Sticking to Niche

RKA Construction finds early success with custom building as specialty

By Amos Maki

Chris Clark got into the contracting and construction business in 1975, learning the trades as he worked on them. Ryan Anderson graduated from Auburn University in 2007 with a building science degree.

Chris Clark, left, and Ryan Anderson, partners in RKA Construction LLC, are building two homes in Spring Creek Ranch, including this 3.500-square-foot custom home.  

(Daily News/Lance Murphey)

“I’m old enough to be his father,” said Clark with a laugh.

But Clark, 68, and Anderson, 28, say that those two different perspectives – an old-school builder who learned by doing and a builder trained in higher education – are what makes their company, RKA Construction LLC, special.

“We put those two things together and that brings a very unique approach to building,” said Anderson. “We bring different perspectives to the table.”

As traditional home building firms were battered by the housing bubble and the recession, RKA carved out a niche by being first and foremost a custom home-building firm, building specialized homes for clients.

“The majority of what keeps us busy is the custom building,” said Anderson.

Clark and Anderson also tapped another building vein to help supply a steady stream of work, home renovations and additions.

“That’s been a steady part of our business and always will be,” said Anderson.

Anderson and Clark, who met in 2009 while working at Montgomery Martin Contractors LLC, say their approach to the business is paying dividends.

Anderson eschewed the idea of being a custom builder who oversaw building sites while handling project management, including pricing, budgeting, scheduling and talking to clients.

“It was pretty easy to recognize having site management was a plus,” said Anderson. “There’s two different approaches to this. There’s the one man approach where you’re on the site all the time and it can often take considerably longer and cost more. Today, they’re managing the job from behind a desk.”

That’s when Anderson reached out to Clark, who spent years building or making additions to homes for some of the city’s most prominent residents in neighborhoods such as Galloway, Chickasaw Gardens, Bell Meade and The Cloisters. Clark also worked on the Children’s Museum of Memphis, including finishing and detail work and helping build many of the original exhibits.

“It was extremely custom work,” said Clark. “It was a very detailed type of construction.”

Clark and Anderson decided bringing their backgrounds together would produce a better product and sharper business.

“It really is a good combination and I’m not sure there are many people out there with that business model,” said Clark. “It’s a really successful approach that yields a high- quality product that really allows us to work with the owners.”