From the Ground Up: How Bruce Cromie crafted his thriving custom home building business
After 26 years’ experience in custom home building and involvement in the construction of hundreds of homes and renovations, Bruce Cromie still takes a look at the very first house he built whenever he drives by Wasaga Beach. Bought as just a foundation from a bankruptcy sale, the house represents a turning point in Cromie’s career, when he went from sales to building and never looked back.
Born and raised in Mississauga, Cromie was drawn to Sheridan for the practical nature of its business program and professors, such as Victoria Digby, who had real-life experience in the working world. “The whole marketing and sales component of the program was really good — it taught me to understand the sales person and life in general,” he says. “I learned skills there that are still invaluable every day.”
Upon graduation in 1990, Cromie took sales positions at 3M and a packaging company — but it wasn’t until a summer job in 1992 that he found his true calling. “I took a job for that summer with a buddy framing houses to figure out what I truly wanted. And I loved the sense of satisfaction from building houses when I looked at what I’d done during the day, but I realized at the same time that I couldn’t do this for the rest of my life for physical and financial reasons,” he says. “And I saw the builder pulling up to the site and I thought, ‘That’s the job I want.’ So I did everything I could to get to that stage, learning the construction business and renovations as quickly as possible.”
When the space for that first house build in Wasaga Beach came available, Cromie borrowed what he could and spent everything he earned during the week on his newfound interest, working 18 hour days in his free time. He and a business partner spent their weekends on construction; a project that was unexpectedly disrupted by his partner passing away from mid-way through its completion. “I had to learn everything associated with it, and learn it fast,” he says. “That’s what we called the school of hard knocks, and it really escalated my learning curve.”
In 1994, Cromie started a renovation and deck business running a dozen crews from Barrie to Lake Ontario, providing support for Enbridge and Home Depot. After a time, he focused solely on homebuilding and today, Woodcastle Homes builds eight to 12 high-end homes a year across Ontario. The company has been recognized with industry accolades and is a long standing member of groups such as the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).
Today, Cromie’s still building what he cherishes, brick by brick. His latest passion project is a subdivision of luxury townhomes in Niagara, with 60 houses and a $35 million budget. “It’s a whole other level — a new and exciting direction for me and the company, as well as a personal interest,” he says. “After all this time, I still love every new job we start.”