Backyard Bliss – Building Beauty Close to Home

Keystone Custom Decks
Written by Allison Dempsey

Creating a beautiful backyard space for relaxing or entertaining can mean different things to different people, and Keystone Custom Decks provides a variety of options—from porches to patios to outdoor kitchens and more.

Serving Pennsylvania, Delaware, Northern Maryland, and Northern New York, Keystone Custom Decks works closely with each of its clients, completing a 3D rendering of their proposed project to ensure total satisfaction. Founded in 1983 by Amos Esh, this family-owned and operated company features bespoke design for customized outdoor living spaces that meet the needs of each customer.

Now run by sons Michael, Marv, and Tim, Keystone continues to work with talented and experienced craftsmen to ensure the same quality service and exceptional product that has led to an impressive 40 years in business.

“When my father started this business, he built it on the premise of making sure his customers were taken care of,” says Partner Michael Esh. “When we were growing up, even if at times my father would have to take a loss on a job to make sure the customers were happy, he would do that. He was very concerned and very intent on making sure customers were taken care of, and that’s been the backbone of our company for 40 years now—making sure our clients are satisfied and happy with the work done.”

Keystone stands behind its work, providing a lifetime warranty on workmanship. The consistent dedication to ensuring customer satisfaction is also one of the main reasons for its ongoing success, Esh adds.

“Besides that, we’ve always stayed on the cutting edge of the industry, and we’ve always been proactive about recognizing and being ahead of new trends,” he says. Indeed, Keystone is known in the industry, particularly regionally, to be a forward-thinking company that not only recognizes industry advances but introduces new products and styles to the market.

“The third part of our success is our team, which is phenomenal,” says Esh. “They have been a huge part of everything.”

Keystone is also a full-service company, able to handle all aspects of every project it undertakes, from start to finish, in-house. When a client contacts them, Keystone first ensures the project is a good fit for what the company does. From there a salesperson goes to the home for an initial meeting to talk about design, make suggestions, and even help clients who have no idea what they want. The salesperson brings all the information back to the team of in-house designers, who create a 3D rendering with a video walkthrough of the entire project, all of which is done before the customer ever signs a contract.

“The second step is coming into our facility to our showroom where we present them with the 3D design, which is the first time they’re actually seeing the design,” Esh explains. “This gives them a very good visual of what their project will look like, and because their house is put into the rendering as well, they can see in good detail exactly what this project would look like on their house.”

From there, when the client is ready to go ahead, the project moves onto the production site where a team takes care of all permits. There is also a team purchasing necessary products, and when it’s time to start, clients are assigned a project manager.

“Then our crews go out and build the project,” says Esh. “We have our own mason crews, our own excavating crews, and our own pool crew if the project involves a pool. Someone can come to us and say, ‘we want a deck with a covered portion,’ or ‘we want a patio, swimming pool, or outdoor kitchen with electrical and plumbing work’—we handle all of that so they don’t have to work with external contractors or hire their own electrician and plumber to make it happen. We handle the entire project.”

This exceptional level of service is unusual in the industry, he adds, and has led to a lot of positive feedback from customers over the years. “To find a company that does everything for the backyard all under one umbrella is pretty unique.”

Being able to streamline a potentially timely and challenging project is clearly attractive to clients who aren’t interested in being their own general contractor; they just want the project done, and they want someone to handle it all, including coordinating all the scheduling.

This commitment to customer service has also led to impressive growth over the past few years, particularly at the height of COVID lockdowns when so many homeowners and families were forced to not only work from home but live, play, and also make the best of their backyards. Although shutdowns negatively affected many industries, others were able to thrive.

“Anybody who was doing anything with home improvement just had stellar years in 2020, 2021, and into 2022,” says Esh. “People figured out they were going to be home for a while, and they decided to spend money improving their homes. They also figured they probably wouldn’t be doing much traveling and vacations for a couple of years, so people used a good bit of the money typically spent on that to improve their homes.”

Homeowners investing in their living spaces—both indoors and out—created phenomenal growth for Keystone during those couple of years, with demand that was unlike anything the company had seen previously, Esh adds. Fortunately, Keystone was well-positioned to handle it, having moved into a brand-new facility several years prior.

“We had room to expand, we had our showroom set up and built, and we were positioned very well to respond to that increased demand,” Esh shares.

COVID, of course, did impact the supply chain globally, leading to issues obtaining certain materials, colors, and appliances, but Keystone managed to weather the storm.

“It’s leveled out a lot. It’s a lot better than it was,” Esh says. “Suppliers were trying to figure it out, and pricing was all over the map, so there were challenges to work through for a couple of years.”

COVID also changed the employment landscape—perhaps permanently—with more people working both hybrid and completely off-site, so while the demand for home improvement isn’t quite as high these days, it’s still impressive, he adds. And it’s a demand that Keystone will continue to embrace in the upcoming years. As a well-established company with 40 years of experience and a phenomenal team of people, Keystone is able to provide an entire dedicated team on every project from beginning to end.

“It’s not just one guy out of the back of his truck that you might not be able to get hold of,” Esh says. “When you call into our office during business hours, you’ll get an answer from a live person, which is rare. With Keystone, you’re well taken care of.”

This includes a team that works solely on building permits, he emphasizes, something many contractors can’t readily provide as they’re either working on the side, or they’re letting the homeowner take responsibility for it—a stress that isn’t needed. “We have that infrastructure built to take care of our clients from start to finish throughout the process, and I think that’s one of the things that really sets us apart.”

While economic conditions are always a challenge and can certainly affect consumer confidence, Keystone is always looking ahead and staying aware to keep producing its best work no matter the economic climate.

“We’re not trying to sell clients something they can’t afford or that isn’t the right fit for them at the time,” says Esh. “Part of our process is finding the best type of project for them. Is a bigger project or smaller project going to serve their needs better? Those are some of the challenges we address, especially with the uncertain markets right now, where nobody knows what’s going to happen.”

Along with the accomplishment of getting to 40 years in a notoriously challenging industry and growing a knowledgeable and reliable team into the formidable operation it is now, Keystone also has its eyes on some key milestones.

“Doing what we do with excellence has always been our objective, and sometimes that opens up opportunities that we can take advantage of and integrate into our company as far as expansion goes,” says Esh. “So, moving forward, we’ll just keep doing what we do and doing it well. That’s what our goal is.”

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