Castlerock is a homegrown, family-owned and operated business that specializes in construction of luxury, custom-designed residences. Founded in 1991, owner and President Gretchen Yahn is proud of her company’s small but versatile team that has the ability to work throughout the nation and has fostered a niche serving the areas of Loudoun, Rappahannock, and Fauquier counties.

A Brief History

Gretchen got her start in the industry in 1988, after graduating with a B.A. in Structural Engineering from the University of Florida. While still in school, Gretchen cut her teeth in the construction business at McDevitt & Street in Atlanta, Georgia, where she worked as a project manager intern. Following graduation, Gretchen moved to Washington, DC to become a senior project manager for Omni Construction (now Clark Construction), working on renowned projects such as The Crowne Plaza Hotel at Metro Center, the Compri Hotel in Crystal City and the lauded Reston Town Center.

With Omni, Gretchen gained steady experience on large commercial projects and built the skills and confidence she needed in order to enter the high-end custom home business.

Castlerock Today

With the desire to start her own venture, Gretchen founded Castlerock to focus on top-quality residences in the beautiful Virginia countryside.  “We’ll build on any lot or acreage within a 125-mile radius outside Washington D.C,” explains Gretchen of the company’s footprint.  With its corporate headquarters and main office in Hume, Virginia, Castlerock recently opened its development arm as a satellite division in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Gretchen and her three full-time employees have together been responsible for building annual revenue that now reaches towards an impressive $8.5 million.

The company is currently expanding its design build capabilities to include construction management division that will provide every step of the construction process anywhere in the world.  From land procurement and pre-construction analysis to construction budgeting, interior finish selections, construction documents, interior design and decorating, and exterior landscape design, among other services.

In addition, despite their small size, the company has a subsidiary division known as Turning Leaf. Gretchen began Turning Leaf to complete renovations in response to increasing demand from people who want to stay in homes that they are currently unable to sell, but who want to do renovations in order to increase the value of their homes.

Turning Leaf has done a lot of work involving kitchen and bath designs.  “No one is going anywhere in the current market,” Gretchen says, so she smartly arranged her business to take advantage of the upsurge in demand for renovations. Turning Leaf manages handy-man renovations for luxury construction projects anywhere in the country.

The design management arm of Castlerock is called Middleburg Design Company (MDC) which operates as a full-service design management firm in both Middleburg and Charlottesville, Virginia.  MDC is also a “one-stop source” for Northern Virginia, Maryland, and DC residents to share design ideas.

On The Inside

Castlerock’s employees are loyal and hardworking, but given the small size of the team, much of the work that Castlerock takes on is completed by sub-vendors. The company holds trim carpentry in house, but subs out about 80 percent of the trades on a given project. The relationships with suppliers and vendors are therefore crucial to the success of the business.   Gretchen has developed solid relationships with the people involved in her supply chain who understand the importance of their work to the reputation of Castlerock. As Gretchen notes, “in commercial development, the most important thing is time. To consumers buying a new home, it’s quality.”

Balancing these two aspects of the business is something at which she excels: “I was tired of sacrificing quality, and I’m not writing the interest-carry checks as a big developer.  Since I started my own business, my annual volume has almost doubled every year. I build about five homes per year.”   Castlerock homes are known for their impeccable quality, with custom finishes—dream homes, in other words, where every detail matters.

Recent news at Castlerock includes the undertaking of the company’s first LEED certified project, and an overarching commitment to other environmental initiatives. Gretchen says that her company is doing extensive research on efficiency programs and also is installing upgraded doors and windows that allow for greater effectiveness in heating and cooling systems and savings in energy costs.

Castlerock is also looking into new insulation practices and considering factors such as staggering exterior studs so that there is no thermal conductivity across planes.  The company is also contemplating the orientation of residences so that features like decks and overhangs make use of crosswinds and optimal sunlight. Castlerock is also looking at HVAC systems with geo thermal and solar and tie-ins for hot water heaters and radiant heating systems.

Castlerock is currently in the preconstruction stages for a LEED project that is set to feature a contemporary geothermal system, and may also include a solar panel installation that would allow the project to earn a Platinum rating, the highest possible designation from the US Green Building Council.

Other recent projects of particular note for Castlerock include an $8 million residence and Equon facility in Southwest Virginia that Gretchen and her team completed in a mere 14 months, and a guest compound in Delaplane, Virginia. Gretchen has also recently completed a noteworthy renovation project that the company took on in Wytheville, Virginia, which was comprised of a large commercial arena and barn plus a main residence on 400 plus acres.

Gretchen looks forward to remaining strong and steady for the next few years, with some consideration to rolling out other divisions within the company that don’t require additional growth. Gretchen plans to use the down time in the economy to focus on networking with vendors and real estate agents, but anticipates that the next few years will still be strong for Castlerock.

Gretchen attributes her success to hard work, and communication. She notes that it’s important to “come to table with lots of knowledge [and to then] try to use that to get to a clear and defined message for clients.” And of her unique role as a female leader in the construction business, she merely says: “This is a great field … I find it one of the most rewarding things in the world that people are living in things I am building and creating. People have a huge respect for [the building business]. You just have to love to build, and I do.”