Beck Building Company hits milestone of 50 years in business
From the 1970s to now, custom home and remodeling outfit has grown and evolved with the community
When Andy Beck first arrived in Vail in January 1971, he came for the skiing. Little did he know that over the next five decades he would build a construction company that employs 60 people and is responsible for building and completing hundreds of custom homes, developments and remodels in the Vail Valley.
His company, Beck Building Company, celebrated its 50th year in business in 2022, cementing a legacy he never could have imagined when he first came to the ski town after completing his military service.
“I came to Vail to go skiing, with no idea I’d become a builder,” Beck said.
Like many who come to Vail, he started out working two or three jobs at a time. Ultimately, he got a job as a carpenter’s apprentice, which would start his career in the construction industry. In 1972, Beck began working for Mitch Hoyt, an early custom-home builder.
“In those early days, of course, I literally had to go and read at night to figure out exactly what we had to do the next day because I didn’t have a whole lot of experience,” he said.
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Quickly, he started going off on his own and doing “odds and ends jobs” around town. Beck said that he didn’t follow a “deliberate path” to starting his own company, but rather followed a series of opportunities that were presented to him along the way.
According to Beck, his big break would come from architect Gordon Pierce who connected him with a job to build the Keeler residence, one of the first homes built in Booth Creek.
This “got us started and put us on the map,” Beck said.
And, as a testament to the company’s sustained work in the Vail community, it’s a residence that Beck Building has remodeled nearly five or six times for different owners, according to Kevin O’ Donnell, the company’s current president.
“If anybody helped us out in the early years, it was Gordon Pierce who gave us our first opportunities to be a home builder, general contractor, and then it kind of went from there from different projects to different opportunities, doing a variety of projects over the years,” Beck said.
Another pivotal moment and series of projects, Beck said, was its relationship with Travis and Anne Traylor from Houston. Beck Building has built three local homes for them over the years. The first is a European-style home in Potato Patch in Vail. The second was a Bavarian-style home in Beaver Creek, known for its basement swimming pool. And the third is an English Tudor-style hunting lodge in Pilgrim Downs in Edwards.
“Travis Traylor’s projects were pretty consequential because they were in areas where they were either the first or second house being built like that. That doesn’t go unnoticed. And then you develop a reputation for doing something extraordinary, and then sometimes the work finds you, sometimes you have to go find the work,” Beck said.
O’Donnell joined the company in 1996 at age 23 as his first job out of college. In 2010, as Beck began his transition to retirement, he named O’Donnell as the company’s president. This, O’Donnell said was a “big moment” in the company’s history as it continued Beck’s legacy while allowing the company to grow and move toward the future.
“This is my only job, which is pretty unique in today’s world. In a way, my continuation of being raised as a young man happened here, and I had mentors like Andy and Frank Payne and others in the company,” O’Donnell said. “The impact on my life has been huge, it’s allowed me to live in this valley and Andy has always continued to put challenges and growth opportunities in front of me.”
Over the years, O’Donnell witnessed many of the company’s other pivotal moments, which, for him, included Beck Building narrowing its focus to high-end custom homes shortly after he joined.
“We really realized that that’s where our passion was and skill set; that helped narrow our mission,” he said.
Plus, over the years, Beck Building has expanded its reach. First to Denver, where it still has an office, and later to the Aspen area, where it continues to work on custom home builds. Both of these instances, O’Donnell said, added a “resiliency and diversity to what we do.”
“Having a little broader footprint has allowed us to be stronger financially and in a better position overall,” he added.
Navigating changes and constants
In the early days, Beck recalled self-performing many parts of the construction process — including carpentry, concrete work, framing, roofing, drywall, insulation and more — due in part to the lack of local subcontractors at the time. However, gradually, Beck said the company morphed into a role as a general contractor on its builds as the number and quality of local subcontractors grew as well.
While the company started out on custom home building and remodeling, it has also tacked on multi-family, commercial and development work to its portfolio over the years. To date, the company estimates it has completed well over 350 new builds and remodels, touching many more with customer care service after a home is finished.
Over the past five decades, Beck Building has played a unique role in Vail’s start as well as its evolutions over the years.
“You have this constant remaking of Vail,” Beck said. “You’ve got a fair amount that’s going to probably happen more in the future just because things are starting to age and the styles are so much different now than they were back in the day.”
Since the early days, Beck recalled the many ways the community has grown and evolved, and not just in its size.
Notably, it’s a growth Beck Building has also helped contribute to. Beck recalled that critical projects in the company’s history included expansions along Bridge Street at the Red Lion and Plaza Lodge as well as the Bell Tower Building.
In the early days, it was all about skiing and “enjoying Vail’s Mountain environment,’ he said, adding that over the years, “It’s become a lot more sophisticated.”
This growth has only continued to grow exponentially in recent years. With the advent of the pandemic and the subsequent growth of individuals to work from home and therefore live wherever they want, Beck said there’s been a recent increase in year-round residents. O’Donnell added that this influx of residents has also led to a change in how homes are built.
“A ski home, a vacation home, has a certain need in terms of its planning, its layout, its function. When that shifts into a full-time residence or even a part-time residence, those needs really shift to how that home is going to function for the client,” O’Donnell said.
Aside from the changes in town and in the valley, Beck recalled the emergence of technology and how it changed the way the business could be run.
“What has changed is the opportunity to transfer information, make decisions, et cetera, because technology took a big leap up during this period of time,” Beck said.
With the technology evolving, the process of building and doing business was sped up and with it came a rise in expectations and quality, Beck said.
“There’s a sense of immediacy these days,” Beck added. “The quality levels have certainly increased just because our client base has become more traveled, more worldly and they have higher expectations of what things ought to be done.”
This is an expectation that is only bolstered by the global clientele that builds and remodels homes and properties in Vail.
“They bring along their expectations from the stuff that they have in their hometown — be it New York, it could be Chicago, it could be Los Angeles — wherever they’re coming from, their expectations of quality level and sophistication have gone up as well,” Beck said.
Similarly, O’Donnell recalled how the complexity of what the company has built has increased every year, for a number of reasons.
“People who build here tend to want to do something really special. They’re driving a certain level of architecture and design,” he said, adding that also building code requirements have evolved and grown more complex in step with the community’s expectations.
“Construction management has become more sophisticated as well,” Beck said. “Flow charts and construction schedules and critical milestones, all those kinds of things that maybe as a junior home builder back in the day weren’t as much a part of the process. But shortly after we got rolling, it became obvious we’re going to need to start doing that.”
In order for the company to evolve, grow and maintain its quality over the years, it has kept a steady focus on education. O’Donnell called it one of the company’s “guiding principles.”
“That’s something that I picked up on when I first came to work for Andy is that constant improvement; you’re always looking for the next thing around the corner,” O’Donnell said.
Its focus on learning includes external participation with industry groups such as the National Custom Builders Council, as well as its internal “Beck University,” which allows its employees to “keep abreast of the latest construction techniques,” O’Donnell said.
As Beck Building looks to the future, O’Donnell said there are a few trends it is seeing in the industry and in the local community.
“Vail is a very mature community and we’re doing more renovation work than new construction; and the notion of what a remodel is has changed,” he said. “These remodels are not just sort of change out the finishes and make it look pretty, although we do some of that. They’re very complex, where you’re digging out the basement or you’re adding square footage to older homes on steep hillsides. In a way, the renovations are more complex than the new construction work.”
Additionally, there has been an increased focus in the industry on how to make homes more energy efficient as well as a local focus on indoor-outdoor spaces for both the winter and the summer.
However, amid all these changes, one thing has remained constant for Beck Building Company.
“The basic relationship you try to establish with the client really hasn’t changed,” Beck said.
“This is a world-class resort community and we are building for some of the most impressive people around the world” said Jill Anderson, Beck Building’s director of business development. “What we’ve been able to achieve and what Andy started and Kevin has continued to create this legacy is really impressive in this environment; 50 years in an environment as complicated as Vail, Colorado is really extraordinary.”