Standing in the model home his company has built in a fast-growing neighborhood in far northwest Oklahoma City, David Frolich told the complicated, cautionary tale of Brass Brick Design/Build. He told it carefully and as simply as possible. "There were four partnerships known as Brass Brick, building 100-plus houses a year. Times were good, and certain partners started pulling a lot of money out of the company. They got into financial trouble, and two of those entities went bankrupt,” Frolich said. Frolich’s tale has a hero, a reluctant one, in Joe Bowie, an investor in one of the former Brass Brick partnerships. "This thing was forced on me,” Bowie said. "But I did what I had to do, which turned out to be the right thing.” As heroes go, that makes Bowie more Clint Eastwood than knight in shining armor. Either way, Bowie and the new Brass Brick Design/Build have taken on the responsibility of resurrecting a brand name, a reputation and the home ownership dreams of scores of families. "Mostly, I have people telling me they’re glad we’re still in business because of the positive associations they have with Brass Brick,” Frolich said. "They know us for edgy, custom stuff and for the quality, affordable homes we build.”
Surviving bad timesKaren Blevins, a Realtor who lists Brass Brick Design/Build’s homes, said the Brass Brick brand survived turmoil associated with the previous owners, who got in financial trouble last fall and filed for bankruptcy in January. "In the Realtor community, there is huge confidence in this company. Our sales show that, and the number of calls I get about our homes shows that,” she said. In light of what they’ve been through, that confidence was not always a given. "There was definitely a stigma attached to our name,” Bowie said. "I was attacked pretty good in the blogs. But I was a victim myself. I did everything in my power to make sure everyone was taken care of, even if it meant a loss financially.” Now, as far as Bowie is concerned, there is only one way forward. "Integrity and honesty every step of the way,” he said. "If I can’t guarantee that, I will shut it down.” Bowie said there are two main reasons Brass Brick Design/Build has overcome perceptions of taint and moved in a new direction. "First of all, I now personally make sure how this company is run,” Bowie said. "In the past, I was just an investor, and was limited in my oversight. Now, vendors are getting paid on time and buyers are getting exactly what they ask for.” The second reason, Bowie asserted, is the sterling reputation of the core team at Brass Brick Design/Build. That team includes Frolich, building superintendent Tom Burns and designer Amanda Pack. "Through the whole mess, David, Amanda and Tom were trying to fix things, but like me, their hands were tied,” Bowie said. He said they are devoted to creating something new for home buyers. "Demand different,” Frolich said. He repeats that phrase to his staff, to himself and especially to his customers. For Frolich, the simple two-word expression loops through all his home-building dealings. "Your personality can come out in your home, no matter what price level,” Frolich said. "Even first-time buyers can pick everything to fit their budget and their lifestyle.” Buyers are responding. Brass Brick Design/Build has sold six custom builds and five custom-finished speculative homes so far this year in The Grove at NW 192 and May Avenue, and in Lone Oak Run at NW 164 and Meridian. Blevins, who has listed Brass Brick homes for nine years, said three new speculative homes are under way in Lone Oak Run in the $165,000-$180,000 range, and three are being finished in The Grove at $175,000-$185,000. Three completed homes ranging from 2,000 to more than 2,600 square feet are available in The Grove’s second phase, priced from $234,800 to just under $280,000. Brass Brick Design/Build will complete 20 to 25 homes this year, Frolich said.