Keith Lee is the oldest of six children. His mother suggested he come to Rochester after an invitation was extended from his brother Andre. Keith is from Baltimore, Md., and was released from prison in 2004. Shortly after his release, he found himself struggling with an addiction he’d battled prior to his incarceration.

After Keith arrived in Rochester, he ended up in the hospital due to heroin withdrawals. It was during this time Keith decided to get serious about his recovery. He believed Rochester would give him that fresh start.

Once Keith was released, his brother introduced him to a man who owned real estate in Rochester. In Baltimore he had learned the skills required to perform home repairs. Keith's father was killed in a job-related accident when Keith was 10 years old, leaving his mother with a house to maintain. He’d listen to his mother cry at being overcharged for repairs and upkeep. Keith was tired of seeing the hurt in his mother’s eyes, so he made her a promise. That promise was to learn any and everything about home repairs.

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Indeed, he kept that promise. Keith made all the necessary repairs around the house moving forward. He also helped many others in Baltimore.

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While working for others in Rochester, he realized he could be doing business for himself. He had learned about business from his mother, a business-owner herself. In 2008, he took a leap and started his own business, Ace Home Improvement. He didn’t borrow any money. He did lawn care and snow removal and invested every penny into getting the tools needed for his business.

Ace’s first business contract was to build a deck. His business goal was to develop a reputation for dependability and quality work. Ace Home Improvement consists of 3 employees, and he partners with his church and the Olmsted County Work Program. It’s important for him to offer opportunities to individuals returning to the community.

Ace Home Improvement provides the following services; decks, chimneys, flooring, dry wall, painting, tiling, plumbing and electric sump pumps, to name a few.

Keith continues along the road of long-term recovery. He dropped out of school in 8th grade, but plans to pursue a GED diploma.

In addition to home improvement work, Keith Lee, owner of Ace Home Improvement, does snow removal. Lee is pictured with his truck Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
In addition to home improvement work, Keith Lee, owner of Ace Home Improvement, does snow removal. Lee is pictured with his truck Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

Keith said Ace Home Improvement has been well received in the community, and most of the business comes by way of referrals. Business has slowed with the COVID-19 pandemic, yet work has been steady. Keith can be reached at: 269-6757 or via email: klacehomeimprovement@yahoo.com

Katherine Sublett is a freelance writer in Winona. This is one story in an occasional series on Black entrepreneurs in Southeast Minnesota.

Keith Lee, owner of Ace Home Improvement, works on a basement remodel project Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
Keith Lee, owner of Ace Home Improvement, works on a basement remodel project Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
Keith Lee, owner of Ace Home Improvement, works on a basement remodel project Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
Keith Lee, owner of Ace Home Improvement, works on a basement remodel project Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)