Tom Ramsey was a small-town Yuma boy who grew up working for his father’s lumber company when he received football scholarships to the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University. He chose NAU and moved to Flagstaff in 1969 to study physical education and industrial arts.
After playing professional football for the Kansas City Chiefs and then one year with the World Football League before the league fold- ed in 1975, Ramsey moved back to Flagstaff to work in the construction business because he never envisioned himself as a teacher. Today, Ramsey is owner of Tom Ramsey Construction, a custom residential homebuild- ing company that has grown steadily over the years but also has stayed small on purpose. Said Ramsey: “We moved to Flagstaff be- cause we wanted to be small.”
But small does not mean insignificant. Ramsey Construction has landed contracts to build homes on the Navajo and Hopi reservations for the past 28 years and as a custom homebuilder, he averages four to five homes per year, ranging from $600,000 to $1.5 million each.
“It’s as big as I want to get,” he said. Ramsey’s wife oversees the business and admin- istrative work, and there are a handful of local employees. There also is a crew of builders working for Ramsey on the Navajo reservation, but a lot of the work is subcontracted.
One of the benefits of staying lean is the cultivation of a high-touch culture; a business that works closely with couples and families to build homes that are exactly right.
Because most of his homes are built to the clients’ preferences, Ramsey said there is not a distinctive “Ramsey aesthetic.”
“I have a good eye,” he said, and he takes the time to let clients know when ideas are not going to work, or when he would recommend a change to their plans. He strives to understand people’s feelings and ideas about what they want in a home, and he cares about the details.
Clients “just show up on my doorstep with plans,” Ramsey said of his business’s market- ing strategy. He has never built a speculative (“spec”) house because his services have been in demand since the early days of his company when he shifted from commercial work to homebuilding.
A positive relationship certainly flourished between Ramsey and Hank Van Dyk, a physi- cian who tapped him for a home remodeling. Having never remodeled a home before, Hank and Holly Van Dyk had lots of questions, and they found Ramsey to be “very patient.”
He never wrote anything down, Van Dyk said, but he “remembered everything and he did what he said he’d do.” Ramsey was responsive, even when the project came to a close, he added. “He draws a lot of enjoyment from the relationship.”
In his free time, Ramsey likes to hike, spend time on his houseboat at Lake Powell, and, believe it or not, build houses. He and his family are living in their tenth home that he built, each one growing a bit larger, to today’s 6,000 square feet.
Ramsey laughs about the moves every few years, saying that people like to buy homes lived in by homebuilders because they believe the quality will be extremely high. Their next move, said the 60-year-old, will be to something smaller—when he is ready to retire.
“But I would never retire,” he added. “My retirement’s going to be only building one house per year.