Kurtz stands in front of 1 World Trade Center, the skyscraper being constructed on the site of the former World Trade Center.
Katja Heinemann / www.katjaheinemann.com / www.auroraselect.com Kurtz stands in front of 1 World Trade Center, the skyscraper being constructed on the site of the former World Trade Center.

After working at a lumberyard in Manhattan for more than 25 years, what does Mike Kurtz know? How to hustle, how to maneuver materials in tight spaces, how to crack a joke, and how to say no to a suspect credit applicant. But he always knew how to give, particularly when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center down the street 10 years ago this month. 9/11 MemoriesWe were kind of in shock the day it happened. We were here all day regardless and the only people we saw that day were firemen, ambulances. After the attacks happened, everybody got out of Manhattan. I believe we worked a regular day and left around 4 or 4:30 p.m. Most of the afternoon was spent talking to firemen and seeing what they needed. Actually, a few people got escorted up here and were dropped off on busses a few blocks south of here. People who were in the towers that day came in and used our bathrooms that day to wash up. They were covered with ashes. They were still in shock. We were trying to talk to them, but they were paralyzed and in shock. They were so dazed they couldn't comprehend what happened.

The Aftermath We donated various things such as dust masks, first aid kits, duct tape, all kinds of odds and ends. Whatever the fire department asked for, we just gave them.

Traffic Tussles Customer parking and vendor deliveries are nightmares here. There's absolutely no parking. We load our trucks up between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. every day and try to have them on the delivery sites by 7 a.m. the next day just to make room for customer parking. We have men come in around 5 a.m. to unload trailers of sheetrock, metal studs, insulation–all our large orders.

Keeping Stock We have a location in Newark, N.J. We take a lot of our larger deliveries out there and we run transfer trucks into Manhattan about three or four times a day, just to keep this place stocked up. I'll have one or two units of the most popular items here, and in New Jersey I'll have 16. Because you go through it so quickly, you can't be out of material. These people want it now, they don't want to hear "We'll bring it in an hour." That's not good enough. They'll drive up the street to someone else if you don't have it.

Having Fun People usually say that we have one of the best counters, where we have eight or nine salesmen who greet and help customers as they come in. We like to feel that when customers come in they joke around with us and they really want to come back, not only for the material but for the pricing and the quality of the material and the camaraderie. Basically keeping them happy and giving them something to look forward to when they're coming into Manhattan.

My Yardsticks I guess making it a good work environment, as you have to keep your workers happy. Profit is also important. That's the only thing that matters at the end of the day: What's left over after you pay all the bills.