David Kirby, founder of Kirby Specialties, has always found passion in chasing a challenge. His early childhood, unique experiences, and entrepreneurial spirit led him to found Kirby Specialties with his wife, Vivian, in 1970.
His mother’s family were contractors by trade and a part of the dam building generation. They specialized in general carpentry and millwright. As a young teenager, David rode his bike from school to work for his cousin, Jimmy Lile, at his ready-mix concrete plant. He held various other positions while in school until he enrolled at Arkansas Tech University.
David majored in Engineering and worked part time. While at Tech, he landed a summer work study program with Bechtel Corporation and their engineers at the Arkansas Nuclear Plant. Vivian also worked there keeping the books. Having a niche for construction, David began to work on the side for himself. Bechtel gave him an ultimatum to either continue to work for them or leave to pursue his business. David chose to leave the company and started Kirby Specialties Corporation out of his two-bedroom home in Atkins, without a loan from the bank. He was only 21 years old!
People often ask us why we are not named Kirby Construction. A friend of David’s found out he was going in to business for himself, and he referred to him as “specialist”. He thought David’s business should be named Kirby Specialties and the name stuck. David felt as though he didn’t have any outlandish specialties, but rather “quality was his specialty”.
David and Vivian hit the ground running, growing the business and acquiring clients by word of mouth. Vivian did whatever he needed – she bid jobs, kept books, ran heavy equipment, and even drove 18 wheelers. They produced quality work together and people kept coming back. David always insisted “there is enough time to do a job right the first time, but never enough time to do it the second”.
In 1976, they had outgrown their spare bedroom and needed a bigger facility. Kirby built a 30x60 shop, out of scrap metal, located on the truck route in Russellville. As the business continued to grow, they incorporated the company in 1977 and that same year Kirby Specialties secured their Arkansas state contractor’s license.
When asked their most memorable year of business, both said the year they gross profited one hundred thousand dollars. Kirby Specialties had greatly exceeded their expectations, as they thought that was ten million dollars back then! Around that time, they had spent a year planning to build the Morrilton Packing Plant as it would have been their biggest job. The plan was a four-million-dollar job and David agreed to the contract by handshake.
As the industry and times have changed, Kirby Specialties is celebrating fifty years in construction. Today, the business is owner operated by their two sons Danny and Jon. You will also find all three Kirby grandchildren working at the family business. The Kirby family is proud of their parents and grandparents humble success, hard work, and tenacity to dream big. What was the center of David and Vivian’s legacy remains very much true today - with quality at the forefront of our vision, we pride ourselves in providing only excellence in construction!