January 29, 2015

Posted: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 7:38 pm | Updated: 8:00 pm, Tue Jan 27, 2015.

GRETNA — Home building and design is in Kate Blair Farmer’s blood.

Her grandfather was a homebuilder and when her father, Fred A. Blair, took over the business in 1971, he took it commercial and made it into Blair Construction Inc. in Gretna.

Farmer, along with her mother and her husband, has now gone public with their own Gretna venture, Blair Homes LLC. The business builds and renovates homes, offering remodeling and design.

They’re continuing a family tradition that stretches back more than 100 years.

“The request for Blair to build homes has always been there,” Farmer said during an interview Tuesday afternoon at their newly-built modern Craftsman-style spec home at 304 Leftwich St. in Gretna. “I finally got to a point experience-wise that I felt comfortable enough to build homes.”

“Building has always been a huge part of my life and a passion that’s true to the roots of my family,” Farmer said.

Blair Homes started in November 2013 as a private endeavor involving the trio buying, remodeling and flipping houses. By June 2014, they partnered with Blair Construction on projects before going public this month.

Their office is at Blair Construction at 23020 U.S. 29 in Gretna.

They received their state Class A license this month, allowing them to build houses valued up to $785,000.

Their home-design elements include custom cabinetry, stainless steel appliances, stone countertops — such as granite, quartz, marble — and high-end lighting, Farmer said.

“We tend to stick more to high-end design because my background is design,” said Farmer, who holds bachelor’s degrees in textiles/design and business management from North Carolina State University.

After graduating college, she lived in Forth Worth, Texas, where she showed quarter horses and worked as a real estate agent from 2006-10. She returned to Gretna after those experiences “because I love it here” and worked for the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce, Farmer said.

“This is a good place to live,” she said. “It’s got a lot of heart and a lot of soul and good people. That’s what makes it so special.”

Farmer said she wants to provide quality products and services to Gretna’s residents.

According to Farmer, the spec home on Leftwich is just about the only new house built within the town in more than 20 years.

“People want move-in-ready homes and I want to be able to provide that for this town,” she said.

As for Farmer’s duties in the business, she acts as project manager on-site with subcontractors and also performs scheduling, ordering and helps make design decisions.

Her mother, Brenda Blair, “she’s the finisher,” Farmer said. “She helps put it all together in the end.” She helps select design materials, such as finishing, and performs other duties, Farmer said.

Farmer’s husband Ben Farmer is “the silent partner,” being the “supportive husband,” Farmer said. Ben serves on Gretna Town Council and works at Moore’s Electrical and Mechanical in Altavista as manager of coordination and computer-aided design.

Farmer is a rarity in these parts, a woman with a home-building business. “I am a woman working in a man’s world but it’s going really well.”

She said she has been well-respected as a business owner but “there have been times I’ve had to prove my experience and knowledge.”

“Once they know I know a few things, they’ve been pretty nice,” Farmer said.

The Farmers live on Leftwich Street in Gretna in a home built in 1948 by Farmer’s grandfather and great-grandfather. They have a 21-month-old son, Charlie, and a girl on the way due in April.

Blair Homes website is www.blair-homes.com.