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At an age when some of his peers are still chasing their degrees, 25, Lance Michalewicz already has his, plus three years as a partner in a 35-year-old construction firm. But more importantly, the hands-on experience he offers the clients of Michalewicz Construction are more than many people twice his age have. In addition, there is his partner Clifton, who he just calls “Dad.”
Clifton founded Michalewicz Construction in the mid-1980s after many years of building ready-built homes at the now-defunct Cardinal Homes in Ballinger. Building in a highly accelerated manner gave him exponential insight into every aspect of home construction. Their niche has always been custom built homes in rural areas. It requires a unique mindset and a different discipline to be successful.
“We help people build their dream homes out in the country. That extra distance and isolation has to be factored into every part of home construction plans. In means your crews are committed to being on the job, ready to work at 7:15 a.m. No matter if the job site is 10 or 100 miles away," said Lance. “That requires tighter, more accurate planning, because if you come up short, it is a long way back for supplies. Our clients deserve for their homes to be everything they want. You do not blow the budget, not in dollars and not in delays." Growing up in Rowena, Lance remembers working hard labor as young as the ripe old age of 12. Or, maybe it was before that. From the time he was walking, he was riding in the pickup, holding the end of the tape measure, and carrying tools. He remembers lots of time on job sights, and being struck from an early age with the excitement of building.
“You know, it’s funny, this being the City Lumber Spotlight, because when I was little I remember how much I loved getting to go with dad to City Lumber. Even then, it was cool to see that part of a job, like all of the things that need to be ordered and the exchange of ideas. Everything that was going to be used dispersed from that one location,” said Lance. One facet captured Lance most: the complexity of the mathematics involved. “By at least 7th grade, I knew I was a math person. I remember being in eighth grade geometry and being completely aware of the correlation between it and our family trade. By my freshman geometry class, I was constantly working through everything that could be better-plotted mathematically on paper before it was built in the air,” he said.
During the three years he spent earning his degree from ASU, Lance worked in an engineering office. But there was never much doubt in his mind where he wanted to be. “I enjoy the mental preparation and analysis of building, but I also have that need to build with my hands,” he said. Asked about the pros and cons of partnering with your parent, Lance explained, “It works very well for us. Every home benefits from two different sets of eyes on every detail from the dirt below to the roof above. Dad brings experience and guidance. I contribute newer concepts and technology. We know each other so well that it saves a lot of time and communication, and we know where the other needs back up. It is really effective. We have a shared determination for perfectionism. It’s important to us that OUR name is on the line in every project we take on.”
Michalewicz is proud of their country houses with modern designs and “smart” technology. “It’s a cool thing to have a ranch home with an oven controlled by an iPhone, or renovating a 100 year old house and adding a pantry or walk in shower the size of a bedroom. You can have all the benefits of rural life without giving up any of the modern technology that urban households have. We help make that possible,” he said.
He also cites their in-depth knowledge of the various geographic conditions in our region as an advantage for higher-quality construction. But if asked what their main advantage is, he said, "It’s simple. We frame and trim everything ourselves. We don’t sub that, so our approach is completely hands on.”
“I love driving through the country side and seeing homes I remember my dad working on years ago. The work we have done on old homes, that have stood the test of time, taught us a lot.” That is what Michalewicz Construction is: Knowledge of the past and ideas of today being combined into homes to
last into the future. Going back to the topic of City Lumber, Lance elaborated, “Like City Lumber, we are a multi-generational company. And to see what they have done, the way they have maintained their tradition of good service while reorganizing and seeing the new generation just revitalize it, I think that is great. I appreciate being able to go in and talk with Cooper, JD or Michael and knowing my business will be finished the way I want it.” Lance also makes sure he praises the unsung hero of Michalewicz Construction: his mother. “She has a career of her own. She is a financial administrator in Ballinger. She then handles all our bookkeeping, and it’s not easy. To begin with, Dad and I both have terrible handwriting. Then, we hand her thousands of receipts. She has to reconcile all of that, plus my Dad and I. I don’t know how she does it.”