Not many people get to build their own house from the ground up.
Even fewer are able to do it alongside their father, like Ben Gjere did with his father, Mike.
Mike Gjere, owner of Gjere Construction, has been in the construction business since he was fresh out of high school. He worked with contractors and gained experience until he was able to take off on his own path in 1987, which set him up for success in Blue Earth.
From the footings of a new house to the minute trim pieces in a newly remodeled room and everything in between, Gjere Construction has more than 30 years combined experience between father and son.
Ben, who has been his father's right hand man since he was 15, says working with his dad has been a rewarding experience.
"In Blue Earth, we have been very fortunate to have a great customer base and outstanding referrals," says Ben Gjere. "In this town, you have to be diverse in the construction industry in order to keep competitive."
In the fall of 2014, the Gjere construction team devoted a good amount of time to Ben's new family home, which he now shares with his wife, Chelsey, and their two-year-old daughter Caeley.
Mike Gjere says he had purchased the corner lot of North Nicollet and West 3rd Street since 1997 and had plans all along to build a home on the small lot.
The house, which stood on the lot unused for some time, finally came down in the summer of 2014 and within weeks Mike and Ben were beginning their project to build Ben's new family home.
"I had wanted to build a house with my dad for a while and I made a promise to my wife that we would be in the house before our baby came," said Gjere. "It was a lot of hours put into making sure everything was done on time."
And time is always of the essence when building a home, especially before the cold temperatures and snow of Minnesota set in. The Gjere father-son duo and their construction team worked late hours and weekends to get the home built and move-in ready.
It was one project Ben took the lead on, which both father and son say was a good experience for both of them.
"It was nice for me because I was able to take the lead and make sure my workers were there on time and doing what needed to be done," says Ben. "That felt really good to be able to push for progress while it was being built."
And for Mike? He seemed to enjoy taking a back seat to the project as well.
"It was great, I just kind of had to show up," says Mike. "It was great to see Ben take the lead on the project. I think we work very well together."
When it comes to choosing whether to keep an already standing house and remodeling it or tearing a house down and starting from scratch, both father and son say there are multiple variables to look at before deciding what is best.
"It really depends on what you are working with at the start of your project," says Mike. "With a remodel, you almost always have that potential of running into an issue which may chew into your budget."
"Yeah, and starting from the ground up is a little easier, though possibly more expensive, just because you have a clean slate you are working with. You know what it will cost you. I knew what I wanted; my wife and I were able to choose the types of details in the kitchen and throughout the house. It made the project much more rewarding in that sense."
Both Gjeres encourage do-it-yourselfers to try projects in their homes on their own, but also encourage talking with contractors if someone is starting a project they have never done before.
"If you do want to try a home improvement project on your own, I am all for it," says Ben. "But it is totally okay to talk with a contractor to make sure you are taking the proper steps for that particular project and making sure that project is a doable one."
Not only that, but the Gjeres say its important to make sure your projects are up to city, state, and federal codes as well.
"When we knocked down the old house, we had to have an abatement assessment to make sure nothing harmful was being emitted into the air or the ground," says Mike. "And then when we were building, Ben made sure to talk with the city of Blue Earth to make sure we were building the house in accordance with their laws as well."
As both father and son grew together as a team over the years, Ben says he finally got a vision for his home while he was in college.
"I saw a layout in college and I just liked how it looked," says Ben. "And I referred to the layout plan many times during the building process."
From a large kitchen and living room layout to a wrap-around porch, down to the tree swing in the front yard, Ben says he knew this was the house he wanted to build with his dad.
For the Gjere duo, this project in particular came with another minute challenge: making sure the house fit on the small lot. From inside the home, it may not seem like a small home, but the Gjeres admit to having to work with the city and their layout to make sure everything fit on the lot and was up to code.
"We spoke with the city quite a few times and had to do some math to our original layout to make sure everything was copesetic, but it worked out well," says Ben of his new home. "The folks at City Hall know what they are doing and were very easy to work with."
Both father and son agreed on their favorite part of the home-building project, too.
Getting it done.
"It was very rewarding to be able to get it done so quickly," says Ben. "We were able to get into the house before Caeley came along so my wife and I were able to patiently wait for her arrival in our new home."
The Gjere duo also worked on another house together on 14th Street in Blue Earth and say it was good practice for Ben's current house.
"Ben is great to work with," says Mike of his son. "He knows how to have fun but also knows when to take things seriously and get work done. He shows good leadership to his team. He is a good partner."
The family business has been running strong since its 1987 start and has built a strong and loyal customer base. This is part of what Ben finds most worthwhile from his experience working with his father.
"It is very rewarding to have people keep calling back," says Ben. "And it is a good feeling knowing you are providing an honest service to the community."
With a strong team of dedicated workers and a deep understanding of the needs of the Blue Earth area, the father-son construction team are a unique aspect to the area.
From building a family of his own to seeing his son's family grow into their own, Mike Gjere has lent his expertise to Blue Earth for many years, and now his son Ben only adds to that experience.
The only question remaining is whether Ben's daughter Caeley will want to pick up construction, too.
Only time will tell.