After 120 years in business, Moline-based Blondell Plumbing has officially closed up shop, as fourth-generation owner Steve Blondell is retiring after 41 years working in the industry.
Steve has run the company for two decades, and the history of Blondell Plumbing goes back four generations to 1902. It was originally founded as Swanson Plumbing by Victor Swanson, Steve’s great-grandfather, according to a piece on the Rock Island-based Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 25 website.
Victor’s daughter, Marion, purchased the business from her father in 1941, changing the name to Blondell Plumbing. Steve’s father, Walt, later bought the business in the mid-’60s, and Steve bought out his father in 2002.
“It’s been in the family since the turn of the century,” Steve said recently. “It was really my dad’s baby because he started working there when he was in high school, and it was his life for seven days a week. When he was 80 years old, he’d still come walking through the door every day.”
Steve got his start in the industry shortly after graduating high school in the early 1980s. With the help of a local sponsor, he joined the union as an apprentice and quickly began learning the trade through hands-on experience.
“You can only learn so much in school — most of it comes from being on the job,” Steve said.
Through the years, he fondly recalls a sense of camaraderie not just with his fellow Local 25 members, but across all trades working together on various projects.
“Working with the other contractors was the fun part of the job,” Steve said. “We had a core group of six or eight, from electricians to carpenters to concrete guys, and everybody got along well. We were just a bunch of good friends and with some of us being smaller companies, you really watched out for each other.”
Based at 1150 36th Ave., Moline, Blondell Plumbing performed mostly residential and light commercial jobs, including apartment complexes and dentist offices. The team also did a lot of infrastructure and water main work, then transitioned to mostly service during the last 25 years. Word-of-mouth was their only form of advertising, and the team cultivated valued relationships with local clients that ran through two or three generations.
“It was sad to let go, but we just couldn’t find somebody we felt comfortable with to continue the company,” Steve said. He plans to fill his newfound time traveling with his wife, Kelly, and being present for their five grandchildren.
“Thursdays are my days with my grandson, who lives locally, so I pick him up from the babysitter and we go get ice cream or do something fun together,” Steve said. “Unfortunately, I missed a lot of time with my own children when I had the business, but now I get to be a grandpa.”
“Blondell Plumbing Services has been a great partner and a staple in the Quad Cities area for generations,” said Bill Allison, Quad Cities Business Agent for Local 25. “Though we agree it’s sad to see the end of an era, Blondell’s legacy lives on through the expert journeyman plumbers that apprenticed under Steve and have now taken those skills and ethics to other great Local 25 contractors.”