travel when it’s called for.”

Some of their most visible local work has included the fence at O’Brien Field, railings at Powell Press Building, interior foyer railings at One Technology Building, rails at Clock Tower Park, and bleacher seating for 5,000 at Caterpillar’s Power Parade. In addition to iron, Kelley regularly works with steel, stainless steel, brass, and aluminum.

Nelson said the success Kelley has achieved is directly related to the quality of people the company employs. “Success can be attributed to two factors: the people who make up the company who have stood strong when all seemed lost and who have passion for doing their best. It’s also due to the leadership of this company, who pray as if it all depends on God and work as if it all depends on them.” 

The day-to-day operations of the company and working with deadlines can be a challenge, Nelson said, but he prefers to focus on plans for the future. “Kelley Companies’ future looks promising. We’re always looking at how technology has and will change our industry, as well as market and economy swings. But, as always, our main focus is on the job at hand. We want to be the best at what we do, and that can only be accomplished one client at a time.” IBI