By Kathy Bowen Stolz
“Anyone can build a house, but it takes a special group of people to make it a home,” Mark Gallagher, owner of Mar-Key Builders of Broussard, said. “And I and my team work to make each house a home from the inception of the building process. Our goal is to help people have a really, really good experience. We aim to build homes with classic and creative comfort.”
He continued, “We listen to people talk about how horrendous the building process can be. They call it ‘overwhelming’ and ‘a nightmare’ when they’re faced with having to deal with things such as allowances and making choices in a lighting store or paint store or a flooring store, just to name a few. We make the process very, very personal and do a lot of hand-holding.
“We have developed a tremendous reputation for service,” Gallagher said. “We may have to crunch numbers during the process, but we take care of people. We go the extra mile. It’s gratifying to see how extremely pleased people are with the process.”
From the time he started Mar-Key Builders in 2002, Gallagher has worked very closely with Rene Garland as the interior designer and assistant on every project. He gives to her, not the homeowner, the sheet of allowances, and she accompanies the clients to each supplier and vendor to facilitate their decision-making. She will even drive them to the vendors if they prefer.
Mark also relies on other members of his team, which includes his office manager, Monique LaCombe; his real estate agent, Wendy McCombie of Coldwell Banker Pelican Real Estate; and his maintenance guy, Sam Estis. He calls his wife Christianna his “biggest cheerleader.”
“We love what we do. We look forward to coming to work every day. For me it has to be about more than making money. The work has to have a sense of family, a sense of purpose,” he noted.
“It’s a complete team effort. I’m the guy who builds the house, Rene does her part, Monique does her part and Sam does his part. It allows me to get out on the job sites every day. One of my gifts in building is my creativity. Design is one of my passions. I work very close with reputable architects and good friends Russell Trahan (Trahan Architecture and Planning) and Stephen Girouard (Girouard Architecture) to customize drawings to fit our vision of classic comfort and design. I love working with these guys because they both go out of their way to work close with me and my ideas and also offer a great deal of TLC and expertise to any clients I send their way.” We all put a lot of heart and soul into everything we do. ”
Mark also relies on his group of skilled sub-contractors. “I give a lot of credit to my sub-contractors. I have the best painter in the business. I have the best framer, hands down. All of my subs are exceptional people and highly talented craftsmen.
“I don’t bid out jobs to four or five framers, for example. I use one framer, same thing for my plumber, my electrician, my A/C guy. I use the same ones every time because I have tremendous confidence in them and believe a great deal in loyalty. I’m comfortable with their skills and work ethic. These are guys I can trust. They’ve also become friends, and I know they will jump through hoops to provide the quality of work I can pride myself on.”
Gallagher said that people notice the attention to detail in his Mar-Key Builders homes. They recognize that the sheetrock work, the flooring and tile work are first class. They also see that the trim work on windows and columns is top quality, as is the painting and caulking.
“We invite home inspections. I want them to know we have a phenomenal product. I love to have people walk in the attics. I want them to see how phenomenal our A/C and electricians are, how carefully they lay wires, even when they’re not seen. I want inspectors to see how well our houses are put together.”
His company’s reputation is very important to Gallagher because he depends on word-of-mouth marketing to sell Mar-Key Builders’ homes. “I tell people who are looking to build a home to do their homework. Go to suppliers, go to vendors, go to our previous clients. Ask them who the contractors are out there that pay their bills, who take care of their clients.”
The company participates in the annual Parade of Homes. Mark said it has been fortunate through the years to work closely with his good friend Judy Dunn and her staff at Dunn’s Design to bring these homes to life. Mar-key Builders also has a website (www.mar-keybuilders.com), but it does little other advertising.
Gallagher noted that he builds only about a dozen houses in a typical year because managing a smaller number allows him to maintain his attention to detail and devote a great deal of time to his clients. He said about half of the houses are spec homes and half are pre-solds with prices ranging from $250,000 to $1 million.
“Our houses are known for certain touches, such as the flow of the rooms and the utilization of space. Rene and I approach every house as if we were going to live there, whether it’s a 1,600- or 4,000-sq. ft. home. I don’t want to leave wasted space. I’m extremely practical, and I believe in practical living. I want people to walk into one of my houses and think ‘Wow! I can live in this.’”
Mar-Key Builders erects houses in a lot of different subdivisions in Lafayette, Broussard and Youngsville. “I want to build in subdivisions where I’m surrounded by other quality builders because we complement each other. I will even buy lots with a group of other reputable builders. We stay in competition with each other, but it’s a good competition. It allows us a way to control some of the variables, making better and more valuable neighborhoods for the homeowners,” he stated.
“Having good relationships with my customers is really important to me. While the potential customer is interviewing me, I’m secretly interviewing them. The building process will take about eight months, and then there’s the warranty period for a number of years after that. I want to work with people who are a good fit. It’s never all about the business for me.”
However, Mark admits to considering other careers. During his college years and beyond, he owned and operated Gallagher’s Restaurant on the University of Louisiana Lafayette campus. At the same time he started remodeling and restoring homes, eventually going into new home construction. His wife Christianna ran the restaurant while he focused on his new career where he found his passion. They sold Gallagher’s about ten years ago, he said.
He also taught religion and coached at one time. Beyond his bachelor’s degree in business, he has a master’s degree in physical education and health and secondary education.
Nowadays Mark is involved in the industry, the community and his church. Mar-Key Builders is proud to be building the 2016 Home for the Holidays house as a way of giving something back to the community, he noted. He’s active with the Acadian Home Builders Association, preparing to be the president next year after serving on the executive board.
A co-founder of Skin in the Game, Mark is proud of the movement, which sponsors a weekend retreat for men every year to encourage them to be better fathers, husbands and men. Sixty men participated in the early May retreat.
After work he enjoys coaching his six-year-old son’s soccer, basketball and baseball teams. He’s also involved in youth ministry, especially when it ties in with athletics. He himself is a runner and tennis player. He also loves fishing and all sports.
Mark is the proud father of four – three daughters and a son. Two of the daughters are dancers and the other is an equestrian. He and his wife tell them to find their passion, to find what makes them come alive.
Obviously Mark Gallagher took his own advice. “I’m very passionate about what I do. I find a lot of fulfillment in making something from nothing, passing on the keys to a new home and getting hugs in return.”