Cardel Homes marks golden anniversary
50 years of building homes and still going strong.
Cardel Homes is celebrating 50 years of homebuilding excellence, a milestone that has seen this locally founded and family-run company triumph through several economic cycles, a three-year long world-wide pandemic, a handful of devastating recessions and the largest flood that the city of Calgary and southern Alberta have seen since 1932. It’s grown from one hand-built custom home into a multi-national entity with 400 employees and annual sales of $550 million.
“It’s almost surreal. The years pass and you just really don’t think about it. It’s gone very quickly,” says Cardel’s co-founder Caryl Ockey. She and her husband, Del, started the company in 1974. Its genesis was organic and began with an idea and plenty of passion.
“At the time we were both school teachers, but we had the summers off and we thought it would be a great thing to build a home and sell it,” recalls Caryl, who is now retired, but who ran Cardel’s design studios and took the lead on show home interior design across North America. Cardel was one of the first Calgary builders to open an integrated design studio, back in 1991.
The couple, who at the time, had three young children, Ryan, Damon and Carlee, had been living in Willow Park and loved the neighbourhood. They tried to find a 50-foot lot in a new community to build on, but they had all been scooped up by builders.
“The only lots that we could find were on Willow Park Golf Course and they were $25,000, which was a lot of money at that time,” says Del, adding that in the early 1970s a 50-foot lot usually ran around $4,000 to $5,000 dollars.
Needless to say, the couple took a chance, bought the estate lot and built a 2,800-square-foot home with an attached double car garage (a new-fangled idea for the time).
“It was a really big stretch and we did most of the work ourselves. It took us the whole summer and more. Our son Ryan, who was 11 at the time, even got on the roof with Caryl and hammered in the shakes,” says Del, a junior and senior high school teacher with a strong background in the industrial arts — he put himself through university working as a carpenter in the summers.
But before the family had even finished the project — they ended up moving in and living in the home — Del was approached by a potential client.
“He came up to me and asked if I could build a house for him in Lake Bonavista. I said: ‘Sure, I’ll contract it out and supervise it, but I don’t have time to do the labour on it because I am teaching.’ That house ended up being huge — 5,600 square feet with a built-in basketball and squash court in the basement. And then, just as we were finishing that house, someone else approached us.”
Within a few months, the couple had five custom homes on the go.
“Del was just running around all of the time. A decision had to be made and it was a tough one. He’d been teaching school for 11 years and was at the top of his pay grade,” says Caryl, who has a passion for art and interior design who by this time, had taken over managing the administrative side of the business.
In the fall of 1974, only 14 months after they had begun to build the home on Willow Park Golf Course, Del quit teaching and Cardel Homes was born (the name is a play on Caryl and Del).
Since then, the company has survived several recessions, including as Del puts it, “the years of the dollar deal.” He is referring to the 1981-82 Calgary recession, where home values had plummeted to rock bottom and people were just walking away, selling their homes for $1.
But with ingenuity, unwavering vision and plenty of old-fashioned hard work, Cardel Homes not only survived, but thrived, expanding over the years into several new marketplaces, including Ottawa, Florida and Colorado.
Del and Caryl are now retired and enjoying the fruits of their labour — they just spent the last 18 months working on a humanitarian mission in Hungary. Their sons Ryan and Damon, who have been involved in Cardel Homes since the late 1980s, are now deeply invested in the company — Ryan is CEO and Damon is the Chief Marketing Officer. Their daughter, Carlee, was running Cardel’s interior design segment, but is currently working on other projects.
Ryan, who has his MBA from Queens University, credits the company’s successes to its ability to shift gears.
“Alberta’s economy can be highly cyclical and tough to manage.” He notes that expanding outside of Calgary and into Ontario, Florida and Colorado has really helped to mitigate the economic unpredictability and uncertainty.
“Right now, Calgary is only 20 per cent of our business; 80 per cent comes from other locations.”
Expanding into the multi-family sphere in 2008 with the launch of Cardel Lifestyles was also a key move and differentiator. Cardel Lifestyles, a partnership with Tim Logel, has recently rebranded as Logel Homes, but still retains its joint venture partnership structure.
Also in 2008, it built its new head offices in Quarry Park — 100,000 square feet of space — with the entire first floor dedicated to a 10,000-square-foot design studio and a 20,000-square-foot theatre and banquet space that is open for community use at no cost. The theatre is but a small part of Cardel’s hearty and under-the-radar giving back initiatives — the company gives back 10 per cent of its profits to the communities in which it builds and develops.
Design was also a big part of the company’s mantra with Caryl heading up the department and the team. In fact, Cardel was one of the first, if not, the first builder in Calgary to open its own integrated design studio, so that clients didn’t have to run around from supplier to supplier carrying samples. It flung open the doors of its first design studio (over 1,000 square feet on Forge Road) in 1991.
Another big corporate evolution was the move into land development. Cardel Homes eased into land development 20 years ago, first in partnership with Stepper Homes, developing Panorama Hills in the northwest and then, the Summit of Montreux on Calgary’s westside.
In 2014, it branched out on its own, launching its first solo land development project with Shawnee Park, a 52-acre parcel of land and the former Shawnee Slopes Golf Course. The development will, on final build-out, be home to 500 families. Phase 9 has just been released, which includes greenbelt lots and bungalow villa designs.
Cardel’s most recent endeavour, the community of Silverton located at the confluence of 194th Avenue and Macleod Trail with the Priddis Wetlands directly adjacent to the east and the established community of Silverado to the west, has just launched. It boasts an urban-inspired vibe, trendy, modern-vintage architecture and plenty of tree-lined streets. The initial builder group is comprised of Logel Homes, Cardel Homes and Genesis Builders.
Going forward, Ryan says that Cardel Homes is positive on Alberta. “We see a bright future. It’s a great place to live. We’ll be building homes here for decades to come.”
For The Calgary Herald