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170 CSD


customer pass muster with each other, De Zinna helps them sketch out a budget and realis- tic expectations. Then he tells them that he manages every job personally, so if anything goes wrong, the customer knows whom to blame. You want to make changes midway through the project? No problem, says De Zinna. If it’s small, he won’t bother nickel and diming you. If it’s signifi- cant, he’ll show you the added cost and let you decide. In fact, De Zinna shows his customers all his invoices, including the 20 percent for his labor. “My clients always know they’re getting their money’s worth,” he says.


“John is constantly trying to


do the right thing,” says Gary Light, whose home is being built by Coastal Cottages in the Darrell Creek development in North Mount Pleasant. That house—with an in-law apart- ment downstairs, main living quarters upstairs and three dying oak trees complicating the permitting process—has presented an endless number of challenges. But Light says De Zinna has kept him in the loop and provided solutions every step of the way.


Customers know early in the building process that they are in for a different experience. De Zinna doesn’t take deposits for houses. Instead, he bills clients as he goes, which means they only pay for work that has


already been done. That keeps thousands of dollars in clients’ pockets during the months-long pre-construction phase. De Zinna was running a land-


scape architectural firm when Hurricane Hugo walloped the South Carolina coast in 1989. He and his wife, Heidi, the com- pany’s office manager, relocated here to help residents get back into their damaged homes. He’s built all kinds of houses since then—31 of them in Nelliefield Plantation off Clements Ferry Road. But he likes custom builds best because of the deep and abiding relationships he forges with clients.


De Zinna says he’ll only build five houses a year. Beyond that, he would be diluting his


attention to each project—and to each customer. There is one moment in the building process when De Zinna suddenly turns mysterious and opaque in his communication. “I don’t like the homeowner to come in the last two weeks of the build,” he admits. “I like to show them the finished product and present the keys to them when we’re done. That’s my satisfaction.” 2


COASTAL COTTAGES 449 Deanna Lane Charleston, SC 29492 843-296-9427


coastalcottagesofsc.com


Barry Waldman is principal of Big Fly Communications, a public relations and marketing firm for small businesses and nonprofits.


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