Crane Builders, LLC: The Next Generation

Ownership of the Waveland-based contractor has transferred from father to daughter without compromising quality or commitment, while keeping a sharp eye on the future.

A lot has changed at Crane Builders over the past several years. Jackye, founder Jimmy Crane’s daughter, has officially purchased the company from her father and has moved the office from an apartment above her father’s garage to a commercial space in Magnolia Plaza on Highway 90. As it turns out, following in her dad’s footsteps and forging her own path in the home building business was what Jackye was born to do.

Founded in 1980 and firmly established in the Mississippi Gulf Coast by 1986, Crane Builders has built a name that has become synonymous with excellence within the industry over the past three decades. The company has been annually recognized as “Best in Show” in the state due to their construction of award-winning homes and painstaking renovations of historic properties. Jackye was practically raised “on site,” and her admiration for her father and his tireless dedication came to fruition when she attended LSU’s Engineering School and gained her degree in Construction Management. As one of only three women (and 150 men) in the program, Jackye “stood out like a sore thumb,” though she never felt like her professors or male classmates were giving her a handicap in any way. “Though I am one of the very few women in this industry, locally, I don’t really realize it” says Jackye. “It’s kind of like we’re all family.”

Being a woman in a male-dominated industry has more often than not proved to be a boon for Jackye. Whether building a new home or renovating a classic, Crane’s clients are often women. “Sometimes I get customers that are just so happy and relieved that someone understands them,” explains Jackye. “In a lot of cases they’re more comfortable telling me what they want, talking about their plans, and having me explain things to them as opposed to a man.” On rare occasions, Jackye will encounter clients who underestimate her abilities, but given an opportunity, she proves them wrong. “It’s just a mentality that’s the real battle.” says Jackye.

With the company now completely under his daughter’s purview, Jimmy has retired comfortably and spends much of his time traveling, visiting his son in New York and taking cruises to Mexico. “If he gets referrals from friends and customers, and sends them to me, he’ll check in and see how things are going,” says Jackye. “But he was ready to get out of the work world.”

Considering Crane Builders is now hers, kit and caboodle, Jackye has naturally taken steps to make it her own and move the company forward into new horizons, beginning with a change in branding. Inspired by her late, four-footed friend – a black Labrador retriever named Ella – the reworked logo embodies what Crane Builders’ is constantly striving to represent. “Not only are we dog lovers, but we see dogs as loyal, offering protection and aid, and they’re honest” says Jackye.

Moving Crane Builders’ office to the commercial space in Magnolia Plaza was a big, yet essential step for the company. Not only was Jackye able to move out from under her father’s umbrella, so to speak, the business now formally had its own space to thrive, replete with a glass-enclosed conference room offering a little privacy when meeting new clients.

They’re also in the process of creating a small showroom where customers can peruse counter samples, tile samples, and paint swatches, making the selection process for customers that much simpler. “I’m currently enrolled in an Interior Decorating class and should be finished later this year,” Jackye explains. “We’ll be able to add that service to our repertoire, making things easier on us and for our customers, as well. It will kind of be a one-stop-shop!”

In the interest of keeping everything streamlined, Jackye also tapped one of their local subcontractors, The Wood Mill based in Waveland, to create desks that dual purpose as samples. “We have three different drawer designs in our desks and they also showcase different hardware.” says Jackye.

In addition to a new office, Crane Builders is revamping their website with the help of Push Design Group, a web and graphic design firm out of Mandeville. “We’re also – and this is an ongoing project – updating our documents, files and contracts,” says Jackye. “For the longest time it’s been ‘this is what we’ve always done’ and that goes back to 1980 when my dad started Crane Builders in New Orleans.” With decades of paperwork, it will take some time to bring all of the company’s documentation into the 21st century!

In the few years since Jackye has taken over the business, Crane Builders has won two Best in Mississippi awards; One for Historical Preservation in 2019, and in 2020, they won 1st place for Single Family Residences in the 3,000 to 3,500 square feet size bracket.

Currently, Crane Builders is finishing up a renovation project, expanding the number of bathrooms at a Long Beach home from 2 ½ to 5, a “pre-Katrina gem” being updated by its New Orleans owner. “There were some Jack & Jill situations we’ve made into private baths.” says Jackye. “We’re nearing the end and it’s cool to see it all come together.” They’re also beginning another renovation for a home on 2nd Street in Pass Christian that’s still in the framing stages. Although it’s not technically in the historic district, the building dates to the early 1900s. “I would consider it historical,” says Jackye. “It is an old home and we’re treating it that way.”

At home, the Crane family continues to grow. Jackye and her husband Chris Hansen – owner of Hansen Custom Painting, a 3rd generation sub-contractor of Crane Builders – now have a second child, a daughter named Amelia who is now 3-years-old, a beloved little sister to their 5-year-old son Andrew. Who knows? Perhaps in a few decades they’ll be running the show!

*Article originally published in The Shoofly Magazine

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