Siblings carry on the family business
By Alison Rentschler
The DeWitz family has worked in the home-building industry for well over 50 years. Robert DeWitz started the company in 1957, and several of his children have been involved in the business. Currently three of his children Chuck, Jean and Julie work for DeWitz Home Builders.
DeWitz Home Builders have built thousands of homes in Rochester over the years. Jean DeWitz explains, “We’ve been developing land and building homes for several years. We are a general contractor, and we have more than 57 subcontractors in all aspects of home building. Most have worked with us a long time.” She adds, “Rochester has been good to us. We’ve been fortunate.”
WORKING WITH FAMILY
DeWitz says her dad was a great role model. He would tell them at the end of the day, “Let’s go to dinner. That was work; this is family.” Her father, Robert, was raised in a poor family and lived with relatives. He began working when he was young. DeWitz says, “He never stopped working. Some people work to live. He lived to work, and he was successful.” She proudly adds, “He built the Soldier’s Field Memorial.”
She enjoys working with her brother Chuck and sister Julie. “I’m lucky,” DeWitz reflects. “I get to see my family every day. I consider myself fortunate. We do stuff together. My twin sister Joan and I would also travel together.” Julie DeWitz works in the office and on the bookkeeping. Chuck DeWitz is semi-retired, but he’s still involved in land development. Her sister Joan is retired.
FOCUS OF DEWITZ HOME BUILDERS
DeWitz states, “The primary focus is workforce housing. We’re making sure there are affordable homes.” The builders work with many first-time homebuyers and retirees. “We’re focusing on building affordable homes, but we build in many price ranges. We build in Rochester, in all subdivisions,” she explains.
She notes the homes they build are a variety of styles, and the models and lots are available to view on their website dewitz.com. “People think builders determine what gets built, but we build what they want.”
WORKING AS A WOMAN IN THE HOME BUILDING INDUSTRY
DeWitz explains her role, “I do everything! I work in sales. I meet with clients. I design the homes and help with selections. I walk through the building process with them, which can take four to five months. I also do job site coordinating and scheduling the subcontractors.”
As a woman working in the home-building industry, DeWitz says, “I love it. I really enjoy my job. I was a hairdresser for years and then went into the trades. I’m very social. I love working with people, and I’m one of those ‘people persons.’”
“I love the design end of it. The trends are always changing,” DeWitz says. “Seeing new products is exciting and seeing innovative products. We’re building sustainable homes that are energy-efficient.”
DeWitz is also the owner and broker of Plaza Realty of Rochester, Inc., and she markets homes in Rochester. “I mainly market the homes we build,” she explains. She is also a former president of Rochester Area Builders, Inc.
“It’s becoming more common to have women in the home building business. But we still don’t have enough women doing labor, being electricians or plumbers. It’s unfortunate,” thinks DeWitz. “More women are getting involved as general contractors, and there are women in cabinetry and flooring.” As a woman in the building industry, she has sometimes had to prove herself. She explains, “There’s sometimes a perception that women don’t know what they’re doing. I’ve had to study like in any other field.”
DeWitz notes that there is a need for people in the trades to be able to replace the aging workforce in the industry. She explains, “The average age of an electrician is 59. Their average salary is $79,000. They can make good money. There are trade schools or options to learn on the job.”
“We need more kids in the building process,” DeWitz says. “We need more involved in trades. We’re working hard to make sure schools introduce kids to trades.”
Alison Rentschler is a writer and editor living in Rochester, Minn., with her dog and cat. When she’s not busy working, she’s often planning her next adventure or future travels.