- story by Ellis Anderson
Drive across the Mississippi beachfront and you’re sure to spot several Crane Builders signs. You might see one in front of a shaded lot where a foundation’s being poured. Others stand before stately homes where no visible work at all is occurring – signaling that renovations or additions are taking place behind the scenes.
That’s because the Cranes are equally at ease doing both new construction and renovations/additions. That makes them a rare bird in the contracting world, where most builders shy away from anything that might be problematic - like historic homes.
The Cranes confidently tackle the additional challenges of working on already standing structures, because this father/daughter team has nearly four decades of contracting experience. Jackye Crane, at the helm of the company now, grew up working with her father, Jimmy, whose company motto is “if you think an expert is expensive, just wait ‘til you hire an amateur.”
This commitment to quality has served the Cranes well: more than three-quarters of current clients now come from their 40-year pool of previous customers. Homeowners like the Riveres (who have used the Cranes for several major home projects through the years) give rave reviews.
The Riveres cite multiple reasons for their satisfaction on their new home, including custom design touches and the fact their house was finished four months ahead of schedule.
“We don’t want to let anyone down, so we like to overshoot,” Crane says. “We’d rather have them thrilled that we’re early. Also, our quality control is all-important and we don’t want to rush for a deadline because of unexpected weather-related or material delivery delays.”
Another factor in the quality control is the long-term relationship the Cranes have built with their sub-contractors. They use only like-minded subs and are able to pair different subs with different jobs. For instance, if someone wants standard wiring, they might call on one electrician. If owners want a “smart-home,” they’ll call in a sub who specializes in built-in home electronics.
While the Cranes will happily take on the most ambitious new residential project, they’re also experts in making the most of an already existing home.
“Renovations are a whole different animal [from new construction],” Jackye says. “It’s our niche. Not many people are willing to take on those special challenges.”
In one recent project, the Cranes were called in to explore the possibilities of building a new house for Pass Christian residents. The family of six had moved full-time into what had been their weekend home. They were bursting at the seams and needed more space.
Instead of starting from scratch, the Cranes were able to devise a plan that utilized the existing home’s unused attic space. The final project created an additional 750 square feet that included a stairwell, two bedrooms, a bath and a den.
“We love challenges like that,” Jackye says. “We excel at finding creative solutions, which can often save the homeowners a lot of money.”
In Bay St. Louis, the Cranes worked with other loyal clients to renovate their historic beach home’s kitchen. A dated acoustic tile ceiling was removed, exposing “gorgeous” moldings and bead-board ceilings.
Right around the corner, a shabby back wing has been torn off another historic house, with plans to open up the kitchen to a new great room addition. And the Riveres will be clients again soon – the Cranes are slated to build a pool and a cabana.
And since the Cranes are veterans at working in the historic districts of both Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian, they're also well-versed on the historic guidelines of each city - which makes for smooth sailing when appearing before local historic preservation commissions.
But while they often work on grand, historic homes and high-profile beach home projects, the Crane's approach smaller projects with equal care.
Jackye explains, “We build small-budget new houses too, working with clients to get them what they want and still meet their budgets."
“And you don’t have to look for a handyman for a smaller renovation projects. We take those on too – for instance, a half-bath update. Our regular customers know that and don’t hesitate to call us back for smaller jobs.”
Although, Jackye’s at the helm of the business now, father Jimmy still stays fully involved. And the family construction business expanded again in 2016, when Jackye married Chris Hansen - owner of Hansen Custom Painting (and third-generation painting contractor). Hansen had been a favorite subcontractor of the Cranes since 2003. It turned out the Chris and Jackye had more in common than a devotion to quality control. The two have a new son, Andrew Wolfe Hansen.
“We love what we do,” Jackye says. “And working on projects together as a family makes projects even more satisfying.”