A Long History and an Exciting Future
The story of Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes stretches back more than a century to when Phillip Wentzel Campbell worked as a general contractor in Pittsburgh. Starting out, he built wraparound porches and other general construction projects, and, in 1910, he founded the company PWCampbell. The company’s reputation for quality spurred its growth.
Over the years, PWCampbell expanded and began focusing on commercial construction, becoming a leader in building various structures and buildings for financial companies. Throughout this time, PWCampbell remained family owned, as Phillip Wentzel Campbell’s sons and grandsons, John and Jim, carried on the company’s legacy and renown for craftsmanship.
While the company has constructed some residential homes throughout its years, around 2009 it solidified plans to expand its share of new-home construction. Seeking a separate but related identity focused on homes, PWCampbell recently launched Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes as a brand focused exclusively on building and renovating residential custom homes.
As a vision of PWCampbell, Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes pays homage to its founder via its name and the quality of its homes. “It had just grown to a point that we felt that it needed its own identity,” says Jim Caliendo, PWCampbell’s President and CEO, referring to the creation of Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes.
Today, PWCampbell remains a fourth-generation, family-owned and managed business, and Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes continues to build stunning homes throughout the Pittsburgh region.
High-Quality, Generational Homes
There are more than just a few custom home builders throughout the Pittsburgh region. So, what sets Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes apart? For starters, not many home builders or construction companies can claim a more than 110-year history. Age fosters a certain level of experience and expertise. But Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes also emphasizes service and a commitment to clients and being involved with them every step of the way, from the planning stages all the way to completion of construction and beyond.
For most any custom home builders, it’s actually not that difficult to wow clients. When people step into their newly built, uniquely designed homes for the first time, they’re going to be impressed. But Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes wants to be sure that its clients’ satisfaction lasts long-term. They’re not just building homes for the wow factor; they’re building generational homes that families can pass down decades into the future. “It’s exciting to know that I’m building a home for someone that can raise their family for generations and pass it down to their kids and their grandkids, something that’s a valuable piece of real estate that will stand the test of time,” says Dante Fusaro, Director of Residential Construction at Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes.
There’s only one way to build a home that can last for generations, however, and that’s to use high-quality materials and processes that enable the creation of such long-lasting homes. “We pride ourselves by infusing the homes with high quality, durable, and lasting products.” Fusaro says.
While the homes that Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes builds are striking in their own right, beneath the homes’ walls, within the homes’ foundations, quality shines through. What goes on the walls certainly matters, but the quality of the materials within and throughout the home are essential to making a home that will truly endure for decades and generations.
Building a Dream
Planning, designing, and building someone’s dream home is an intimate process, and the team at Phillip Wentzel invariably grows close to the clients who they serve. The company takes time working closely with clients and with architects to be certain that they’ll be carrying out a client’s vision in all of its detail and precision. “It’s not a business transaction for us; it’s a relationship we’re trying to build,” Fusaro says. “I would say 95 percent of our clients end up becoming good friends. The relationship goes beyond the project and we meet for dinner or get their Christmas cards year after year.”
Much of the company’s new business comes from client referrals after people report an outstanding experience working with Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes. Whether the project is small or large, the team strives to provide an unparalleled level of service and commitment. Clients remember that, and repeat business and referrals to other individuals on the new-home market have become common.
In many cases, the team at Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes works with clients who have been dreaming of and planning a home for years or even decades. The team follows the slogan that “our only limitation is your imagination.” Making such dreams a reality means capturing the most minute of details during the building process. It means working very closely with clients and architects to find ways to make sure that what can be imagined can be built.
Focusing on such precision and permitting clients’ imaginations to let loose comes with challenges. But Fusaro says that instead of telling clients no, the team and their subcontractors instead focus on finding creative solutions. After all, Phillip Wentzel recognizes that when creating someone’s dream home, there aren’t any do-overs. And while building such homes comes with pressure, it’s that pressure that also instills excellence.
Being a family-owned company also makes a difference, as the owners aren’t ones to sit on the sidelines but remain actively involved with the company’s operations and carrying on its lasting legacy. Even among employees, Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes fosters a family atmosphere that is reflected by the care that the company shows to its clients. “I think the fun part about it is our culture. Our culture is driven by our people,” says Caliendo. “Being a family organization, it might sound like a cliché, but our employees are really part of the family.”
Pittsburgh: An Ideal Place to Call Home
For many reasons, the Pittsburgh region has been an ideal place for building homes. The region hasn’t been subjected to the same levels of high inflation that other cities have seen. In terms of housing, the Pittsburgh market has stayed relatively stable over the years, as well, even with respect to new homes. Even though materials prices and labor costs will always fluctuate and drive prices for custom homes, being in a more stable market has continued to make the Greater Pittsburgh region an ideal place to build homes.
As Pittsburgh’s population and demographics continue to benefit from an influx of younger professionals, the new-home market is ready to accommodate this group. “There has been quite a substantial change and renaissance over the past couple of decades. The tech boom is bringing a lot of young, wealthy professionals into this market,” Fusaro says.
Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods are also a source of inspiration for builders. Fusaro says he enjoys the architecture throughout the region, from the new homes and modern designs in Cranberry and Wexford to the classical architecture in Sewickley Heights to the Victorian homes in Shadyside. “I think there’s a lot of eclectic architecture. It gives us the opportunity to create a truly custom home for each client,” Fusaro says.
Most of the homes that Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes builds fall within a 100-mile radius of Pittsburgh. They’ve built homes all directions, including in the North Hills, South Hills, East Hills, and in places such as Cranberry and Adams Township. The company has built many homes in the Fox Chapel area in the North Hills.
Building and Lifestyles
The styles of homes that Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes builds vary widely. They’ve built classical, contemporary, traditional, and Victorian homes and architecture. “They’re just all distinctively different,” Fusaro says. “Every house has its own DNA.” But no matter the style and how a home is built, it’s important to fit the lifestyle of its occupants. “You build around lifestyles,” Fusaro says. “You incorporate how they want to use the home into the design.”
Accounting for lifestyle might mean building an extra exit in the master quadrant if, for example, one partner frequently wakes early and doesn’t want to disturb the other. With the completely customizable homes that Phillip Wentzel creates, accounting for lifestyles is a feature that’s included in each.
Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes prides itself on the quality of its homes and also on its efficient and quick building timetable. The building process itself is not rushed, but it is efficient and highly structured, which helps speed up the build timeline. “Home construction might take on average 10 to 12 months to complete a five- or six-thousand square-foot home,” Fusaro says. The company’s background in commercial construction and its more specialized organizational structure help ensure that things keep moving, which prevents building projects from being dragged out.
“We’re able to take that commercial experience, bring it into the residential, and share resources. I think that’s a tremendous advantage to the customer and for us,” says Caliendo. “One of the big things that we do is that on every one of our jobs, we have a full-time superintendent who’s right there all of the time.”
Building quickly and efficiently also stems from experience. And, at more than 110 years in operation, PWCampbell has had its share of experience, which translates well to building residential custom homes. Having great relationships with architectural firms and other groups and people involved in the building process also boosts efficiency.
As with any home builder and business, Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes has had to weather the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has meant that many people spend more time at home, whether working from home or spending time in quarantine.
Still others have been spurred on by today’s events, believing that now’s the time to finally go ahead with long-awaited building plans. For Phillip Wentzel, business and construction have been steady, but supply chain disruption has caused some delays with the delivery of materials, lumber, and other needed components, which has affected most every builder. Fusaro says that the company has been telling clients to order certain appliances as far as a year out to account for slowed supply chains.
But projects are certainly moving ahead. Mark Hofmann, a developer, and Max Hofmann, a realtor with Howard Hanna Real Estate, have worked with the PWCampbell team on several Fox Chapel properties and lots. Mark Hofmann says that PWCampbell has a great reputation, and he’s been impressed by the properties that they’ve built. “We picked them because we’ve seen the other properties that they’ve already constructed. They’re very professional and very capable,” Mark Hofmann says. “They’re a family business. They’re very committed. They’ve been a generational business, and they deliver what they promise.”
Max Hofmann notes that PWCampbell knows the Fox Chapel area well, and that they’ve been a trusted partner to work with and trusted among their clients. “When dealing with the clients, I don’t think there’s any smoke and mirrors,” Max Hofmann says. “Everything is step by step,” he adds. “With every new construction, issues are going to arise. But they always have an answer for something.”
A Long History and an Exciting Future
Looking toward the future, Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes hopes to be the lead custom home builder in the Pittsburgh market. Doing so will mean continuing to rely on the company’s vast experience creating quality construction.
Fusaro says that he hopes to see Phillip Wentzel Custom Homes continue to grow and generate a greater portion of revenue toward PWCampbell’s overall business. But even with growth, what cannot change is the company’s overall level of service and commitment to its clients. “Our clients will never be just a number or a name. We want to make sure that as we grow, we have the resources in place to enable us to grow appropriately,” Fusaro says.
Caliendo says that growth is certainly hoped for, but he echoes that expansion must be controlled and not sacrifice any commitments to service or quality. “We want to keep the same quality and the same experiences that we provide to the customer,” he says. “We’re not out there trying to grab every job there is. It’s not about volume as much it is about adding to our product line, our revenue stream, and the overall awareness of the company.”
One long-term challenge that both Fusaro and Caliendo mention is that many students are opting for other career paths outside of the trades, leaving shortages of skilled-trade professionals and subcontractors who are essential to the home building and home renovation processes. “People just weren’t going into the trades, 10 or 15 years ago, as they used to be. So, there is absolutely a shortage in today’s environment,” Caliendo says.
But what hasn’t ebbed is PWCampbell’s and Phillip Wentzel Custom Home’s shared passion for the services and level of commitment that they provide— over 110 years later, the team still takes great pride in every project that it completes and in every home that it builds. NH