Mark Ste. Marie Takes Pride in His Work

Mark Ste. Marie Takes Pride in His Work

coverBy Kathy Bowen Stolz

Mark Ste. Marie is a proud man. He’s proud to be a builder, proud to be an American and proud of his heritage.

“My motto for my business is ‘A Name You Can Trust,’ and I stand behind this. I take great pride in building a home that will last a lifetime and will appreciate in value,” Ste Marie said. “There are a lot of great builders in the Lafayette area. I am truly pleased and proud when people choose me to build their home.

“I also take great pride in building the trust that encourages my homeowners and their friends to use me again to build their next home.” Some homeowners have contracted him to build their second and third homes.

The 57-year-old owner of Ste. Marie Homes in Broussard said he enjoys designing homes. He does the floor plans but uses architects to do the drafting.

“When I’m building custom homes, I love the idea that I’m going to guide the homebuyers in the right direction. I have a great imagination and try to be as creative as the budget will allow. We try to use all the space as possible. We incorporate niches, storage or closet areas to fill every inch of our homes. You just can’t have enough storage space in a home!

“We design custom ceilings and make smooth transitions between different materials to create a unique home; it’s one of our specialties. Through the years I have seen many applications that don’t work and create problems later for the homeowners.”

He said he likes customers who know what they want, both in structure and finish. “Everybody has their own ideas and own tastes. Once they have their ideas, I’m going to make it happen for them. I orchestrate it.

“We at Ste. Marie Builders, Inc. have a great team of professional subcontractors that make all this possible. I give credit to all my subs that I have been working with for many years. We have developed a team effort to build a home to be proud of.”

About half of the 15-20 homes that Ste. Marie typically builds each year are custom and the other half are spec homes. He knows that curb appeal is important, that the first look at a home is what draws potential buyers. He said a lot of his spec homes turn into pre-sold homes. The largest spec home he ever built was 3,800 sq ft. His custom homes range from 1,250 to 5,000 sq ft.

Mark laughingly said he started his business on May 24, 1957. “I know I had a business right there in my mind the day I was born! I’ve always been in the construction business.” One of his first construction jobs was building a tree house for his sisters.

Early on in his life Mark was exposed to construction trades, with carpentry his first love, perhaps because he carried his Uncle Joe’s toolbox to job sites. That uncle, L.D. “Joe” Bernard, was a master carver who shared his love of wood with Mark.

The builder learned roofing from his dad and foundation work from his uncles back in the days when it was pick and shovel excavation. He honed his skills by graduating from construction trade school right after high school while building furniture with a friend on the side.

“How things have changed! It’s so much quicker to build a house nowadays. In the old days just one crew would build a whole house, including digging the foundation, framing, installing the old fashioned paneling and drying it in with three-tab shingles. It took them eight to nine months.” Ste. Marie Builders now can construct a house in as few as 65 days.

Technology has sped the building process. “I couldn’t wait to buy my first nail gun back in the ‘80s!” Unfortunately his first experience with a nail gun left an impression on him because he shot himself in the stomach! Fortunately he was a professional prize fighter with rock-hard stomach muscles at the time, so the nail gun did little damage.

Although Mark started a roofing company when he was only 14, he officially started Ste. Marie Builders in 1995 after using his skills in the oil industry overseas for 10 years. He worked in 15 countries in five continents during those years, including stints in Angola, Bolivia, Cameroon, China, Egypt, England, Holland, Japan, Nigeria and Norway. “All that traveling made me proud to be an American. It strengthened my belief in what we stand for: Freedom, liberty and justice for all.”

Ste. Marie is also proud of his family’s deep history in Lafayette and St. Martin parishes, a history that goes back to 1765 when his paternal ancestor Joseph Gaurhept Broussard de Beau Soleil, one of the first Acadians to arrive in Louisiana aboard the Santo Domingo, received a land grant.

His great-great grandfather, Valsin Broussard founded and platted the city of Broussard in 1884 in addition to donating the land for Sacred Heart Catholic Church, St. Cecilia Catholic School, the public school and the railroad depot. His grandmother started the loose meat sandwich booth at the Broussard Community Fair.

But just as important to Mark is the family’s work ethic. Among the family of his father Dominque Ray Ste. Marie were farmer and sharecroppers who worked their way up the economic ladder. Among the Bernard family members on his mother’s side were mercantile and business owners. His mother and her seven siblings’ hard work was an example he’s followed his whole life. As a kid, Mark’s mother told him, “Before you tell me your problems, go to work. All your problems will work out.” And they do, he admitted.

“If it had not been for my family and the life we lived, I would not be the builder I am today. I never thought I’d be my own boss or own my own business. It feels great when I meet people at festivals, church and on the street and people introduce me as their builder. It’s what I like most about being a builder. I’m proud to be a home builder.”

His wife Cindy and his stepson Tyler also work for Ste. Marie Builders. “Although I’m president and sole owner, Cindy’s the boss most of the time. She does all of the book work, such as paying subs, keeping the schedule and budgeting. Until she came along, I was not near as organized!”

Tyler, age 30, is a maser tile fitter and superintendent. Mark is training him to take over the business some day. Mark also has two daughters, Ashley and Brittany, from a previous marriage and three grandchildren.

“When I was starting out, I was developing my own little properties. But then I became a builder. I got so busy, I forgot to buy property! But the last three or four years I’ve been in on some development of a subdivision, Bayou Tortue Manor in Broussard. It’s a 76-lot subdivision with a private park and gazebo. Sixty-five percent is sold out to local builders. I feel so humble to work from the dirt to create this beautiful, safe neighborhood.”

During the next five years Ste. Marie plans to phase himself out of the more physical elements of building to concentrate on developing subdivisions and custom homes, leaving the spec homes’ building to Tyler.

Although he admits to being a workaholic, Mark Ste. Marie loves to play golf for relaxation, although he only gets a game in about once a month. He also loves to visit his mother who lives a mile down the road and his grandkids. He loves to cook (in fact, he was a professional chef for a few years).

He’s also very dedicated to Cajun culture. “Everybody I knew growing up and in high school, we try to get together to cook and share stories. We’re pretty close knit.” It’s just another thing that makes Mark Ste. Marie a proud man.

You can contact Ste. Marie Builders at P.O. Box 986, Broussard, LA 70518 or 337-839-5555 or [email protected]. You may also visit www.markstemarie.com.