The name of Epcon Communities neatly sums up its purpose: community. Epcon is more than a housebuilder; the company is focused on creating liveable neighborhoods and providing dynamic experiences that are popular with buyers over the age of 55.
As vice president of construction for Epcon Communities, Stew Walker manages the construction teams that are helping the organization expand into new markets. They’re doing so by replicating a unique methodology that Walker and his colleagues have created and perfected over many years.
Walker grew up in a small farming community near Columbus, Ohio. Although he studied communications at Ohio University, summers spent helping grounds crews prepare for the annual state fair sparked his interest in construction.
Family tradition played a part, too. His grandfather owned a lumber company and built the house that Walker grew up in. His father was a banker who financed some of the area’s well-known developers during the 1970s and 1980s. None of them were surprised when Walker graduated and started his career as a superintendent with Dublin, Ohio’s Dominion Homes.
A tenure that lasted more than 12 years took Walker into the role of director of construction, as he helped Dominion grow its volumes from approximately 300 per year in 1993 to more than 700 per year in 2005. Along the way, he implemented process improvements to handle the uptick. “Handling high volumes as a builder forces you to learn time management and organizational skills that eventually become second nature in all you do,” he says.
By 2005, Dominion had gone public and Walker was ready for a change. He joined Epcon when the organization was hoping to grow its footprint and expand its unique Epcon Communities Franchising division. Walker was then responsible for construction in Central Ohio, but soon, Epcon asked him to take on a new task and find ways to open new markets.
The company bought three plots in the Carolinas to establish a new presence. Walker flew to the regions, rented hotel conference rooms, and interviewed and hired project managers, sales teams, and contractors for large-scale communities in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Charleston. Epcon did something else new—its teams moved away from multifamily units and introduced standalone homes with zero lot lines and private outdoor courtyards.
After contributing to a decade of growth at Epcon, Walker decided to start his own business in 2016. He contracted with Lowe’s stores through his company, Renovara, to install kitchens and baths. In less than six months, Walker expanded to cover numerous stores across Central Ohio, but in 2018, the big-box retailer ended the program that had kept him in business.
In 2021, after navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, Walker decided to return “home” by taking on his current role at Epcon Communities. His stint away from the company gave him a fresh perspective.
“Running your own business gives you a crash course in all the things you don’t see when you’re directing or managing a single phase,” he says. “I feel like I went and got my PhD and then came back to my job.” The experience made Walker a more complete professional and a more well-rounded leader for Epcon.
Today, the company is more regional than the local one Walker left. In addition to maintaining and staffing its markets in Charlotte and Raleigh, Epcon opened with a similar strategy in Indianapolis in 2022 and has plans to establish itself in Atlanta and Nashville.
Walker says the success has come as Epcon has delivered lifestyle communities and created an experience for active adults. “We’re not building homes for first-time buyers, we are developing neighborhoods for empty-nesters and others who appreciate customization and a simple process with a built-in community,” he explains.
More than 35,000 people now live in these homeowners-association-maintained communities built by Epcon and its franchise builders. The model puts buyers into luxurious homes and connects them with amenities like fitness facilities, bocce and pickleball courts, clubhouses, and area attractions.
Epcon Communities Franchising has grown in lockstep with the overall company. Walker and his colleagues have offered this business opportunity to targeted smaller builders looking to add to their existing portfolios as customer expectations and industry norms shift in a post-pandemic world.
As a result, Epcon Communities is now known and respected as one of the leading 55-plus developers in the nation. Walker and his colleagues are continuing to innovate and deliver the homes, neighborhoods, and experiences that have defined the company since it got started nearly 40 years ago.
At Signature Cabinetry, we always emphasize attractive yet functional designs using custom, semi-custom, or standard cabinetry. We invite you, your builder, designer, or remodeling contractor to meet with a design team in our showroom to begin your project. We congratulate Epcon Communities and Stew Walker for their recognition in American Builders Quarterly and look forward to our continued partnership!