Local home builder’s startup venture blossoms under Carolina ‘spell’
By JIM PARKER
The Post and Courier
Jason Fabrizio knew the story. He had, after all, attended Towson University and landed his first job working for a home-grown national builder.
According to company lore, the builder’s founder yearned for a distinct corporate name but nothing clicked. Then one day, he saw a prominent highway marker that had lost the first two letters of the state’s name. Instead of Maryland, which was the builder’s home state at the time, the sign blared, “ryland.”
The founder had his name. Ryland Corp. would go on to become one of the largest homebuilders in the United States.
Fabrizio, meanwhile, would graduate with a political science degree from Towson U. near Baltimore and take a position with Ryland in 1994. “I always knew I would be a pretty good salesperson,” he explains.
He would fill posts with Ryland in Charlotte, Beazer in Memphis and then divisional chief for Eastwood Homes in the Charleston area. He left Eastwood in early 2011and by fall would kick off his own Mount Pleasant-based homebuilding firm.
Not unexpectedly, when Fabrizio pondered company names, he harkened back to the Maryland sign miscue and its serendipitous result.
His pick: Rolina Homes, which not coincidentally spells “Carolina” with the first two letters removed. The name makes sense, since Fabrizio’s plan is to expand in metro Charleston and possibly someday to neighboring cities but keep Rolina’s base in the Palmetto, and perhaps Tar Heel, states.
“When I left Eastwood, I was trying to find a niche,” says Fabrizio, who is Rolina president. “We decided with our company to go with more first-time homebuyers.”
Current efforts include framing, or soon erecting, nine townhomes in Nautical Isle at Hidden Palms in Summerville, which was started but not finished by another builder. Other work involves home construction at the Brightwood neighborhood in Huger and raising a smattering of houses from peninsula Charleston to West Ashley.
Fabrizio has struck partnerships with developers such as Ecovest. Headed by Jeffrey Roberts, the company specializes in bankrolling and revitalizing developments such as Brightwood.
For Rolina Homes, a large share of activity this year hovers around Hidden Palms. Situated on a winding street off Bacon’s Bridge Road in Summerville, the townhome village went dormant for two years before Rolina, working with Wells Fargo and the town of Summerville, bought property and started building.
Four new townhomes have been erected this year and five more are in the works this summer. Prices range from $104,900 to $115,900 for the 1,250-1,500-square-foot townhomes sporting two or three bedrooms. The valued-priced townhomes boast deluxe features such as hardwood floors, high-end kitchen appliances and sizable outside storage rooms. Fabrizio said he’s kept ties with subcontractors, using a number of companies that he teamed with at Eastwood.
Hidden Palms buyers include families, with occupations ranging from nurses to Boeing and SPAWAR employees, he says.
Rolina Homes framed 28 residences in 2012 and is “tracking” 46 dwellings this year, Fabrizio says. He is targeting 85 homes in 2014 when the builder expects to still be building at the Tranquil Hill townhome community in lower Dorchester County. “We’ll start there in the fall (2013),” he says.
Eventually, he envisions Rolina Homes hammering out 125 to 130 houses a year and possibly branching to other metro areas.
Fabrizio is familiar with the market newcomer role. In the mid-2000s, he headed Charlotte-based Eastwood’s entrance into greater Charleston. “The first year, we didn’t build a house, we learned about the market,” he says.
Things picked up rapidly from there. The first neighborhood, Buckshire, emerged off Jamison Road in Ladson. Myers Mill on Central Avenue in Summerville followed soon after, and Eastwood was off. By 2011, Eastwood grew to a $23 million company in the Charleston area.
In the nine months between exiting Eastwood to getting Rolina ramped up, Fabrizio spent time off. “I’ve got four kids” – sons Wynn, 14 and Bronson, 10 and daughters Nyna, 13 and Cooper, 9. The break gave him a chance to spend more time with the children, including at the family’s Sullivan’s Island home. In the round-the-clock homebuilder world, “It’s not an opportunity I would normally get.”
But nothing lasts forever. “When your 10-year-old son asks, ‘Are you going back to work,’ it was about time,” he says.
Fabrizio gives a lot of credit to his wife, Lynn, for raising the children during moves to Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina. She was familiar with the homebuilder’s life: her father was president of Ryan NVR, which is loosely connected to Ryland.
The homebuilder’s 18-year career has been spent in places south of the Mason-Dixon line. But Fabrizio keeps at least one tie to his hometown of Syracuse, N.Y. He is an avid fan of the Syracuse University sports teams, notably its top-notch basketball and re-emerging football programs.
Syracuse, meanwhile, joined the Atlantic Coast Conference last year and will compete in the ACC in football beginning this fall. Fabrizio says it’s different now rooting for Syracuse: The Orangemen will play “local” schools such as Clemson and regional teams such as Duke, UNC, N.C. State and Wake Forest in the ACC.
“Before, I didn’t have a dog in the hunt,” he quipped.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or email@example.com.