“We were so busy focusing on bidding jobs and servicing our existing clients that we missed celebrating our 25th anniversary,” said Kyle Nau, a third-generation La Jolla High alumnus who works for his father, Ron Nau, as the office manager.
With many builders leaving town or closing their doors, Kyle attributed the family business’ success in the current economy to the strong foundation his father made in the community.
In 1985, Microsoft released the first version of Windows, compact discs hit the American market and Ron Nau worked on his first home under his contractor’s license. Ron remembers his first project: “It was this house on Folsom Drive in Bird Rock. I have no idea how [the owner] got my name. It was a technical job on a second-story that I did myself and luckily I didn’t fall off the roof.”
In 1987, Ron started remodeling homes in the Bird Rock area where he grew up. He said his parents, Doug and Ginny Nau, who were both La Jolla High School graduates and are longtime members of La Jolla Presbyterian Church, were a catalyst in getting his business going.
“I received a lot of referrals from past clients, but I also have to credit my parents’ active presence in the La Jolla community for getting my name out there,” he said.
The late 1980s and early 1990s dealt a blow in the form of a recession, but Nau Builders continued to grow.
“Those tougher years were some of the best in my early career,” Ron Nau said. “I was able to hire employees and was building custom homes from Solana Beach to Coronado.”
Kyle remembers the early days of his father’s company.
“I remember being around five years old when my father worked out of the garage,” he said. “It was difficult for me because I always wanted to go out and play with him during the day. He started taking me to job sites on my days off of school and put me to work at an early age picking up nails.”
In the booming economy of the late 1990s, Ron teamed up with long-time friend and La Jolla resident Bill Berwin and created a real estate development firm called La Jolla Partners, developing high-end infill projects throughout La Jolla.
Though business was good, Ron foresaw a changing market and completed his last development project in 2004, ending La Jolla Partners. Instead, he started building for other developers and homeowners.
“Prices were getting out of hand and I expected the economy to change, so I started working for other developers as a builder instead of continuing my own projects,” he said.
As the latest recession hit, home values dropped, the stock market plummeted and the construction industry sank.
“It was tricky for me to get back to building homes for others because it had been many years since the community was familiar with the name Nau Builders,” Ron said. “Luckily, I picked up a few jobs with some great clients and it carried me through the toughest moments of the recession.”
In 2007, Kyle returned to the family business as a full-time employee armed with a real estate broker’s license and a degree in entrepreneurship and real estate investment from Cal Poly State University San Luis Obispo.
“When I got back to San Diego I was looking to go work for a large real estate developer and was temporarily helping my dad out at the office,” Kyle said. “Within a very short time it was apparent that we had a great working relationship and that our skill sets complemented each other. Deciding to work for my father was the best career choice I’ve made, and from him I’ve learned invaluable life-long lessons on how to do business with the utmost integrity.”
In the depths of the recession, the company hired two new employees, built multiple remodels and custom homes and completed a five-unit high-end condo project.
“We plan on being here a long time,” Kyle said.
— Staff and contribution