Atchison Heller Construction
Atchison Heller Construction’s focus on quality, value and being a model organization distinguishes it within the custom homebuilding industry.
By Jim Harris and Bianca Herron
Atchison Heller Construction strives to be an example for all others in its industry to follow.
“We stand out in the industry by living our mission statement, which is to provide the highest quality and value in construction services that is out there,” says John Atchison, co-owner of the Lexington, Ky.-based company. “We try to be a model organization for our customers, subcontractors and suppliers. We want them to look at us as an industry leader who does things the right way.”
The company’s ability to set and meet high standards on its residential and commercial projects has allowed it to build lasting relationships with clients. Atchison Heller’s experience includes custom homes, remodeling projects and fully developed communities.
Several past clients have retained the company to build more than one custom home and referred the company to others. “A lot of our projects come from recommendations because we work so hard to exceed people’s expectations,” co-owner Steve Heller says. “We talk a lot here about what we can do to provide a five-star experience on every project, which includes the way we communicate with clients and handle paperwork.”
Atchison Heller typically works on 12 to 15 projects simultaneously. “Communication and logistics play a critical role in managing all of these projects,” Heller adds. “One of our employees is dedicated to customer service so that the communication is always there. Our customers always have someone to talk to about whatever concerns they may have. We try to take the hassle out of the process and keep our clients happy.”
‘A Culture of Yes’
Atchison Heller’s five-star customer experience begins with the first meeting it has with clients and continues long after its projects are complete. “We are very transparent on the front end,” says Austin Heller, a project manager for the company and Steve Heller’s son. “Our customers enjoy knowing every aspect of what we’re doing.
“Our transparency sets us apart,” he adds. “We have a culture of ‘yes,’ – we want people to trust us and establish relationships with us that will last for many years.”
Each of the company’s project managers and superintendents takes a personal approach to communicating with clients. This includes maintaining a regular presence on jobsites to ensure quality control and frequent digital and in-person updates. “There’s a one-on-one relationship with clients once the job begins,” Austin Heller says. “We almost become a part of their family.”
Subcontractor relationships also are vital to the 11-person company’s mission. “All of our subcontractors are people we’ve maintained long relationships with over the years,” Atchison says. “This has helped us maintain the level of quality we have now become known for. So we don’t try to find the cheapest people to work with, we call on the people that we know will provide the quality we need, and understand what we’re looking for as a company.”
‘Building With Impact’
Atchison Heller recently applied its expertise to a craftsman-style home in southeast Lexington. The home – known as Prather Road – includes a fully finished basement, theater room, entertainment area on the first floor, large second-floor office and three-car garage. The home also includes a covered front porch, five suite-style bedrooms and five-and-a-half bathrooms. The 6,500-square-foot home was completed in roughly 12 months.
“For the first time in many years, we designed a custom home to our specifications,” Atchison says. “We developed the plans, and did all of the interior and exterior design work before the client even bought the home. We had a client purchase the home 60 days prior to completion, and they moved in during the month of April. We are really proud of the work we did. It’s a great home and has given us a lot of positive feedback from the community.”
The home includes a number of energy efficient features, including geothermal heating and air conditioning systems. “There’s also a very high degree of foam and wall insulation, which we use in all of our homes to help exceed energy ratings,” Atchison says. “Consumers are very concerned about that, especially with the bigger houses today.”
The company’s recent commercial projects include work for The Hope Center, a support organization for homeless people in Lexington; and Wesley Village, a continuing care retirement community in Wilmore, Ky. “We’ve built some really special commercial buildings,” Atchison says.
Atchison Heller in December will complete a more than 8,500-square-foot addition to The Hope Center’s women’s center, which includes adding a dormitory, kitchen and expanded dining room to the building. The company’s involvement with Wesley Village, which extends back more than 10 years, includes completing a 28-unit condo building as well as healthcare facilities.
“With these organizations, we feel like we’re building with impact,” Atchison adds. “We’ve enjoyed the relationships we’ve had with them, as well as other organizations here in Lexington.”
A Strong Core
Quality and relationship building have been at the core of John Atchison and Steve Heller’s careers for nearly 40 years.
Atchison started a construction company in 1978 after leaving college. His work often bought him in contact with Heller, who started his career with a flooring and furniture company. After a three-decade-long friendship and professional relationship, Heller and Atchison went into business together in 1998, when they purchased land that they would later develop into a condominium community.
The pair formally incorporated Atchison Heller Construction in 2000. The company today has 11 employees, several of whom have worked for Atchison Heller for more than 10 years. “We are very proud of our company’s reputation and of what our employees have done to help us achieve that reputation,” Heller says. “We want our employees to feel that they are part of the family.”
The next generation of the company is now in place, as Heller’s sons Austin and Max and daughter Hollis Heller Rigdon are involved in the business, as well as Atchison’s son David. David Atchison and Max Heller work as project managers, while Heller Rigdon assists with marketing, scheduling, bidding and estimating.
“Our children grew up watching the business,” Atchison says. “When they got older they all had other jobs. However, they all had the opportunity to see if they’d enjoy working for our company. As it turns out, when they did start working with us, they really enjoy this type of work and want to make careers out of it.”
Heller notes that that both he and Atchison want to see their children eventually take on management roles with the company. “Along with keeping on top of the trends and best practices in the industry, we want them to continue building the reputation we have developed, and stay as customer driven as we are today,” he concludes. “As long as they stay focused and remain true to our roots, we know that the company will be successful.”
Atchison Heller’s owners work to improve their community and industry through their involvement in a number of organizations. These include Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the United Way, American Heart Association and the Building Industry Association of Southern Kentucky.
“We have a passion and desire to help people,” co-owner John Atchison says. “We want to give back to the community, as it has been very good to us.”