A Tacoma business is branching out with new services with a building that will offer a little bit of everything not just for itself, but the general public.
Wren & Willow, a general contracting, construction and design firm, celebrated the completed framing of its new building across from its current home at 5104 N. Pearl St. with a “topping out” ceremony — placing an evergreen bough on top of the building for good luck in a ceremony Tuesday.
“it’s just this symbol that you completed the the highest point when it first started,” company president Laureen Skrivan told The News Tribune in a recent interview.
The new building, called The Carriage House, is inspired by structures of the past that served to house carriages, stables and tack, sometimes including a second story with living quarters.
“We bought the property several years back and decided that we wanted to build a large, mixed-use space to house our offices in addition to living space,” Skrivan said.
When completed later this year, the building will house the company, along with its new division that includes a gluten-free bakery and a home furnishings-fine gifts retail shop.
Skrivan will oversee all of it.
“I‘m one of those crazy entrepreneurs that just says, ‘Why not? Let’s start a new division,’ ” she said.
“I’ve owned (Wren & Willow) for 16 years, I started it, and we’re branching out to start the bakery, which is an LLC that I set up. And then the retail division really does flow into what we do as an interior design division that we have in our company. A lot of folks will buy wallpaper from us and window coverings. So we’re going to create a retail space to include that and many other things.”
There will be space for the public to enjoy.
The building will offer a rooftop social space with a view of Commencement Bay and an interior public space complete with fireplace.
“Part of our agreement with the city of Ruston was that we would during business hours be open to the public,” she noted.
“Our rooftop amenity deck, which has a fabulous view, we’ll have plenty of seating up there. And in the bakery, we’re also going to have coffee, a cappuccino or espresso machine available. So people are going to go grab a coffee, grab a cookie, go on up top at the rooftop.
“The main area down below, we’re calling ‘The Stables,’” she said. “We will have a large center fireplace, so that in the winter people will want to come in from the cold, get some coffee, pastry and then can sit and visit.
“That too will be open to the public during our basic business hours,” she added.
“I really love community. And I really wanted there to be just this wonderful place for people to gather together,” she said.
The new building also will be home to three penthouse-style apartments, with one of those for Skrivan.
The other two “are already spoken for,” she said.
Branching out and setting an example
Skrivan has not decided what to do about Wren & Willow’s current business space on the Tacoma-side of Pearl Street.
“We started the company 16 years ago as a remodeling contractor. And we did kitchens and bathrooms and additions. And about five years ago, we decided to expand and build custom homes. And so we are actually now truly a design-build company,” she said. “So we have an architect on staff. Obviously, we’re building a 21,000-square-foot commercial space, which we were very excited not to only own the building, which I do, but my company.
“I’m the client, but I’m also the contractor.”
While the company still takes on remodeling work, “our primary focus actually is building more.”
As her company evolves, she noted, it can serve as an example of what can be done by women in the industry.
“I started the company as an interior design company. And it was in 2008, that I decided I could be a general contractor — I don’t have to just do the design work and then pass that on to builders that I’ve gotten to know over the years.
“So I went out and got my license and sort of declared myself that I was going to be a builder.”
It wasn’t entirely unfamiliar territory.
“My grandfather, who came here from Italy, was a brick mason … during the Great Depression. He helped do brick work on Ellis Island,” Skrivan said.
She said she immersed herself with the Master Builders Association of Pierce County.
“I became a member. I took classes. I just completely entrenched in the world of being a master builder,” Skrivan said.
In 2014, she became MBA Pierce’s first female president. She said she hopes another woman at some point will take the slot, which requires the office holder to also be a general contractor.
She wants her own history to stand as a testament to others.
“Women can do anything they put their mind to,” she said about becoming a contractor. “I didn’t like that I couldn’t see the project to the end. A lot of times I would do the design, and then the builder would take it from there. And I thought in order to really give the attention to detail that I know I wanted for my client, I had to be the builder, I had to go from start to finish.”
It’s also made her more aware of the possibilities.
“I also don’t take no for an answer. And, and my team will laugh about this. But sometimes, you know, they’ll say, well, we can’t do that,” Skrivan said. “And I’ll say, ‘Well, what do you mean, you can’t?’ Well, it’s going to be a lot of extra work. Okay. I’m willing to pay you to do extra work. Now. What’s the drawback?”
Her other message: You’re never to old to begin again. Skrivan, now 62, recalls being in her mid-40s when she started the company and knowing relatives had worked well into the ages that people normally think of retiring.
“I feel like I’m just starting and developing, you know,” she said. “There’s no stopping.”