Ask architect John Pazdera what it’s like to work with Richard Dickson, and he’s likely to reminisce about the day they met. The two go back more than a decade to when Dickson Development was building an addition for one of John’s cousins. “I always remember how Richard stopped by the site during construction, and the way he paid attention to every detail. It made a lasting impression,” he says.
A Solid Foundation of Long-term Relationships
Richard Dickson has been on construction sites since he was 10 years old. The son of a builder, he says it’s all he can remember wanting to do. The firm he founded in his name, Dickson Development, has been designing, building and renovating homes in the Princeton area for more than 46 years. That kind of longevity in a relatively small geographic area can be explained in one word: relationships. With clients, trade partners and team members.
John is one of several long-standing trade partners, and an extended member of the Dickson team that includes president and CEO Richard Dickson, project manager Bonnie Foster and office manager Ronnie Rudolph. John provides the architectural design work on a majority of Dickson Development’s design-build projects.
Design-build combines design and construction into one seamless delivery method. “Basically, this means that we integrate architectural design into our construction process, and we become the single source of contact for the client. This can be very convenient and cost-effective for the client,” explains Richard. “Design-build is an alternative to design-bid-build, which separates design and build. Naturally, we are happy to work both ways. If clients bring us their own drawings, we collaborate closely with their architects to complete the project.”
After completing dozens upon dozens of projects with Dickson Development, John knows exactly what to expect. “There is a respect for details, which I really appreciate as an architect. With Richard, the homeowner always comes first, and finishing on time and on budget is a top priority,” John says. “The process is smooth and as painless as possible. They just have really good clients. It’s an enjoyable experience all around.”
Clients Know What to Expect: Attentive Service
Clients also know what to expect, and this has resulted in a great deal of repeat work and referral business. “We don’t just get repeat business from previous customers,” Dickson says. “We get referrals from generation to generation. We’re working on a project now that was referred to us by the homeowner’s parents, whose home we had renovated many years earlier.”
Both Richard and Bonnie spend a great deal of time up front getting to know the homeowner. What are their goals and vision? What do they want their living space to say about them? How do they live now, and how do they want to live when the project is complete?
Based on these conversations, Dickson collaborates with John and other trade partners to create the ideal solution. A member of the Dickson staff always accompanies the homeowner to choose appliances, flooring, cabinets and other finishes to not only help them make the best decisions, but to make sure everything arrives on time. “It’s always a pleasure when Bonnie comes into our showroom with one of their clients,” says Heather Winn, lighting manager of Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery in Lawrenceville.
Trade Partners Are Valued Extensions of the Dickson Team
They understand how proper lighting can transform a room but also take time to understand each client’s personal style,” Heather notes. “With so many options available today, it can be overwhelming. We partner with the Dickson team to educate homeowners and provide a number of solutions. They’ll come into the showroom with specs and measurements, and visions.”
What happens when a homeowner’s visions need adjustments on-site? Dickson Development rarely takes jobs that are more than 15 minutes from their office to allow someone to be on-site on short notice. “By staying close to Princeton, we can manage and supervise the process, provide quality control, and deliver the kind of customer service homeowners demand when they make a major investment,” says Richard.
Of course, it’s not just proximity to the job site that makes Dickson successful. Dickson works only with trade partners whose expertise, talent and work ethic have been proven time after time. Ultimately, it’s the homeowner who benefits from these relationships.
“I have known Richard Dickson for many, many years and didn’t expect anything less than a stellar experience when we remodeled our entire townhome earlier this year,” says Gail Levitt of Lawrenceville, New Jersey. “There were no surprises, and there was ongoing communication and collaboration. In a matter of days, we picked out almost everything, from the cabinets at Woodhaven Lumber, to the ceramic tiles at Galaxy Tile, to the fixtures at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery. “We got incredible service wherever we went.”
A Stake in the Princeton Market
This is not only a reflection of long-term relationships but also of the strong reputation Dickson has built in the Princeton area. “I’ve been working with the same plumber since I started the business 46 years ago,” Richard says. “His father was my father’s plumber. Because we work with the same trade partners on every project, we know the work will be done to our high standards.”
With hundreds of building and renovation projects complete, all within a seven-mile radius, what’s up next for Dickson Development? Certainly not retirement.
“I’m 72 years old, and I still love going to work,” Richard laughs. “Why would I want to stop?”