Former educators honored as home builders
| "We've always kind of said our form of art is a new home," said Mr.
Storrs, who, with his wife, Jane, owns and operates the
Bridgewater-based custom and spec home building company Phoenix Custom
Builders. They engage in painstaking planning and design
processes, take great care with every detail and never stamp a project
"finished" until the buyer is satisfied, even if that means
periodically returning to "touch up" things well after the close of a
It is no wonder, then, that the quality and fine
craftsmanship of their finished products, and their longstanding
reputation as respected members of the homebuilding industry, helped
Mr. Storrs and Phoenix Custom Builders win the prestigious honor of
being named the 2007 Northwestern Connecticut Home Builder of the Year
by the Home Builders Association of Connecticut. The trade organization
with more than 1,300 member firms across the state annually selects one
builder from each of five regions in the state as an award recipient.
Before joining the home building industry, Mr. Storrs was a physical
education teacher in the Brookfield school system. It was there that he
met his future wife, who was a fourth grade teacher at the elementary
school. But after 10 years of working as an educator, Mr. Storrs began
to get restless. "As a profession, I enjoyed teaching and I felt I had
a significant impact on the kids, but I just wanted to do more with my
life," he recalled.
Exploring his career options, Mr. Storrs
decided to take an aptitude test to determine which field he might be
best suited for. The test indicated Mr. Storrs would be skilled in the
real estate field. "That was something I had never thought of before,"
Interested in the area of new construction, Mr. Storrs
went into real estate, specializing in new homes. "Some real estate
agents excel in lake properties, some condos. Well, I chose new
construction as my schtick," he said. The experience taught him a lot
about home building, which was advantageous when he eventually started
his own building company. "I learned what to do, what not to do, what
people wanted, what they liked. It has helped us a lot."
focusing exclusively on a real estate career for a number of years, Mr.
Storrs decided to give professional home building a try. It was a
natural progression. Not only did he work his way through college with
a construction job, but he and Mrs. Storrs had built their own home in
Bridgewater. In fact, the couple and their home was featured in the
April 7, 1974 edition of The Hartford Courant under a special section
on Connecticut homes.
Mr. Storrs started his home building
endeavors slowly, deciding to build just one home a year while still
working as a real estate agent on the side. When he and Mrs. Storrs,
who had also left teaching to join the emerging company, had just a few
new homes under their belt, their product was impressive and the demand
for their services grew. One thing led to another, and eventually their
company, Phoenix Custom Builders, took off.
The firm's homes are
built on a foundation of quality, ingenuity and style. Using their
newly built spec home on Bridgewater's Blueberry Hill Road as a
backdrop, the couple described their approach to home building.
They work with a select group of well-respected suppliers and
subcontractors, many of whom have worked with the couple for decades.
"It's all about relationships," said Mrs. Storrs. "Our relationship
with our subcontractors, our subcontractors' relationships with our
clients and, in turn, our relationship with our clients."
of the multitude of contractors who work on a home, and the innumerable
components that go into it, the couple notes, no matter who a homeowner
buys from, there will naturally be a finishing touch needed here and
there. Mr. and Mrs. Storrs will follow up with their homes as long as
it takes, until the buyer is 100 percent satisfied.
of materials is also a top priority for the builders. They also focus
on long-term homeowner convenience, aiming to make each of their homes
as maintenance-free as possible. For example, they use vinyl siding,
synthetic decking, windows that never need painting and so on. "Think
about it," Mrs. Storrs said. "Nowadays, two people are working, they
have children to take to Girl Scouts, dance lessons, Little
League-people don't have the time to invest [in home maintenance], nor
do they want to."
Along the same line, the couple also builds their
homes with functional convenience in mind. For example, the two-car
garage at the Blueberry Hill Road property doesn't utilize lolly
columns, or as Mrs. Storrs puts in laymen's terms, "You know those
annoying things in the middle of the garage you always bang your door
against." It's the attention and care to the small details like that,
the things "you might not notice unless you live here," which help set
the builders apart. Of course, style is also at the top of the
list. The couple isn't interested in building cookie-cutter homes and
say they have never built the same design twice. "It's our art form,
that's probably why we never build the same thing over and over again,"
Mrs. Storrs said. Their unique homes blend modern convenience with old
New England charm, and they strive to ensure that each home they build
fits in appropriately with the rural character of the neighborhoods
they build within.
Although they are a well-known firm in
Northwestern Connecticut, the couple still maintains their original
goal of being a small, family-centered business. In fact, they only
build around four homes a year. "First of all, we like to keep our
thumb on everything," Mr. Storrs explained, noting their small-scale
approach means every project and every client gets the utmost
attention. His wife pointed out, "The bottom line, which becomes more
and more true [is] the only person you can really rely on is yourself.
You can have great subcontractors, great suppliers, reasonable
customers, but the bottom line is the buck stops with Dan and myself."
Mr. Storrs added, "And second, we like to do things as a couple. For
example, when the kids were in school, we were always highly involved
with that. We never wanted to get to the point where [the company] was
so big our lives revolved around it."
Their small-company status
also allows them to develop good relationships with their clients,
which, they say, is their favorite aspect of the building industry. "I
think one of the most rewarding parts of this business is our
relationships with our customers, both during and after," Mrs. Storrs
said. "We value those relationships long after a house closes."
more information on Phoenix Custom Builders, call 860-355-8029,
203-770-0711, or visit the Web site www.phoenixcustombuilders.com.