Beyond the Brick
A passion for history sets the foundation for Knockout Masonry
Any conversation with Jimmy Adamidis will likely include a reference to Winston Churchill, George Washington, Sean Connery or even Arnold Schwarzenegger. As he’ll happily share, each one of these individuals has one thing in common with him—they were all bricklayers sometime in their lives.
A skilled craftsman, Adamidis is a student of the profession, with a comprehensive knowledge and appreciation of how the masonry skill and associated tools and techniques have evolved from the 18th century to modern times.
It’s a passion that he translates into every job and is embedded into the culture of Knockout Masonry Corp., the masonry and concrete company he founded in 2005.
Interest to Investment
To understand the heart of Knockout Masonry requires a quick look back at a teenage Adamidis. During the summer between his junior and senior years of high school, Adamidis enrolled in a two-month masonry apprenticeship program with an eye on learning a skilled trade.
“I didn’t want to go to college, but realized that I needed a skill beyond a high school diploma. That program sparked my interest and love of masonry,” he says. “Through my 17-year-old eyes, the craft looked pretty simple, however much detail was involved.”
By the age of 19, with youthful enthusiasm, a truck and no financial backing, Adamidis founded Knockout Masonry Corp.
“The transition from apprentice to business owner is difficult to explain though the best I can say is perseverance and luck,” Adamidis says. “I continually asked questions and watched other craftspeople. I also tracked industry trends and challenges even as I was trying to build a brand. I think I learned the industry in the best possible way—through field experience.”
Becoming a business owner while plying his craft became a very different, though no less exciting, experience.
Building a Base
In the earlier years of his company, Adamidis focused on establishing a consistent backlog of work and a client base in the boroughs of New York City and on Long Island.
“I did a lot of residential masonry repairs in those first few months,” he recalls, “and through word of mouth, gained a reputation in my local area. Other residents would stop and ask me to work on their homes. I still remember doing ‘cost’ jobs just so that I could leave a sign with contact information on front lawns.”
His equipment—trowels, mixers and the like—was largely rented or bought used from other masons. He managed to get enough work so that by 2006, he was able to hire his first employee, Cesar Lopez, who is now a foreman at the company.
Five years down the road, a much wiser and more skilled 24-year-old Adamidis was ready to take on bigger, more complex projects in the commercial space.
Adamidis says the transition from residential to commercial projects was like starting his business from scratch.
“The hardest part of the shift was that commercial owners and contractors had no idea about our work ethic or value-add,” Adamidis explains. “As a home improvement contractor, we had a reputation for quality, timely work and customer service—and our clients were willing to pay top dollar for that benefit. We had to establish that same reputation in the commercial sector.”
Like the early days of his residential work, commercial opportunities came about through word of mouth. A breakthrough project came in 2011 when Adamidis and his crew were tasked with all masonry work for a single-story medical building in Long Island City.
Word spread quickly in the commercial space and Adamidis’ opportunities expanded. He’s completed building extension masonry work for the United States Coast Guard, renovation and repair work at the National Museum of the American Indian–New York in Lower Manhattan and a new build for an air traffic control facility.
He has completed new construction on residential and multifamily buildings as well as masonry work in a new shopping mall on Long Island. A baseball fan, Adamidis is proud to say he has even worked at MCU Park (formerly KeySpan Park), a minor league baseball stadium on the Coney Island (Riegelmann) Boardwalk in Brooklyn.
“So many young people don’t realize the lifelong value that comes with a skill like masonry—I think I can help share my passion for the industry.” Jimmy Adamidis, President and Founder, Knockout Masonry Corp.
Along the way, Adamidis continually sought ways to improve his processes, productivity and quality.
“There’s not many ways to change the masonry and concrete process in the field,” he says, “but we can streamline the preconstruction process. One way is through takeoff and estimating software that helps the client and our craftworkers understand a project before a single block or brick gets delivered.”
“Our recent growth has come in part due to our growing relationship with The Blue Book Building & Construction Network® (The Blue Book Network). In the early days, I didn’t take advantage of the digital network to get leads. That’s changed considerably with our in-house estimating, which allows us now to prequalify potential leads and clients. I always tell my office staff to give any new client the opportunity to see our pricing and our ability to produce work.”
Beyond the Brick
Today, Knockout Masonry employs approximately a dozen people, including estimators, administrative staff, general laborers and journeymen, and has all of the tools of the trade, such as company trucks, heavy equipment and masonry mixers.
While the company largely focuses on work in the New York City and Long Island areas, Adamidis, now married with children, has a different perspective about his company, his people and the work they perform.
“I leave my house every day looking to make my family proud of me,” Adamidis confesses. “They support me and allow me the focus to achieve my goals. As far as a legacy, I am determined to continually grow our reputation and services for sure, but, more importantly, I want to ensure that I provide a dependable workplace for current and future employees.”
When asked what he’s most proud of in the company’s nearly 15 years of operation, Adamidis says, “That I’ve never walked off or been removed from a project. In our industry, that has become somewhat of a norm—far more challenging than my 17-year-old self ever imagined. I think my love for the trade and hands-on involvement translates to our quality solutions and techniques.”
He is also looking to give back to the profession he loves. “I would like to open doors for others to see the great career opportunities that are available in our profession. One way will be to facilitate more apprenticeship programs. So many young people don’t realize the lifelong value that comes with a skill like masonry—I think I can help share my passion for the industry.”
With regard to Knockout Masonry Corp., Adamidis has a vision for expansion throughout the East Coast in the near future, with a significant caveat.
He concludes: “I want our team to always remember that every project, no matter how big or small, is much more than the dollar value. Whether we’re performing a New York City landmark repair or are part of a structural build, we’re building a piece of history—and just like many of Winston Churchill’s creations, those structures will be around long after we’re gone.”