Call Jeff Hardee "picky," and he’s likely to take it as a compliment.
Attention to detail seems to be a way of life for the civil engineer turned homebuilder. From insisting that job sites be kept clean throughout construction to providing buyers with a six-inch-thick "owner’s manual" at closing, Hardee’s penchant for thoroughness has earned him a reputation as a premier residential builder working in the lake and horse country of Spartanburg and Greenville counties.
Born in eastern North Carolina near Raleigh, Hardee attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where in 1990, he earned a degree in civil engineering. While there, he also met a student nurse named Jennifer Dorchak, who later became his wife and business partner.
After graduation, Jeff worked as an engineer with Duke Power Company, and Jennifer pursued a nursing career. He remained with Duke for four years, initially in the Charlotte area and then at the Oconee Nuclear Station near Seneca, SC.
Working with a large company convinced Hardee that he was better suited for a hands-on career in which he could make a difference on a one-on-one basis. He left Duke and established Hardee & Associates, LLC, in Jennifer’s hometown of Spartanburg. The couple bought a small home in Converse Heights and Jeff began work on his first homebuilding project, a spec house in River Falls Plantation. When it went under contract two months prior to completion, he knew he had made a good career decision.
Today, Hardee’s business in based in fast-growing Boiling Springs. He works exclusively in upscale communities like Turtle Creek, Woodfin Ridge, Fairview Farms, Carolina Country Club and The Cliffs at Glassy. He completes from three to six houses each year, with construction values ranging from $400,000 to more than $1 million. So far, this business has come strictly through word of mouth referrals.
Jennifer has put her nursing career on hold to become a mother and office manager. Her talents range from managing the accounting and billing, to customer relations and consulting with clients on interior design and selections. Their two children, Jonathan and Caroline, "intern" in the office during the summers.
QUALITY IS A CORE VALUE
A growing number of Hardee’s clients are mature couples - mostly professional people and retirees – who settle in the golf, recreational and equestrian communities near the mountains of North and South Carolina. He enjoys working with these types of clients because they are stimulating and like to be involved.
"People come here from all over the United States to enjoy the good weather, the natural resources and the variety of recreational opportunities the Upstate provides", he says. "They bring design ideas with them from other regions and, together, we incorporate them as special features of their new homes." One couple brought him a photograph of a cupola from a historic barn in Lexington, KY. Hardee was able to reproduce the cupola design and incorporate it as a focal point of the exterior of their home. Complete with a copper roof and custom finial, the cupola gives the home the distinctive horse country flavor the couple wanted to achieve.
Hardee is always open to his clients’ ideas for a homebuilding project; he likes to meld the owners’ ideas with his own engineering skills and personality to create functional yet aesthetically pleasing details. On one high-end home, he installed fixed glass windows in the walls of an elevator shaft, and then hung a painting on the exterior wall of the elevator car itself. When the elevator is on the third floor, the homeowners see the painting through the window; when lowered, they enjoy a fabulous view of the mountain sunset.
Hardee likes to use only the best materials – antique exposed beams, heart pine floors and granite surfaces; these textures bring out the architectural character of the region. For inspiration, he likes traveling to historic cities like Charleston and Williamsburg. Many special features such as detailed window and door molding, period ironwork and architectural brackets are a result of his travels.
Jeff is insistent about his core value of quality, and he is equally selective about his subcontractors. Careful selection of those who share this passion for excellence has resulted in consistent quality. They are members of his team, and he values their expertise and problem-solving skills.
"I don’t have all the talent or all the answers," says Hardee, "and I depend on these skilled associates to bring something of value to the project."
HARDEE’S ENGINEERING BACKGROUND GIVES HIM AN ADVANTAGE IN BUILDING TODAY’S STRUCTURALLY COMPLEX HIGH-END HOMES.
One popular innovation that Hardee and his mechanical subcontractor have integrated into several recent homebuilding projects is a radiant, in-floor heating system that keeps floors at a constant comfortable temperature during the heating season. "We’ve installed it in hardwood, ceramic and concrete floors," observes Hardee. "Our older clientele really love the comfort of the warm floors."
ENGINEERING EDUCATION IS AN ASSETT
Hardee also takes time from his busy schedule to support his local community. He’s a member of the Spartanburg Homebuilders Association, the Spartanburg Board of Realtors and is a leader of his local Kiwanis Club. He is active in the club’s "Terrific Kids" Program, which is designed to bolster confidence and self-esteem among selected students in the local school system.
Hardee’s attention to detail, as well as his team approach, is evident throughout the course of the building process. At the beginning of every project, "site guidelines" are posted which include reminders to keep a clean jobsite and be thoughtful to homeowners.
Jeff is adamant about quality, and he believes his own success lies in going well beyond what his clients expect. "Couples building custom homes expect their builders will do things right and to provide a well-constructed finished product. We have to go beyond that," says Hardee. "We do this by involving the homeowners, listening to their ideas, and-in the end-providing them a home that reflects their lifestyle and personality."
Hardee’s engineering education and experience give him an advantage in building today’s structurally complex high-end homes on challenging sites. Regardless of style, size and unique features, he believes his homes will appreciate and endure. "They may be pretty because of what we use to build them with, but they will be built right because of how we choose to build them. After all is said and done, we still calculate to the fifth decimal place."
What’s next for Jeff Hardee? "I enjoy working with today’s clients and look forward to working with tomorrow’s" he says. "We’re doing good things and we don’t plan to break the mold."