Love of Old Houses Builds a Remodeling Business
Roxanna Guilford, Atlanta Business Chronicle
Long before he embarked on a career in home renovation, Bradley Cruickshank had a passion for old houses. The owner of Cruickshank Inc. used to visit his grandparents' Victorian house and marvel at the pocket doors, climb the back stairs and explore the stonewall basement.
He still gets to do this. About 80 percent of his business is high-end residential remodeling, and as a design-build contractor, the firm handles both design and construction.
"I've always liked houses. [As a child], I was always building things," he said.
His passion led him to earn an undergraduate degree at Brown University in engineering and art, and a master's at the Yale School of Architecture.
The Ohio native came to Atlanta in 1977 to work for Heery and Heery, which is now Heery International Inc.
He continued to feed his passion for historic homes, buying a house in Inman Park that same year. "I was banging away on it nights and weekends," he said.
He sold that one and bought another in the same area. He even took time off from work to restore it.
Following the call
In 1989, Cruickshank decided to become a remodeling contractor.
Through a former mentor, he hired two experienced carpenters. He soon became involved in the industry's trade association, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI).
Word of mouth propelled his business. He started working for clients referred through friends and family. He even did a job for his barber within the first month.
"I really do feel like it was fate," he said. "From the very beginning, it just clicked."
His first office was in his home, and he later moved into a small Buckhead office. About two and a half years ago, he bought his current building near Lindbergh Drive and Cheshire Bridge Road. The site offers shop space and room for his 12-person staff.
"There was a lingerie-modeling business in here [before], so the neighbors are happy," he said.
He's happy, too: Annual revenues total about $1.8 million.
Most of the firm's business is residential remodeling; but a second line, corporate repair services, makes up about 20 percent of his total operation.
"We had an opportunity to diversify and get into the commercial handyman business," he said. "One reason I wanted to get in this business is because what I see in this industry is a lot of guys who have been out on construction sites working for 25 years, whose knees are sore and tired, who didn't feel like lugging two-by-fours in the hot sun," Cruickshank said.
Working in air-conditioned stores and offices provided the ideal solution for the workers.
Finding a good fit
Commercial repair work complements Cruickshank's primary business, design and renovation. "We're trying to put together a good value fit between good design [and] construction in a total package," he said.
Instead of hiring an architect to design the renovation and then hiring contractors to build it, the homeowner using the design-build approach can deal with a single team from start to finish.
Cruickshank said he hasn't seen much change in the past decade in what people want. They still ask for the big three:
- Kitchen/family room combinations
- More elaborate master suites with expanded closet space and bathrooms
- Greater exposure to the outdoors
"I like to create outdoor rooms that are extensions of indoor rooms," he said. "That's one of my biggest areas -- the relationship of inside and outside and how a house sits on a lot, how it relates to the landscape and the outdoor spaces," he said.
Be true to the house is his motto. "I think a house should read as a whole," he said.
"All old houses have stories. It's a shame we don't have more of them," he said.
Originally published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Article can also be found on their website at http://atlanta.bizjournals.com/atlanta/stories/1999/05/31/focus15.html?page=2