Building as a Tradition
Story by Heather Feeler | Apr 28, 2015
Photography by Anthony Jinson
The Bentlage family finds unity in the hard work that comes with constructing houses.
Building a house is a lot like raising a family. You must start with a strong foundation and then work together to build it right. Or, in the case of the Bentlages, you could just skip the metaphor and actually build houses together, day after day, as a family business and a way for generations to bond.
Kent Bentlage, owner of Kent Bentlage Construction Co. Inc., started building houses with his dad, Vic, at an early age. Working with his hands and learning from his dad was something he always loved to do.
“It’s the only thing I’ve ever known how to do since I started helping my dad in elementary school,” Kent says. “When I was in high school, I couldn’t wait to get out and do it full time so I could be outside and work with my hands.”
The construction business is a family tradition that has paid off. After being mentored by his dad for several years, Kent started his own construction company in 1993. His crew of five, including himself, builds eight to 10 residential houses a year, ranging in price from $150,000 to $1 million. It’s the personal touches and the hands-on approach that make a difference in the homes they build.
“There’s lots of custom stuff that gets built into our houses, and we build them at the shop or onsite, which gives customers much more bang for their buck,” Kent says. “I’m also on the job site every day working on the house, which means I’m also there for my clients when they need me.”
It’s a work ethic that Kent learned from his dad and one that Vic learned from his dad, also in construction, and his grandfather before that, in a long line of hardworking carpenters from Germany. This family tradition has served them well regardless of the generation.
“When you’re on the job every day, working hard, your team looks up to you so much more,” Vic says. “I never asked anyone on my team to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.”
Vic continues to work daily, including with his son from time to time, building houses. The crew is made up of mostly family including one member who is the son of a former crew member of Vic’s, Kent’s nephew and also his future son-in-law. They are proof that working together not only builds a strong family but also a quality house at the end of the day.
“There is lots of family still involved, and every one cares as much as I do,” Kent says. “My dad always had a good reputation, and I’ve carried that along. It is important to treat people fair and also deliver a good product.”
It’s that caring and attention to detail that keep clients knocking on the door, and it’s also what keeps them coming back to have additional houses built.
“I often end up building multiple houses for people, which makes me think I must have done something; the client is always right,” Kent says with a laugh.
At the end of the day, after the long hours and hard manual labor, it’s the family that makes it all worthwhile.
“It’s been fun working with my son all these years,” Vic says. “Kent is my son, but he’s also“ been like a brother to me.”