Before providing some brief introductions, I wanted to say a few words about how we came up with the name. We fumbled and bumbled with all kinds of names but completely struck out. We are mostly outdoor workers who work with our hands. There is not a lot of creativity among the group. So we decided to simply use our initials. Our last names are Spencer, Holloway, Ingram, and Thacker. We played with combinations of these but had trouble coming up with any site that was available with those 4 initials, eliminating the 4 letter word from the get go. Turns out there are really no .com sites available with any 4 letter combination.

So we decided to use our first names, and Kevin (Steve’s son) found a combination that was actually available as a .org. So the letter combination is completely random but accommodated our needs.

So anyway that’s how we got the name. We will each provide a short bio that you can look at if you care who we are. I am assuming a lot of people will be interested in just who is coming up with all these brilliant ideas! So here we are:

Mike Spencer

I am a builder that hails from Omaha. My dad was a builder and I picked it up from him, though neither of my two brothers had any interest in it at all. I started out as a framer but eventually got involved in all the other facets of mostly single family home construction, from demo to footing to roofing to framing to floors and walls, sheetrock, and even a little electric and plumbing.

I found the climate in Omaha to be awful, so my wife and I found our way to Charlottesville, Va. where one of my brothers lived. We always liked the rolling hills and college feel of the town. I took a job with Craig Builders, and worked with them for about a decade. They are a custom home builder so this was right up my alley.

Eventually I was driven to move to a larger market but didn’t want to get too far from Charlottesville, so Richmond was the logical choice. Sam, the owner of Craig builders, really did not want me to leave but eventually worked with me to help me get moved and settled in Richmond. Our children were very close with his and none too pleased about being dragged away from their friends, but such is life. Fortunately we were not going far.

In Richmond I was hired by Blue Ridge Custom Homes. Blue Ridge was slammed with work so I was involved in a lot of different facets of the building process and I found this very appealing.

Between Richmond and Charlottesville, I met the other three guys who will be weighing in. I have always enjoyed meeting other people, especially ones involved in home and yard design. There were probably a hundred more that could have contributed to this, but these guys grew very close over the years and seemed like the perfect bunch to develop a site with.

Steve Holloway

I grew up in Tempe Arizona, where there is nothing green (more on that later). Wanted to be a pilot and enlisted in the Navy but discovered not just anyone can fly planes, particularly these planes. Having failed at that, got out and went back to school at Maricopa Community College to get a degree in Aircraft Maintenance Technology. As part of the curriculum I took a class in Artificial Intelligence and really enjoyed that, but discovered in year two things got much more complicated and programming-oriented, which I didn’t really enjoy. I’m a guy that needs to be working with his hands and particularly outdoors.

To earn a few extra bucks I was helping a friend with his lawn maintenance business. I really enjoyed this, and eventually we decided to branch out from basic maintenance to a more landscaping focused business. The University of Arizona had a College of Agricultural Sciences so I took some landscaping design classes and along the way we started getting opportunities to bid on landscaping jobs. After landing a few and getting good reviews from our customers, we began advertising with this as our specialty. Seemed odd to be doing this for a living in a place where the only indigenous plant was the cactus. We had to be very creative.

Over a few years time we grew and hired a few helpers and had a lot of fun growing the business. In the mean time I got married. Sadly, the friend I started the business with got liver cancer due to a drinking problem and became incapacitated. I found it impossible to run the business without his help. After about 6 months he passed away. This was a very difficult time. My wife and I had no roots in Tempe, and were getting tired of the heat and lack of color, so we decided to pack up and move east. Her parents lived in Charlottesville Va (she graduated from UVa) so we spent a little time with them, fell in love with the area, and bought a house.

I got on with a company called The Great Outdoors as a designer and loved life. Charlottesville offered infinitely more landscaping enjoyment due to the vastly different geography. I spent 14 years with them and met Mike and Larry while there. I have been in the landscaping and irrigation business for 20 years now, and spend a lot of my time contracting for various companies who are looking for experienced designers.

I did some contract work for a landscape designer called 3north in Richmond, and became good friends with Roger while working there.

Tom Ingram

I am a southerner, originally from Alabama but grew up in Tampa. My dad was in the Air Force and was transferred to MacDill AFB when I was little. My dad was a handy sort of guy and always taught me to be independent and to do as much as possible myself. Even when he hired in professionals he was always watching and asking questions and trying to learn. I inherently did the same and loved working with my hands.

College didn’t seem like a great choice, but I discovered the University of Florida offered a BS degree in Construction Management. I decided to give it a try and after 5 years got the degree.

I started with a small builder called Cogdill in Tampa. This was perfect for me because I got to do a lot of things from billing and contract work to all facets of construction. I learned an enormous amount from those guys and made a lot of friends there, not the least of which was the bookkeeper Anne who is now my wife.

We decided after 8 years and a couple kids to move to Orlando where the school system was better. I worked for Hanover Family Builders there for 6 years. It was a great job and the family was happy there but the traffic was absolutely brutal and we finally got tired of it, plus longed for 4 seasons, so we decided to move north.

A friend from Cogdill wound up in Richmond Va and told me if I ever made it up that way, I would love it. Plus Anne’s mom moved to Charlottesville after her dad died to be with her sister who was suffering from leukemia. We moved there and I took a job with Lancaster Custom Builders, where my friend Henry worked. We have been here for 7 years now and love it. Will stay at least till the kids are out of college if not longer.

Richmond, like many cities, is growing exponentially with new condos and houses popping up everywhere you look. The work is overwhelming and the company has quadrupled in size since I got here, but we are still way understaffed. The biggest challenge is getting the work done well rather than jumping too quickly into the next job.

Larry Thacker

I am Larry Thacker. A native Virginian, I grew up in Alexandria where I got average grades in high school. Worked for Anchor Fence part time and learned a lot about hard work. Wanted to go to Va Tech for engineering but didn’t get in so I went to Radford freshman year and did well enough to get accepted to Tech sophomore year. I took an interest in architecture so changed my focus to the architecture program. This was tough but I was more driven than in high school and did well in it. I got through the 5 year program and got a Bachelor of Architecture degree and enrolled in the Intern Development Program which included employment by a licensed architect. Upon completion of that, I took and passed the Architectural Registration Exam and got my license.

While in the Intern program, I had occasion to meet a lot of people in the industry at shows and events. I became enamored with a company called 3north. It was a larger company than I was interested in, but they were involved in not only architecture but interior design and landscape design also. Hired on with them after I got my license and really enjoyed the diverse feel of the company. Learned more working here in a year than I did in 8 years of school. College teaches a lot of theory where at work you are learning how to actually do real things.

I always had a fondness for college, however, and eventually took a teaching job at J Sargeant Reynolds Community College teaching a class in Construction Management under the Building and Construction Technologies curriculum. I enjoy being around young(er) people who have an interest in the design and construction field. I’ve helped numerous graduates land their first job at a variety of companies I am familiar with.

3north also hired contractors when they had short term needs and wound up contracting with Steve Holloway with whom I became good friends.

Below are a couple of the buildings we designed.

Additionally I have taken on an unusual hobby. One year while working with a prison ministry, I had the opportunity to help making and putting up glass shower doors for one of the houses for recently released prisoners. It appeared I had quite an eye for this sort of thing, garnering a visit, pictures, and a nice spread from a local magazine. Everyone involved suggested I do more of this, and it was a lot of fun, so I started a company doing shower doors in the Richmond area.