A contemporary classroom space

Our Story

We didn't start with much: a married couple, 600 sq. ft. of office space, no staff and no clients. What we did have was a belief that a great business could be built by always doing what we said we would do and an unshakable faith in each other.

Roots run deep

Curt and Judy met when they were 13 years old, grew up together, became best friends and later married. He was the dreamer, she was the backbone. As Curt’s career progressed at Landgraf’s, Ltd. (a furniture dealership in Illinois), the untapped market place in Wisconsin came into view. So late in 1976, Curt and Judy uprooted their family and planted themselves 300 miles away to open an office for Landgraf’s Ltd., in southeast Wisconsin.

Curt made tons of cold calls. He and Judy would spend their evenings creating proposals together at their dining room table. Curt would pitch them the next day. They began to win deals. Over the next five years, they grew into a 2,500 square foot location with a beginning staff of associates. Even with proven success, there was resistance from WI companies to work with Curt since Landgraf’s, Ltd. corporate offices were located in Aurora, IL. Curt and Judy took a deep breath, dreamed again – they would buy the Wisconsin operation for themselves. An offer was made, the negotiations began and a price was set. Curt presented his business plan to the bank to secure a loan. The bank refused, advising Curt to “get creative”. With a pink pearl eraser, fresh pencil and a blank ledger sheet, they tried again. This time, the loan manager stuck out his hand – “Congratulations!”. Curt and Judy signed their life away on the chance CJ & Associates, Inc. would be a success for their family.

That was April 1, 1984.

In two short years, expansion resulted in moving to a 16,000 sq. foot facility while adding associates to sales, design, the business office and delivery/installation branches of the company. Curt and Judy welcomed their children, Kim (1988) and Greg (1992) into the company, which was incorporated in 1991 to CJ & Associates, Inc. Kim’s husband, Daryl joined in 1992, and Lisa joined in 1994, eventually marrying Greg.

Growing up, growing strong

We moved the company to its current location in 1991, occupying 21,500 square feet of space. After 16 years with the company, Kim became the second-generation leader, as president and majority owner; Curt remained Chief Executive Officer; Judy as Business Office Manager; Greg as Sales Executive, later appointed Interior Construction and Remodeling (ICR) Sales Manager; Daryl moved from Operations Manager to Sales Executive; Lisa became Senior Interior Designer. As a woman owned business, Kim secured Wisconsin and National Women’s Business Enterprise certifications.

Ownership has taught me acceptance of risk, dedication to sustaining a high level of integrity and compassion for the internal customers who are the foundation of our company. I am very proud of the corporate culture we have nurtured here. We have done all this while delivering the highest level of continued service to our client partnerships.

I think that’s pretty neat.
Curt Rudy, Chief Executive Officer, Company Founder

Along with years of incredible growth and success came tough times. Satellite offices once open, needed to close. Associates came and some left. The introduction of the desktop computer changed everything in what seemed to be, a blink of an eye. Our clients were working differently, requiring business interiors to support this exploding technology. We had to adapt as well, leaving drafting tables, triangles and pencils behind for computers, CAD drawings and plotters. Letters gave way to emails, office calls routed to cell phones.

In 2008, the recession hit. We trimmed space, budgets and hours, functioning as lean as possible. We held our breath. We hoped. We collectively exhaled when the economy was on the rebound, signaling we had made it. Then we lost Judy in 2012. We remained stalwart in support of each other, our company and our clients while we adjusted to life without her guidance.

Learning from the past

Today – we continue to grow, learn, adapt, explore, experiment, fail, try again – until we succeed. We’re a loyal, hardworking, skilled, competitive, fun loving, kind, caring, good group of people. We still do what we say we are going to do. We’re CJ & Associates, Inc.