We are located in the old DNR (Department of Natural Resources) headquarters on US 17 in Brunswick, Georgia right next to Spanky’s Marshside Restaurant. My name is Michael Thomas and I moved to coastal Georgia in 1981 to build a house I designed (the first house that I built) on Little Cumberland Island for my family. Little Cumberland Island is located just south of Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia and is only accessible by boat. Well, I had a contract to design and build another house on Little Cumberland before ours was finished and another after that one; I met my wife Lucy and I’ve been here ever since.
Cumberland Contractors Inc. was incorporated in 1986. Having spent the majority of those first years building on Little Cumberland you can figure out where our name comes from. Designing and building houses on Little Cumberland has given our company a unique perspective to building that not many other firms possess. There are strict building regulations on Little Cumberland that make material selection and site selection contingent on approval by the Association’s Building Committee. The focus of this committee is to protect the natural settings of this remote island and maintain minimal human impact. I took that concept a bit further and focused on making our houses relate to and take full advantage of the sun and prevailing southeast summer breezes utilizing techniques I learned while earning a B.S. in Building Construction from Michigan State University.
In the early 1990’s we expanded our operations to include St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Brunswick and communities in Camden and McIntosh counties where we have completed over 125 projects. They range from “Larry’s Giant Subs” restaurants (9 of them) to a seven lot neighborhood in the $3-$400,000 dollar range on St. Simons Island to million dollar plus projects on Sea Island. Four of these projects have been chosen for national and regional awards in 1997, 2001, 2003 and 2004.
A little over ten years ago Donna Turner came to work for me as a secretary, office manager, bookkeeper (I can keep going). I have been very fortunate that she has stayed with me through 3 different accounting systems (Peachtree, Quick Books and now Master Builder). I keep trying to find the perfect program. Her ability as an office manager, her computer acumen and 14 years experience as a manager with Barnett Bank, brings a level of expertise to the office which is invaluable.
Building on Little Cumberland forces me to conceptualize the whole building process before the first bag of “crete” is ever lifted. Since all the materials have to be barged over I have to be aware of each component of the house and its weight before we begin construction. Refuse also has to be barged off so minimal waste is key. Understanding scheduling is imperative since the workers are ferried over on a daily basis. All these skills combined with the importance of understanding the impact of weather and the elements make my experience on Little Cumberland Island something I am truly grateful to have. Bringing these same skills to a “softer” environment on the mainland, I believe gives our company an edge.
Larry Crankshaw began working with us 8 years ago as a finish carpenter and now has been a superintendent for the past 5 years. Like me he enjoys the process of building and was hooked after his first job and has never done anything else. Last year Larry completed a 7000 square foot residence located adjacent to the Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island which is actually part of the Cumberland Island National Seashore. Working on “Big Cumberland” employed our skills on how to coordinate the production of the home on a remote island and taught us some new ones in learning how to work with new and thicker red tape.
Don Hinkle has been painting for over 28 years and started working with us full time 5 years ago. Don has an incredible talent for making ordinary things look extraordinary. In fact, one example of Don’s talent was recently showcased on the cover of Custom Home Outdoors magazine.
James Gantt has been with us for almost a year now and he fills in all the gaps we leave open. Later this month we will be complimenting our staff with the addition of Ricky Gibbs who will also be working as a superintendent.
As we have grown as a company we have begun to work more and more with many of the talented architects in our area. This has given me and my staff the opportunity to show our clients and architects that any dream is buildable. What I am most proud of throughout my 20 years in business is my relationships with former and current clients. The highest compliment a client can pay me is their continued friendship after the project is complete.