Owners of a few of our readers’ fave companies share what it’s like to work together in local family businesses
By Brooke Spach | Photography by John Michael Simpson
Taylor Hobbs and Grimsley Hobbs understand the business advantage of a shared trust. When Grimsley’s first firm in Goldsboro closed in 2005, he knew his son, Taylor, was the only person with whom he would want to start a new business. And so they did, that very same year. Hobbs Architects, located just two blocks from downtown Pittsboro, mainly focuses on public-use projects. Taylor says that within their seven-person staff, a core group has been with the firm for more than 10 years.
Hobbs Architects is located in the historical Lewis Freeman House, which, for the most part, has been left in its original form – a prime example of Hobbs’ motto of “preserving the past and designing the future.” A community-oriented firm, Hobbs has completed several projects for the county and towns of Pittsboro and Siler City, including restoring the Chatham County Courthouse after a fire in 2010 and designing Central Carolina Community College’s Chatham Health Sciences Center and the Siler City Center, the latter of which is Chatham’s first LEED-certified building. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a designation by the U.S. Green Building Council.
“Architects often get a reputation of having big egos,” Taylor says. “‘Our way or the highway’ type thing. [At Hobbs Architects], we’re listeners. We try to design to the client’s needs with simple, practical solutions that are well designed, but it’s not our vision. It’s the client’s vision.”
Grimsley and Taylor attribute much of their success to loyal, working relationships with the people of Chatham County and its towns. They say receiving the recognition as one of Chatham’s best architects means that their thoughtful, dependable approach shines through their work. “It means a lot,” Taylor says. “One of our missions [is] to be a community architect for Chatham County. If we could work solely in Chatham County, we would.”
When it comes to working together as a team, Taylor says he and his father “know each other’s strengths and can combine the two to cover more ground than [either] one of us can do individually. When it’s based on trust, it just makes things easier. That attitude and what people see when we’re working together – I think they pick up on the fact that we are a trustworthy business that’s reliable.”
Grimsley echoes these sentiments. “Taylor has picked it up and taken it so much further than I was ever able to, so that has been very rewarding to me,” he says. “ I’ve never had a more satisfying professional relationship.”
BOLD REAL ESTATE, BOLD CONSTRUCTION, BOLD FOUNDATION
Chris Ehrenfeld founded Bold Construction in 1990 and was motivated in 1997 to obtain his real estate license in order to access real estate transaction information. He and his mother, Jill Ehrenfeld, subsequently started Bold Real Estate in 2005 back when it was the only real estate brokerage in north Chatham. Their businesses have since grown to include nearly 40 employees between them.
“We could tell a lot of people were going to be moving to Chatham County in the years ahead, and we thought we [could get] ahead of the curve of identifying a great place to live,” Chris says. “We wanted to get in early and establish ourselves and our reputation, as the community was clearly going to grow.”
Around that time, Jill was looking to semiretire from a successful sales career. She says she thought real estate “would be such a fun hobby.” More than 15 years later, Jill was recognized by the Triangle Business Journal as the No. 3 top-selling residential real estate agent in the area in 2021, with nearly $55 million in sales.
As a result of their success, Chris and his family were able to start the Bold Foundation, a nonprofit that supports underserved students in Chatham and Orange counties, in 2016. Chris’ wife, Jana Ehrenfeld, was the driving force in establishing the foundation after seeing the need when their twin boys, Max and Mason, started preschool.
“I love that we’re doing real things that impact real people,” Jill says of the family’s many endeavors. Our readers tend to agree, having named all three one of the best construction businesses, best real estate companies and best nonprofits in the county.
As mother and son, Jill and Chris have a deep mutual understanding, and say that their generational gap gives them unique perspectives to provide the best services to their clients.
“She trusts me immensely, and I trust her immensely,” Chris says. “As a business partner, you don’t ever have a thought or worry of distrust in your partner. You have the stability of working with somebody [who] has the same outlook on life and the world. That certainly benefits us to help us make better decisions and work well together.”
B & T HVAC
B & T HVAC co-owner Aaron Horton says that he feels his service to the Chatham community would make his father proud. Barry Horton started the business in 1988 and named it for himself and his wife, Terri Horton. After his father lost his battle with cancer in 2007, Aaron and his wife, Heather Horton, took over the company. Today, it’s grown to include 17 employees in addition to the Hortons who assist clients throughout Chatham and Orange counties.
“My pops was very to the point,” Aaron says. “It was one way, and it was the right way, all the time. It doesn’t cost a lot more money to do it right versus cutting corners. At the end of the day, I know a lot of folks. When I go out in town [with] my wife and my kids, I don’t want anybody to ever say that I didn’t do the best job.”
Aaron says his commitment to his customers is the same commitment he has to being a great husband, brother, father to his two daughters, Lily, 11, and Mia, 8, and business owner. The fact that our readers named his company one of the best for home maintenance and repairs means he’s living up to the values his father instilled in him.
“I think we are a better business because Heather and I truly care,” he says. “It’s a legacy and our names that drive us to provide the best services this industry offers. We understand that the service we provide impacts [our customers’] day-to-day lives. If we treat them as we would want to be treated, our customers will be happy. That’s what makes family-owned businesses special.”