To walk into a Mantell-Hecathorn home is to step into a masterpiece of experience, expert knowledge, and a deep care for the homeowner’s ultimate satisfaction. Each residence is executed with an artful balance of aesthetics, functionality, longevity, environmental impact, health impact, and many more tiny, unnameable elements. Greg Mantell-Hecathorn and his son Hunter do not hesitate to go above and beyond for the sake of quality. That could mean spending extra time with an architect to ensure the design is appropriate for the Colorado climate or bringing in third-party inspectors to comb through every detail of a home for air quality and energy efficiency.
To understand and appreciate what the family team members bring to a project, one must first consider their origins. Greg and his wife Tara first established Mantell-Hecathorn Building Inc. in 1975 in Fairbanks, Alaska. They had moved from the Bay Area of California to “live in the bush,” building a cabin in the Brooks Range about 350 miles north of Fairbanks. They homesteaded in the Alaskan wilds eight months of the year and then spent four months building in Fairbanks to support themselves. Greg embraced the challenges presented by the harsh Alaskan climate, learning as much as he could about building for such a demanding environment. “I saw just how ineffective typical construction was, especially in that kind of climate where it’s 30 below,” Greg said. “I noticed that standard construction just doesn’t do the trick.”
Over the next 12 years, Greg continued to perfect his craft as his family grew from two to five members and life moved forward; but in the late 1980s, Fairbanks saw a severe economic crash. So, in 1987, Greg and Tara and their three boys—Davin, Hunter, and Jace—moved back to the Bay Area. While the climate was more forgiving, California offered its own unique set of building challenges. Greg explained that his new clients were far more discerning and expected high-quality results from their builders. Additionally, building codes were far stricter. Once again, Greg leaned in and embraced the challenges to further improve his business over the next 18 years.
This is where Hunter, the middle son, first learned the family trade and developed an appreciation for the construction business. He started helping at the building sites at the age of fourteen. “I enjoyed being able to build something with my hands and seeing the progress every day,” Hunter explained, the pride and satisfaction visible on his face. “I just started as a laborer. The supervisors didn’t care that I was the owner’s son. They treated me like some other guy on the job. I showed up at 7:45 [A.M.] ready to work and there were high expectations of me. It was the best way to learn and to grow in my knowledge base.”
Greg never pushed his sons to follow in his footsteps. He acknowledged that the trade was a demanding one and not necessarily for everyone, but after graduating from Fort Lewis with a degree in geology, Hunter realized that building houses was really what he loved. In 2006, after visiting Durango while Hunter was in college, Greg and Tara decided to uproot the business once more and return to a mountain town. The new community and new environment offered the opportunity to combine their understanding of building for a harsh climate with the finesse required to satisfy demanding clients. Greg and Hunter have now been working together for 13 years, perfecting the knowledge and skills they both bring to a project. As the family has reinvented the building business for their Colorado clients, their mission has evolved to encompass their full set of values as they have grown from the beginning.
Greg explained, “The overall perspective of Mantell-Hecathorn Builders really spans from building in the extreme climate of Fairbanks to serving the high-quality, demanding clients in California, and bringing that combination, along with energy efficiency and healthy indoor air, to Durango.” The added emphasis on energy-efficiency and healthy indoor air has evolved with time and with the family’s dedication to excellence. Their end goal is to produce the best possible outcome for their clients. “It just circles back to that personal connection,” Greg said. “We want lifetime friends, not just a job. We are involved in the Department of Energy’s ‘Zero Energy Ready Home’ program, which is pretty aggressive. There is a third-party inspector, and you have to meet every one of the criteria.”
Hunter explained that these criteria pertain to such features as a home’s water efficiency, lighting and appliance efficiency, indoor air quality, and much more, all in the interest of creating a more lifestyle-friendly home for the buyer. Every choice that the Mantell-Hecathorn team makes is toward the goal of giving clients exactly what will allow them to still be happy and content 10 years from now.
As Greg looks forward 10 years into his own future, and the future of the company, he makes it abundantly clear that he is proud of what his son has added, and he is more than confident in Hunter’s ability to carry the business forward. “Hunter always had a keen interest in the whole process of building,” Greg explained, smiling proudly at his son across the table. “He has a unique ability to multitask—which you have to do in the business—and he has the universal respect of all our subcontractors and suppliers because of his knowledge base. He knows top to bottom every trade and that is the difference maker.”
“It becomes a relationship that we build. There is a lot of trust on the clients’ part, and therefore there is something to be said when you look back at all of the clients we’ve had and every single one of them is happy to tell you about us.” - Hunter Mantell-Hecathorn. For now, though, nothing is changing. The duo is still going strong, settling into their new office at 1854 Main Avenue. Greg and Hunter continue to work together, taking on no more than about five projects a year so they can give each one the attention and care it deserves.
“To me it has always been about integrity. Integrity of myself, of our family and of the product we create. We can have a client call us with a question a year, five years, ten years later and we are going to take care of them, because (those are) just our values.” - Greg Mantell-Hecathorn
Story written by: Sara Knight Photos Provided by: Mantell-Hecathorn Builders