Tuckahoe Creek Construction has evolved to cater to customer desires, with a focus on luxury custom homes.
THE LUXURY CUSTOM homebuilding industry can be very rewarding when the economy is doing well, but it requires more than top-notch products and high-end finishes. The husband-and-wife proprietors of Tuckahoe Creek Construction realize communication with clients, vendors and subcontractors as well as customer service make all the difference in this competitive sector of the market.
“In our niche, all our main competitors – us included – deliver a quality product priced fairly,” says Gray Stettinius, one of the cofounders of Tuckahoe Creek Construction and the current owner and president. “And while I know my competitors typically have good relationships with their clients, I feel we set a very high bar.”
Stettinius and a partner launched Tuckahoe Creek Construction in 1990, primarily focusing on speculative construction of first move-up and empty-nester homes. In 1998, he bought out his partner and shifted to luxury custom home construction.
The company relied on new residential construction until the Great Recession decimated the economy in 2008. However, Tuckahoe Creek Construction was able to leverage its custom construction and customer service model into high-end residential remodeling. Today, the company continues to operate in luxury new construction as well as high-end remodels and renovations.
In 2012, Tuckahoe Creek Construction began downsizing as a way to focus even more attention on the client. Stettinius and his wife, Laurie, handle all operations – Gray runs all construction and client management functions, and Laurie operates the back-office accounting and marketing.
“By downsizing, we made the decision to further differentiate ourselves from our competition by limiting the number of clients and projects we work on at any given time, and by providing direct and personal attention to each client,” Gray Stettinius says. “By necessity, we turn away more work than we bid.
“For us to become involved in a project, it needs to be a natural fit with both the client and the project, and it needs to fit well in our schedule,” Stettinius adds. “We do not take jobs that might cause disruption to our existing clients, or that for whatever reason, don’t afford us the opportunity to provide real value to the client.”
Despite being a two-person operation supported by vendors and clients, Stettinius’s reputation carries a great deal of weight in the relatively small Richmond market.
Over the course of his career, Stettinius has been the president of the Home Building Association of Richmond, a past director of the National Association of Homebuilders and has served on numerous committees within the association and on behalf of a local government planning/development department.
Tuckahoe Creek Construction also has been featured in many articles and has earned numerous awards for its work. The company earned Best in Houzz honors in 2014, 2015 and 2016 for design and service. From 2011 to 2015, Tuckahoe Creek earned the GuildMaster with Distinction Award for exceptional customer service, the only firm so recognized by GuildQuality in the Richmond region.
But what the company is proudest of is the Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Marketplace Integrity it earned in 2003, which shows its commitment to the highest standards of conduct and ethics.
“In general, our work comes almost exclusively through word-of-mouth, client referrals and repeat business, so our reputation is everything,” Stettinius says.
Relying on Subcontractors
As a sole proprietor, Tuckahoe Creek Construction is 100 percent dependent on its vendor and subcontractor relationships to deliver quality products and service to clients.
With that in mind, Stettinius says maintaining positive relationships with these partners is of utmost importance, but the company always is interested in finding new talent to add to its pool.
“We have some subcontractor relationships that go back to our very first project in 1990 – most of our relationships are easily 15 to 20 years old,” Stettinius says. “That said, we don’t retain these relationships simply because of the history.
“All our subs know what we expect on behalf of the client, and they have bought into that,” Stettinius adds. “I see our responsibility being to deliver a great product for our client at a fair and reasonable cost.”
Much of Tuckahoe Creek Construction’s work is performed on a cost-plus basis, which means the company is acting as stewards of its clients’ project funds, according to Stettinius. This motivates Stettinius to make sure subcontractors and vendors operate with the goal of keeping clients satisfied at all times, and he does not hesitate to replace them if they falter.
“While it doesn’t happen often, I am always willing to seek an alternative vendor or sub whose objectives are more closely aligned with ours,” Stettinius says.
A Porch and a Pool
In 2011, Tuckahoe Creek Construction was called upon to deliver what initially was a routine porch addition to an existing home. However, the company had recently completed another timber-frame project and felt the Tudor style of this structure lent itself to a more rustic timber-frame design.
“The owner and architect agreed, and the result was a really special connection between the new and old spaces,” Stettinius says. “Given the custom nature of our work, all our projects have elements I would describe as unique to that particular project.
“This project just had so many opportunities to tie the new into the old,” he adds.
According to Builder magazine, the patio originally on this home was unprotected from sunlight and winter weather, which made the space unusable most of the time.
The owners’ chose to solve this problem with a porch and pool addition.
To better meld the addition with the existing structure, the construction team built a new chimney that mirrors an existing chimney on the rear of the home for an outdoor fireplace, making the space usable in the cooler temperatures. Also, an existing standing seam copper roof was extended to serve as a roof for the porch. The project earned a Builder’s Choice Award for Outdoor Living Spaces from Builder magazine.
“The good thing about the diversity of the projects we are tasked with executing is that we get to learn something on every project that usually helps us to improve our product and processes on subsequent projects,” Stettinius says.