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Doric Creager’s modest home and office from which he operates his general contracting business, Doric Inc., is considerably more humble than the palatial spreads his company has built through the years.
Set against a hill south of Spokane on the 8600 block of Southfork Lane, Creager lives in a 1,500-square-foot bungalow that appears unassuming from outside.
“I built it 12 years ago for a single mother who had a daughter, and they didn’t need a lot of space,” Creager says. “Inside is a different story. That’s where the wow factor is.”
The house reflects today’s contemporary design, he says. Contemporary Bungalow, as he calls it, was awarded a National American Institute of Architects design award for small projects in 2005 the year after the home was built.
The woman for whom Doric Inc. built the house remarried six years ago, and Creager bought the house from her.
“I don’t need more space than that. Besides, the key to a small house is a big shop,” Creager says, laughing. The shop, warehouse, and office space he also built total 4,000 square feet.
Creager, 66, started Doric Inc. in 1982. He says the company is in its third iteration since he first launched it. Creager has collected national awards from the AIA in the categories of small projects and private residences.
Doric Inc. built what it calls “Camp Hammer,” a 1,600-square foot lake cabin on the south end of Lake Coeur d’Alene. The cabin was constructed for Thomas Hammer, owner of Spokane-based Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters. Uptic Studios Inc., an architectural firm based in Spokane, designed the lake cabin, Creager says.
Last summer, Doric Inc. rebuilt “Cliffside House,” a dwelling high above Lake Coeur d’ Alene’s Kidd Island Bay. The original structure suffered a fire three years ago. Uptic Studios also did the home’s redesign. The home has 4,400 square feet of living space and 2,000 square feet of outside deck space, he says.
In 2007, Creager was selected as the project manager for an eco-luxury destination resort on the coast of Nicaragua. Retired California physician Dr. Daniel Rubano and his wife, Geri, both part-time Spokane residents, selected Doric Inc. to build the project. The project cost $15 million, Creager says.
Though he isn’t an architect, Creager says clients often solicit ideas from him for the designs of their homes. Other times he is contacted by architects and asked to be the general contractor on residential projects.
Doric Inc.’s custom work can be found in Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Arizona. Creager’s work has been featured on the magazine covers of The New York Times magazine, D’Casa in Italy, and Diseno Interior in Spain, to name just a few.
He says he keeps the company nimble by design. He has three full-time employees and relies primarily on contract help for projects.
“In 2008, there were 10 employees, but even before the recession, I began making conscious moves to downsize. I never intended to grow to that size, but the work kept coming,” he says.
At its peak, in the mid-2000s, Doric Inc. reached $10 million in annual revenue. Creager says its annual revenues now average $1 million a year.
In the process of streamlining he says, “I’ve cut overhead to practically nothing. We’re about a 1.5-house per year kind of company now.”
Creager’s father was Fred Creager, who passed away a few years ago and for a time was a partner in the former Spokane architectural firm Brooks, Hensley & Creager Architects. Doric’s mother, Evelyn Creager, was a longtime executive secretary for the Spokane branch of the American Institute of Architects.
Despite his family history, Creager, who was born and raised here and graduated from Lewis & Clark High School in 1968, started studying psychology as a freshman at Eastern Washington University. Creager says he abandoned those plans after his then-girlfriend gave birth to his only son.
“It was time to earn a living and support a family, so I went to the Carpenter’s Local 98 and entered an apprenticeship program,” he says.
That’s when, he says, his real-life psychology studies began.
“I’ll never forget my first day of class. A limo pulls up, and a guy, a pimp, gets out and he leaves his women at the door. He walks into class, and you can see the gun on his hip. No one can believe it,” Creager says.
What Creager and his classmates eventually learned was that the man had just been released from prison, and under the terms of his release had to select an occupation to pursue, and decided on carpentry.
“Without missing a beat, the teacher, who we later learn is a World War II vet, opens a drawer and pulls out a vintage, enormous handgun and sets it on his desk for the rest of the class period. We didn’t see the pimp much after that,” Creager says.
He says he’s always enjoyed the wide range of characters in the construction industry.
Once Creager began working after completing the apprenticeship program is when he says he realized his true calling.
“That was a time in carpentry that’s very different from today. Then, homebuilding was learned from the notion that a carpenter is a fine-home builder,” Creager says. “Unfortunately, today, it’s a dying art.”
What was once a carpenter has now given way to construction managers and contractors, he asserts.
“There’s a huge void in all the trades right now,” Creager says.
Creager formed a small business with a friend and they began building. It was the first of what ultimately would be three residential construction businesses Creager would operate.
The company’s website, www.doricinc.net, is filled with images of residences, vacation homes, and remodels of properties completed by Doric Inc.
“We’re the builder—not the architect, and we don’t pretend to be. They’re artists, but the nuts and bolts are up to us,” Creager says.
He says he’s somewhat surprised by the fact Doric Inc. was able to reach its level of success.
“This is a fickle industry in a fickle town. It’s a town that has traditionally had an aversion to professional services in general,” he says. “I once had what I thought was a potential client tell me, ‘With all the attention you’ve received, I didn’t think I could afford you.’’’
He adds, “I’ve been fortunate. In the building trades, very few architects and general contractors can make a living on just residential work.”
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