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In 2001 Robert C. Loebsack was voted Ontario Custom Home builder of the Year in the Small Volume Builder category. He followed in 2003 with the Southwestern Ontario Builder of the Year Award. This year has yet to be determined, but with over 4500 registered builders in Ontario, fewer than 10% qualify each year for the Ernest Assaly Awards, which recognizes builders that provide excellent superior quality construction, and after Sales Service... a select group and a real testament for someone like Robert C. Loebsack who did everything to avoid following in the footsteps of his father, Ervin J. Loebsack.

Circa(1930) Ervin. J. Loebsack began as a general contractor and with his bare hands this
‘bricks and mortar” stalwart carved out the neighbourhood of what is known as old Westmount in Kitchener. Ervin. . . who dealt his business with a warm heart rather than a cold handshake—which was
more or
less the nature of the industry and the sensibility that he procured from his roots.

Ervin had his own workshop where he and his team of carpenters would literally build the house from the ground up. This would include the windows, doors, baseboards, kitchen cabinets; whatever you could put a screw or hammer to was manufactured in Ervin’s shop. Although this served him well during his time, it was time that would eventually catch up and have his son Robert knocking heads with his dad on his old school methodology.

By the time Robert was old enough to “push a broom” in the family business, he had already set his sights on an MBA from the University of Western Ontario. Early career positions included product management at Coca Cola and Whitman Golden, assistant to the president
for Formosa breweries. Not a golf and country club kinda guy, Robert was reminded once again of that MBA certificate that hung on his wall and put it to use to teach marketing at Conestoga College. Perhaps it was his own words of encouragement to his students about “diving right in”, that triggered Robert to return to the roots he so rejected and to take a “now or never” leap of faith into the building industry.

At 35 years of age, with baby in tow and a very supportive wife, Robert took the plunge, borrowing $20,000 from his father Ervin, and purchased two 40-foot lots that set him on his path to becoming a custom home builder. Today, Robert’s success of building Custom Homes has left an indelible mark in this niche market.

His “Idlewood” project in the Chicopee area of Kitchener was an example of how detailed and innovative the work needs to be in order to meet the demands of a very educated clientele. A custom built residence in New Hamburg, boasts radiant heated floors that must be complimented with a commercial style boiler. Some other innovative and custom upgrades might include detailed molding and millwork applications, elaborate cornice treatments with unique lighting, ceiling details straight out of “Estate Homes of the World” magazines, and of course, the most current applications in the field of ‘Smart House’ technology.

“In the custom home market you are building the client’s dream home,” Robert proudly says. “I see the client as a partner.” Robert feels it is very important to assist the client in transforming that dream into reality, all the while ensuring that the dream never quite
loses sight of the budget.

In preparing a quotation, Robert insists on having a prospective client visit major suppliers and make initial product selections. These dollar allowances generated by the client then become part of the overall quotation, and serve to eliminate nasty ‘sticker shock’ surprises once the construction actually begins. Managing customers' expectations translates into a trusting business relationship, and at the end of the day, that’s what it is all about.

In most cases, the customer has little appreciation or knowledge of the complexities surrounding the construction of a large custom home today. Decisions are numerous, and seldom are they made in isolation of other factors. A good custom home builder always has to be one step ahead, ensuring that the impact of the latest “addition” or “change” is taken into account in the overall picture. An attic loft area, for example, that starts out as a kids' playroom cannot become an exercise room after the fact without a few electrical servicing
issues (treadmills require dedicated circuits).

Robert’s most recent successes are portrayed in an enclave of beautifully designed homes (including his own) situated in what is known as Bridle Path Estates. Nestled along the Grand River, it was here that Robert purchased two lots, one for himself, and has since built six homes. One of the homes is a masterful display of natural stonework that includes a multi­level tiered garden, pitted limestone that retain the garden beds, and in-ground kidney shaped pooi with slated flagstone, as well as a unicrete tiled roof (that if by chance there were ever a hailstorm of biblical magnitude, wouldn’t faze this thing). Add to this the wall of windows that required the brute strength of ten men and a boy to carefully balance and elevate them into place . . . .oh, the joys!!!

Although the term “Builder" constitutes one word, the role they play is several and varied. “Good old fashioned hard work, integrity and the bones of being loyal to both your trades and your customers”, is how Robert sums it up. Not a surprise why Robert C. Loebsack has earned himself the kudos and awards within his industry.

Ervin J. Loebsack is not here anymore, but in Robert. . . perhaps the apple hasn’t fallen that far from the tree.

Aug/Sep 05 FORUM MAGAZINE www.forummagazine.ca
The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree
by: Smith Corindia