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During lunch at Nick & Jimmy s on Monroe Street 14 years ago, two long-time buddies flipped over a paper placemat and scratched out plans for a house-building business they would call Buckeye Real Estate Group.
We ve still got that placemat here in the office, Mike White related yesterday in an interview in the firm s Sylvania Township office.
Since 1994, he and partner Tim Schlachter have been putting up solid houses and office buildings without fanfare.
That changed this month when they were selected by the producers of the ABC-TV realty series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to oversee construction of a home in West Toledo for Aaron and Jackie Frisch and their children.
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Three days after the big reveal and two months before the episode will air things have quieted down at the Buckeye office at Centennial Road and Bancroft Street.
Mr. Schlachter, company president, and Mr. White, vice president, admit that they re exhausted from the hectic one-week construction schedule. But both say they re glad to have participated in the show.
The local publicity they received has generated a few prospective sales, although they say that wasn t their primary aim. They worked for free and like other contractors, won t take an income tax deduction for the work.
It put our name out in front of more people, said Mr. Schlachter.
We didn t expect immediate calls, added Mr. White. It s a recognition process that will have longevity.
The two men met at St. Francis de Sales High School, where both graduated in 1983.
Mr. Schlachter went on to Ohio State University, working for a time afterward in real estate sales in Columbus before returning to the Toledo area in 1989. Mr. White, a University of Toledo graduate, was involved in operation of a payroll service and retailing.
Both, however, eventually decided to take a different tack. Agreeing to join forces, they selected a name for the firm that had significance to both.
Beginning in 1911, Mr. Schlachter s family operated Buckeye Paper Co., a wholesaler of bags and butcher paper. Mr. White s family operated Buckeye Mercantile Agency, a collections firm launched in 1922.
Their initial focus was on residential construction. Their office was in Mr. Schlachter s basement. They completed a half dozen houses the first year.
By 2005, that had grown to 30 houses annually.
Luckily for them, however, by the time that market imploded a few months later, they had established themselves on the commercial end of the construction business.
So far in 2008, they have built just two houses. I joke that we ve pulled two permits for houses this year, said Mr. Schlachter. One was for Habitat for Humanity (a non-profit agency that builds homes for poor people) and the other was for Extreme Makeover. It s a good for a laugh. But it s also true, the men said.
That business will come back, said Mr. Schlachter, referring to residential construction.
As a privately held firm, Buckeye Real Estate Group doesn t disclose annual sales. But the owners said sales are up 20 percent in 2008 after slipping by 30 percent in 2007.
The firm employs seven people.
Both owners are nervous about financial turmoil on Wall Street this week. All we can do is focus on current jobs and cultivate relationships going forward, said Mr. Schlachter.
Buckeye is building or about to start a half dozen small to mid-size office buildings most for dentists and other professionals across the metro area.
The firm developed the King s Pointe business park in Sylvania Township, and constructed several professional buildings there. Mr. Schlachter and Mr. White also own two dozen apartments and the multi-building professional complex where Buckeye has offices.
Plans are in the works, however, for a new office in King s Pointe where the firm will able to showcase its handiwork.
Both men are married fathers of four children each and live five houses apart in Sylvania Township.
Mr. White hopes his Home Makeover appearance will help draw attention to another charitable project in which he is involved. He is among people attempting to organize a local chapter of Home Ministries, which provides free home repairs for needy people.
Debbie Knoff, client relations specialist for Buckeye Real Estate Group, describes her bosses as good businessmen but also family men with great hearts.
Chris Beck was the firm s first employee 11 years ago. It wasn t like this, the administrative assistant said, recalling that she sometimes worked from the floor because the small office contained only two desks and a single computer.
It s enjoyable coming to work, added Ms Knoff.
Buckeye was on a very short list of builders who would have had the ability and desire to oversee the Home Makeover project, said Tony Plath, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Toledo. Some of our builder-members are too small without the support people needed.
He added that the project helped promote good feelings at dark times for the local home-building industry.
It certainly lifted the spirits of people who were there, he said. We saw contractors who under normal circumstances might not work together and might not even like each other working side by side.
Contact Gary Pakulski at:firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6082