Strengthening Neighborhoods One Building at a Time
Blue & Associates, Inc. thrives on bringing buildings “back to life”
For the better part of the last two decades, central Texans have dined in, shopped in and been treated in several of the buildings constructed by Blue & Associates, Inc. Brothers Thomas (Tom) and Donald (Don) Jay and their Texas A&M peer, J. Gib Jones, started the company in June 1999. Tom serves as CEO and President, Don is acting COO and Chair of the Board, and Gib is the company’s Senior Vice President and Secretary of the Board.
Before launching their own construction company, the Jays had worked on construction projects in Hawaii and California and throughout their college tenures. After receiving their degrees from Texas A&M, and after Don received his master’s degree from MIT, they reached out to Gib to start laying the groundwork for the new venture in Texas.
Blue & Associates, a general contracting firm based in Austin, primarily focuses on work in the commercial construction sector and is successful at offering design-build and construction management services. Over the past 19 years, the team has amassed experience building a wide variety of structures, including restaurant, retail and health care locations. Blue & Associates has enjoyed a long-lasting relationship with Sheplers, a western clothing retailer, building 11 of the brand’s stores nationwide. Some other noteworthy clients include: Maudie’s, Bikram Yoga, Gateway Church, Dazzle Coffee, Subway, ThunderCloud Subs, and Great Clips.
The lion’s share of work takes place in the fast-growing Austin area, which has experienced 16 percent growth from 2000 to 2015, resulting in a population surge to just shy of 2 million people. While Blue & Associates handles projects throughout Texas as well as the rest of the country, the owners’ favorite projects take place at home in Austin.
Creating an Austin Staple
Tom often drives by a favorite project of his. It’s meaningful to him because it laid the groundwork for many of his company’s later endeavors.
“For me, the crème de la crème of our work has been at the 4200 North Lamar site in Austin. Here, we first worked to build the Uchiko restaurant opened by Tyson Cole, a former Iron Chef and James Beard Award winner. GQ magazine voted it one of the top restaurants in the U.S.!” shares Tom. “We were fortunate to work with Michael Hsu, a prominent Austin architect. As a result of the work we did on Uchiko, we have partnered with him on quite a few more projects.”
Gib remembers working on other projects within that same building. The goal was a lofty one: to modernize the building’s two-story layout to attract new lease activity. A dialysis center had been on the first floor and a medical call center had occupied the second floor. Now complete, the structure serves as a mixed-use office, retail and restaurant space.
“What’s most interesting isn’t just seeing how the building itself changes, but watching the work that we do and how it helps liven up the community environment around the building,” Gib says.
Blue & Associates took this older, semi-functioning building and brought it forward to fit into the growing trend of mixed-use developments, making it very interactive with the surrounding residential area.
The 4200 North Lamar project was particularly challenging, but that’s the kind of work that the Blue & Associates team strives to do.
“We had to deal with the added challenge of ensuring the safety of patients in a medical facility that was continuing to operate while we were renovating the space,” says Gib. “Since it was an aggressive renovation, we had to pull three of the exterior walls off, which essentially exposed the building for two or three months.”
Blue & Associates’ expertise was put to the test as crews also had to manage water and utilities for the building, as well as keep the dialysis center up and running. Thus, the contractor made it a point to develop various proactive solutions to contend with potential problems. Understandably, this required constant quality control and logistical management, as well as constant contact with everyone involved. Specifically, they had to communicate and schedule utility tie-ins or shut downs to align with the medical office’s patient schedule. They also facilitated a temporary building entrance so patients could get in and out of the building safely. Additionally, the team built temporary partitions to keep everyone safe, keep dust and debris out and minimize the construction noise.
AN OUTSTANDING REPUTATION
The 22-person company has earned a strong reputation, which has enabled it to grow and earn recognition for that growth. Austin Business Journal named it one of the fastest-growing private businesses in the city five times. It has also been named as one of Inc. 5000’s top 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in America six times.
The partnerships and friendships that the staff has developed over the years has helped ensure the company is in continual growth mode.
“We love bringing buildings back to life,” Gib says. “It brings the area back to life. We help clients propel their businesses. We love working with entrepreneurs, or someone who wants to reinvent a space. When we partner together, we provide opportunities for other businesses to come in and succeed. That’s what’s most rewarding about our work.”
“Our biggest success is achieved when we’re engaged with the design team and owners on how to give them the best bang for their buck,” he adds. “While we don’t do a lot of advertising, we work to build relationships that give us staying power. It is critical to have that connection with your owners and developers.”
Those connections result in work that spreads far and wide for the established company. If you’re craving a burger in the Austin area, there’s a good chance you’ll eat at one of the six Austin-area P. Terry’s restaurant locations that Blue & Associates has built. The builder has also constructed a variety of high-end retail outlets, professional offices, and hair and nail salons around town.
Gib shares, “I can go to the more sprawling outskirts of town and build a new shell building. The good news is, it is essentially a clean-slate starting point and stable scope of work when you do it. However, it’s an entirely different scenario to take an existing building that may be an eyesore in the middle of a dense, well-established area of a city and bring it back to life. Then the building—and perhaps even the area—fills up immediately with new businesses and residents. Some construction companies don’t prefer remodeling or renovations because there’s a lot more challenge in that. But, we cut our teeth on those projects. That’s what we do well.”
When a building is an eyesore, it poses its own set of challenges. Everyone knows that time is money and projects can be challenging to predict as far as scheduling, due to unforeseen circumstances. Blue & Associates has grown experienced in managing the client’s expectations in terms of both time and cost. In the case of repurposing a building, communication needs to be open between the construction and design teams to assure the model being designed remains true to the existing structure.
The leaders at Blue & Associates believe the company’s greatest accomplishment is taking on a big challenge and reinvigorating a building, breathing new life into it and, as a result, the neighborhood around it.