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Ed Zoll is not always easy to track down.

When he’s not ren­o­vating the house of one of Hillsdale College’s pro­fessors, he’s working on another project around town or working at the Classic Cuts Salon, which he and his wife co-own.

His ener­getic nature and busy schedule keep him on the move, but that doesn’t mean he neglects rela­tion­ships with his friends and clients, who, to him, are pretty much the same thing.

Zoll is the pro­prietor of Zoll’s Licensed Con­tracting, which he started (under another name) in 1988.

“We’ve been doing con­struction for so long,” Zoll said of himself and his 28-year-old son and partner, who began before his teens. “77 percent of my work is with college faculty. It started with my father-in-law who just intro­duced me to people and our business spread through word of mouth. Word-of-mouth is the only adver­tising I do.”

It works. Zoll gets a call every week for a new project, partly due to the con­nec­tions and influence of his father-in-law, John Willson, an emeritus pro­fessor of history.

After grad­u­ating from Hillsdale High School and joining the Army, Zoll worked factory jobs before getting into con­struction. After getting laid off by mul­tiple local con­tractors, Zoll decided to take a chance at working for himself.

“It was time to, well, take a gamble, and my father-in-law, who has really been one of the solid rocks in my foun­dation and the most respected man in my life, just said, ‘Hey Ed, if you’re going to try to work on your own, right now is the time to do it.’ So in 1988 I started a little main­te­nance business.”

Since then, Zoll has gotten to know a number of pro­fessors very well and con­siders many of them close friends.

“The knowledge I gain from some of the con­ver­sa­tions is amazing, so I go by their places when I’m not even working for them.”

The feeling is mutual. Pro­fessor of phi­losophy Nathan Schlueter thrice com­pared Zoll’s work in con­struction to a professor’s in the liberal arts, a high com­pliment from a pro­fessor himself.

“First, he can do any­thing. Second, he takes pride in the quality of his work. Third, for Ed, human beings come first,” Schlueter said. “Although he is highly pro­fes­sional, Ed is also very per­sonal.”

Pro­fessor of pol­itics Robert Eden has known Zoll since 1988 – 89, when he built a long fence along the West Street side of his home.

“He has done a great deal of interior and exterior work on our old Vic­torian house during the 25 years we have owned it, and every­thing he has done has stood the test of time,” Eden said. “When he does a job, it is done per­ma­nently and does not have to be revisited for decades.”

While pro­fessors gain excellent hand­iwork at the hands of Zoll, in addition to payment, Zoll said he gains enlight­enment from talking to such intel­ligent men just like his pro­fessor father-in-law.

“I love talking pol­itics with these guys because they are so smart and because, growing up,  voting was not part of my thing. I didn’t have a dad growing up so things being struc­tured wasn’t for me until I met my father-in-law,” Zoll said. “I started paying attention and voting, and now I get to have great dis­cus­sions with these people. And if I’m wrong, they tell me.”

mdelp@hillsdale.edu