Springfield Man Finds Love and His Way Back HomeApr 02, 2021 08:49AM ● By Story by Walinda P. West | Photos by Tonya Perry
After decades of building new developments, the Springfield resident has found his passion in making what’s old new again. That love was cultivated and nurtured in large part by one of his most personal projects: his own 100-year-old, two-bedroom home, which he and his wife, Dee, are restoring while maintaining the home’s historic integrity and charm.
“I love restoring old stuff,” Moncrief said. “I want to make it look like it used to before and a little better. I am not afraid of what’s behind the walls.”
Moncrief is the muscle behind Moncrief Enterprises, which got its start as L&M Builders in the 1990s, in the north Georgia mountains where he also lived at the time. There, he would build pied-à-terres and other getaways for well-heeled city dwellers and retirees seeking an escape to the mountain’s ruggedness and scenic vistas.
Going into the 2000s, Moncrief was one of the largest builders and home remodelers in the area, where he developed up to 200-acre subdivisions. Business was good, and Moncrief enjoyed his work.
Then came the Recession and the subprime mortgage crisis that resulted in a decline in home prices and values; the economic downturn in the housing market across the nation led to delinquencies, foreclosures and abandoned homes and projects.
Blessing in Disguise
Reeling from a lack of work coupled with a non-stop schedule on previous projects, Moncrief used the housing decline as his signal to leave the business altogether.
“I just needed a break. My daughter was attending SCAD, so I moved to Savannah and went to work in the warehouse and logistics industry.”
Unlike the housing building which, Moncrief said, had him on call all hours of day and night, the new job offered predictable work hours. He held the warehouse and logistics job for 10 years.
Returning to His Roots
After 31 years of marriage, Moncrief and his then-wife decided to call it quits. The former Dee Bankston, a real estate executive who was married for eight years, had been divorced for several years. A set up by friends in 2017 brought the two together, and after the first week, they were inseparable, Moncrief said.
“I know it sounds like a cliche, but it was love at first sight,” said Dee Moncrief. “I knew he was my person. I waited 50 years to find him.” Jimmy Moncrief felt the same way and the two were wed a year later.
Housing Power Couple
With a successful real estate career to her credit as managing broker at Sherman & Hemstreet - Southern Georgia Homes, Dee Moncrief asked her husband if he had any thoughts of returning to homebuilding. A decade away from the homebuilding business, a recovering housing market and now with a wife who understood the housing landscape, the timing seemed right. Moncrief agreed and in 2019, Moncrief Renovations was started and his business was reborn.
Design TV Shows a Boon for Business
Open concept, shiplap, hardwood floors, and quartz countertops are current design trends and requests Moncrief receives from clients who want their homes to look like the ones they’ve seen on television. Moncrief said his business has benefited from those design shows and he is more than willing to give clients what they want. Kitchens, bathrooms and screened porches make up the bulk of his renovation work these days. He said he has lost count on the numbers of bathrooms and kitchens he’s done.
Making His Customers Happy
When Realtor Ricky Eilerman wanted to update his 1940s farmhouse in Statesboro for use as a short-term rental property, he called Moncrief for the renovation.
What Moncrief found were all of the problems associated with an older home—an outdated façade, plumbing, electrical systems, drafty windows along with rodents that made themselves at home in the walls.
“There’s no one who does what Jimmy does,” Eilerman said. “He pulls the crew together and makes it happen and tries to make it affordable. Jimmy’s such a friendly guy who has more ways to say yes and would give you the shirt off his back. It’s almost like he’s not in it for the money but for enjoyment.”
In addition to renovating the Eilerman farm, Moncrief is updating an old barn on Eilerman’s property that can be used for special events. In the end, Eilerman said he envisions a place where people can sit on a swing in front of the restored farmhouse and look out at a cotton field, “all made possible by a man who takes pride in his work and seeks to make his customers happy.”
Making customers happy is what drives Moncrief, he said. “I want to be there when they need me no matter what time it is. If something is bothering someone over the weekend, it will only be worse by Monday. I want them to know that we will work together.”
When Cheryl Gerow wanted an update to her Guyton home, she called on Moncrief because he had helped her daughter remodel her Springfield store. For Gerow, Moncrief put in new upstairs flooring, painted downstairs and put in a “beautiful” walk-in shower.
“Jimmy’s done a terrific job,” Gerow said. “He’s very attentive as to what makes the customer happy and how things are done. Jimmy’s a nice person who likes people and wasn’t happy until we were happy. That’s refreshing. He has small town values and is willing to help a neighbor for a reasonable price.”
Humble and Unassuming
Dee Moncrief said it was a long time before she really knew the depth of her husband’s experience because he is not one to brag. He told her that he built homes in the north Georgia mountains. After a tour through the subdivisions he built, she realized that the entire subdivision bears his daughter’s name. She never made the connection and he never made the connection for her.
Despite a demanding work schedule, Moncrief said he also wants to be a good neighbor. He recounted a story in which a neighbor, not knowing the full extent of his business, asked him for help. “When I was done, she introduced me to her friends as her handyman. I’m ok being her handyman,” he joked. “I want people to think about my character and that I am trustworthy and a good neighbor,” Moncrief said.
Good neighbor and good corporate citizen is precisely what Dee Moncrief said she wants the pair’s businesses to be known for. Dee Moncrief serves on numerous boards including Vice Chairman of Downtown Development Authority. She said she wants their three businesses to serve as the connective tissue for the community at large.
Moncrief is the first to admit that it is his wife who gives most of his renovation projects life. He said she often accompanies him on visits to perspective clients’ homes. He will talk about the renovation portion and she will sketch out the interior design and help homeowners decide the best colors or furniture placement.
The pair have also recently completed their latest ambitious project, a 100-year-old cottage in Springfield—Moncrief Square. With its pine hardwood floors, shiplap walls, rustic décor and neutral color palette, the cottage is an events venue that can be used for weddings, meetings or private parties. Moncrief Square joins Moncrief Renovations and Dee Moncrief’s real estate business in the location.
The Most Personal Project is Next
While the couple’s own home has taken a backseat to other projects, Dee Moncrief has been patiently waiting for her husband to build her dream kitchen in the small home where the couple plan to spend the rest of their lives. For her, the kitchen will be white, open and airy, have nice cabinets, counters, modern appliances and an island that can accommodate friends and family. Moncrief jokes that his wife allowed him to build the outdoor space he wanted and now it is her turn.
“She could have anything she wants, but all she asked for was a kitchen. She is going to get that kitchen. She deserves it and so much more.”
105 N Laurel St, Springfield, GA 31329