By Cameron Walker
It’s the weekend, and Alaina Money is in the kitchen with her three daughters, cracking eggs, sifting flour, and making the filling for the family’s favorite dish — saffron-scented baked ravioli. The weekend routine is a nod to her Italian heritage, and a subtle bribe to keep her kids close by.
During the week, Money, 41, is cooking up success as division president for Garman Homes, a Durham-based company started in 2007 by Jim Garman. The company’s revenue doubled last year to $50 million with 180 home closings, compared with 95 in the previous year. Money credits the company’s success to Fresh Paint, a new line of homes starting at less than $200,000.
What draws you to building as a profession?
It’s probably the same thing as cooking. You start with basic ingredients and it’s all about how you put things together. The combinations are infinite, and it’s an opportunity to be creative and to connect with the homeowner.
Building a house for someone, whether you’re the salesperson, the person who owns the company, the designer, or the actual person who manages the trades or swings the hammer, you know the home is a sacred space for somebody. It’s where people celebrate their milestones and grieve their losses. Being part of that, no matter what part, is special.
What differentiates Garman Homes from other builders?
We like to pull the curtain back from the process. There’s this wall that other homebuilders have with their clients, where they have to ask permission to go see their houses being built. Over the years, we’ve tried to break that wall down and invite the buyer onto the team as a collaborative partner. What we’ve learned is how to maintain the role of the expert and the sherpa, but we want them to be along for the adventure with us. That’s helped us build deeper relationships with our buyers.
What is the Fresh Paint collection and how did you come up with the idea?
Over the past several years, our homes had gotten more and more complex to build, and we were in this no-man’s land of semi-custom. So Jim [Garman] thought that we should go back to our production-homebuilding roots. I thought, “Ugh, I don’t want to have to wake up every day and build the same home.” That sounds so boring to me. I wanted to find a way to layer on what makes a Garman home unique and special.
Allison [King, division vice president of Garman Homes] and I had the idea to do whole-home design packages that would feel custom. Buyers just have to pick an aesthetic that they like. But the thing about the packages is that you can’t break the packages. We designed them to give people more, but the first thing we trained our team on was the Fresh Paint “No.” For example, if somebody says they really like a package but want a backsplash removed, it’s a flat “No,” absolutely not.
So the packages are like recipes — you can’t change out an ingredient or the dish will come out wrong?
Yes. We made this covenant with our [subcontractors] to get the right pricing, and it hinges on us just sticking with the plan. So there are a lot of “No’s,” but it’s to preserve the overall experience.
what do you love about cooking?
Food is steeped in a lot of memories, good associations. Fresh Italian cooking is a bit of a ritual because you start with just the eggs and the flour and, by the end, you have this specific kind of food — it’s not fancy food, but it takes a lot of time.
What do you make time for every single day?
Even on the worst days, to feel so grateful for this position, for my kids, for this life. It is amazing. I’m thankful for work that I love and people that I can provide for and that they can provide for their families. I’m grateful to be able to do something that has such a great impact on people’s lives. I feel like it’s a privilege and responsibility in the same breath.
Photo by Steve Exum