Kay-Bee Electric Celebrates Its 75th Anniversary


Even before its founding in 1948, Florissant has always been in the blood of Kay-Bee Electric. Co-founder John Kohnen was one of 10 siblings raised on a truck farm during The Great Depression in Florissant, Mo.  He served as an air base electrician in Guam just as World War II came to an end.  The end of the war brought Kohnen to a “now what” moment.  He got a job at Mallinckrodt, but then noticed a residential building boom in Florissant.  In 1948, Kohnen became the “Kay” and his boyhood friend John Behlmann became the “Bee” with the founding of Kay-Bee Electric, operating out on his Kohnen’s parent’s barn.  Ever since, the company has been a fixture in Florissant business community for 75 years. 

“In those formative years, Kay-Bee wired countless homes not only in Florissant but throughout the northern suburbs of St. Louis,” noted John’s son, Brian Kohnen, who has led the firm since 2015.  “We still do residential work but have broadened services in the commercial realm and last year had one of our best years ever.  Dad would be proud.”

Kohnen said Kay-Bee’s annual revenues increased more than 60 percent to $33 million in 2022 after the pandemic waned and more construction projects moved forward.  Kay-Bee is annually ranked among the largest electrical contractors in St. Louis by the St. Louis Business Journal.

“Enduring for 75 years would not be possible without our great employees, our reliable suppliers and all of the customers we’ve been privileged to serve,” noted Kohnen.

With three professional engineers among its staff of 20, Kay-Bee performs design/build and design/assist for commercial, industrial and institutional clients in addition to its work on single family and multi-family projects.  Key recent projects include:

  • Alamo Drafthouse Cinema at City Foundry
  • Imo Pizza production facility in St. Louis
  • The Hutton Residences, a luxury condominium complex in Kirkwood, Mo.
  • Numerous distribution facilities throughout the St. Louis area, including facilities at Aviator Business Park, Westport Commerce Center, Premier 370 and Crosstown Logistics Park.
  • Cannabis cultivation and production dispensaries in St. Ann and the Lake of the Ozarks.
  • Electric vehicle infrastructure and chargers for a number of auto dealerships include Elco Chevrolet, Behlmann GMC, Behlmann Chrysler and Steve Schmidt Kia.

Kohnen noted that Kay-Bee is poised to do more EV infrastructure work as federal spending to the broaden the EV network of charging stations ramps up.  “We’ve built a robust practice in EV infrastructure, including one project at a St. Peters distribution center where we installed 20 miles of PVC conduit to power 400 EV trucks,” said Kohnen.

But Kay-Bee has never forgotten its hometown. After founder John Kohnen passed away at the end of 2021, Kay-Bee donated services to brighten the steeple of the historic Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Florissant where the Kohnen family have been parishioners since its founding in 1866.  “Dad always reminded us that his grandparents donated the bells in the church after it was damaged in a fire,” noted Kohnen. “It was a fitting tribute to his love of the parish and the community of Florissant that we brightened the church.”

Brian Kohnen succeeded his brother Steve in 2015 as president. The brothers, like their father, have also served as president and governor of the St. Louis Chapter of National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA).  Today Brian Kohnen serves as chairman Kay-Bee and his son Paul is president.

Kay-Bee is an IBEW Local 1 signatory contractor and a member of the St. Louis Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association. It is headquartered at 250 Rue St. Francois St in Florissant, Mo. Learn more at www.kaybeeelectric.com.

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