An Interview with Dick Breaux, Founder of PCH
San Carlos, January 2017 – Founded in 1978 by Dick Breaux, Peninsula Custom Homes has earned the distinguished reputation as a premier custom residential builder in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dick’s passion, business acumen and integrity have always been the driving forces behind the company. Now, in our fourth decade of business, and under the ownership of Bryan Murphy, PCH has continued the tradition of excellence that Dick instilled and continues to build some of California’s most defining homes. Whether PCH is building a 20,000 square foot Mediterranean estate in Atherton or remodeling a 5,000 square foot modern home in San Francisco, the same thoughtful approach and detail is brought to all of the projects. The company has built a legacy of custom homes in varying styles and the approach to all projects relies on collaboration, unsurpassed quality and attention to detail.
WOULD YOU SHARE A BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?
I was born and raised in the Midwest, coming to San Francisco when I was 17. I attended UC Santa Barbara as an undergraduate and Stanford as a graduate, where I earned a Masters’ Degree and Teaching Credential. I taught English and coached football for nine years before leaving to establish Peninsula Custom Homes.
WHAT WAS YOUR PATH TO STARTING THE COMPANY? HOW DID YOU MAKE IT HAPPEN AND THRIVE?
I was displeased with the way the profession of Education compensated its teachers. Pay was based strictly upon seniority and the number of post-graduate units one accumulated. Excellence was never a factor in determining compensation. I left teaching and built two speculative homes in Hillsborough with the assistance of Paul Kohlbry, officially PCH’s first employee. Fear of failure is a great motivator! I had a wife and three young children; I simply couldn’t afford to fail. The thriving was the result of our many excellent employees, some of whom still work for PCH.
WHEN ADDRESSING A PROJECT, WHAT DID YOU STRIVE TO ACHIEVE THE MOST?
Excellent quality…no matter what. Client satisfaction nearly always followed.
AS A BUSINESS OWNER OF MANY YEARS, WOULD YOU OFFER SOME INSIGHT INTO THE BENEFITS AND CHALLENGES THAT CAME WITH THAT ROLE?
The challenges are many, of course. In the early days, having enough cash on hand to meet a weekly payroll was quite challenging. As we grew into a more substantial company, taking good care of employees and their families was very important…sometimes challenging but always a priority.
I have often felt that an enormous benefit that came with this job was the ability to interact with people of excellence from all walks of life: a mason who is every bit as good at his/her job as the world-renown executive, movie star or athlete in whose project we might be engaged at the time, or a finish carpenter, superintendent or office executive showing off as much skill as anyone for whom we ever worked.
WHAT IS THE SECRET TO PCH’S SUCCESS?
Its employees who buy into the quality-at-all costs philosophy. Whether or not we felt that we were being treated with fairness and/or respect, we always produced the best quality of which we were capable. We never lowered that bar.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
You’re never as good as you appear when things are going your way and business is thriving, nor are you as bad as you feel when times are tough. Basically, get over yourself and keep doing your work!
WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD CLIENTS ASK POTENTIAL CONTRACTORS WHEN INTERVIEWING THEM TO BUILD THEIR CUSTOM DREAM HOME?
Once a potential client has established the fact that you’re capable of doing their project, they should always ask “How do I know I can trust you with $10,000,000 (or whatever the number might be)?” or “How many projects have you started in your career but walked away from before they were complete?”
HOW ARE YOU ENJOYING RETIREMENT?
Immensely. When I left teaching, I never looked back. When I left PCH, I moved ahead full bore into my next ventures, whatever they were to be. I’m very active with UC Santa Barbara, where I will be their next Chairman of the Board of Trustees, a job with huge responsibilities, prestige and demands. Unfortunately, it pays exactly the same as retirement!
Ocean Beach San Francisco, October 2016 – Northern California’s largest sandcastle building event was another big success this year. The Leap Sandcastle Contest, which has been going on for 34 years now, is a spirited competition between teams of architects, contractors, designers, engineers and local elementary school students.
Leap was established in 1979 in response to severe budget cuts in arts programs in California schools. These cuts continue to affect arts education in our schools today. Leap’s programs place professional teaching artists in classrooms to work with grades K-8. Every year, these educational programs – in music, dance, theatre, creative writing, visual arts, and architecture – serve over 7,000 students in more than 40 elementary and middle schools throughout the Bay Area.
For more information on Leap, please visit http://www.leaparts.org/.
Additional photos below:
2017 – Castles, Castles, Castles!
2016 – Makers & Movers
2015 – Sand Cinema
2014 – Food, Glorious Food
2013 – Masterpieces in the Sand
HERE’S TO BUILDING BRILLIANTLY FOR 40 YEARS!
When PCH was founded back in 1978, the average cost of a gallon of gas was $0.63, the Illinois Bell Company introduced the first ever-cellular mobile phone system, and the most popular films were Grease and Saturday Night Fever. Our deals back then were based on handshakes and we were only as good as our word.
Over the past 40 years, we worked long and hard to grow our business and build our reputation, and today, PCH is synonymous with quality, trust, and a commitment to excellence. The over 200 California homes we’ve built say it all. It’s been an amazing, transformative, and awe-inspiring journey, and we thank all our clients for being a part of our success. We can’t wait to see what the next 40 years has in store.
THE PCH LOGO – THEN AND NOW
Dick Breaux, the founder of PCH, embarked on a new business venture of building speculative homes while he was still an English teacher. When he needed design help, he reached out to a student, who crafted the first two logos. Since then, our logo has evolved along with many other things. Peninsula Custom Homes Incorporated is now known to many as PCH, spec homes for PCH are a thing of the past, and our logos are now designed by a professional advertising and creative branding company. While we’ve retained our vision of building the best and most beautiful homes, we’ve changed our look to reflect modern trends and best practices.
Foster City, May 2012 — This spring, President Barack Obama and Republican Party presidential candidate Mitt Romney, each held events for their supporters in Northern California. Despite well-publicized differences on matters political and philosophical, they did agree on one important issue: the ideal place to gather supporters in Northern California is in a distinctive Peninsula Custom Home.
Republican Party candidate, Governor Mitt Romney, held his campaign fundraising event on May 30th at the historic Carolands Mansion in Hillsborough. The Carolands Mansion was fully renovated by PCH, with work completed in 2002.
Democratic Party candidate, President Barack Obama held his campaign fundraising event on May 23rd at an Atherton home. This original construction was completed by PCH in 2001.
Peninsula Custom Homes is honored that the country’s most prominent dignitaries have recognized our work. After more than thirty years of dedication to every detail and every client, we are humbled and gratified to receive these sweeping endorsements.
Rebuilding Together Peninsula (RTP) was founded in 1989 to take on the challenge of helping people receive needed home repairs and enhancements to improve health, safety, and well-being. RTP’s mission is to rehabilitate homes and community facilities for low-income homeowners and neighbors, such as seniors, people with disabilities, and families, so that they can live independently in warmth and safety.
PCH participates in both the Dreams Happen and National Rebuilding Together Day events to help those in need in our community.
This biennial fundraising event pairs local architects with builders to create unique, elaborately designed life-sized children’s playhouses. Playhouses are auctioned at the Dreams Happen Gala and all proceeds benefit Rebuilding Together Peninsula.
2015 – Backyard Beta Box
This year, the Dreams Happen fundraiser and gala helped raise more than $450,000 for Rebuilding Together Peninsula. We partnered with Arcanum Architecture who designed the Backyard Beta Box, for us to build. It has some really fun features including hanging stairs, a metal slide and even a detachable climbing wall.
YouTube video showing Backyard Beta Box:
Bay Area Parent Magazine article on Dreams Happen:
2013 – Ohana Hale
The island-inspired playhouse, built in 2013, was designed by Cara Kuroda Design and called Ohana Hale. The playhouse featured a tiny porch, a custom interior sea-life mural and a slide.
Houzz article showing all the 2013 playhouses:
To learn more about Dreams Happen, visit:
National Rebuilding Day
Each year in April, National Rebuilding Together Day unites the largest nationwide group of volunteers to rehabilitate homes, community facilities and revitalize Peninsula communities. Every year, some 3,000 volunteers help repair homes for more than 300 individuals throughout the Peninsula. The mission is simple: ensure that everyone has a safe, healthy and comfortable home.
To learn more about Rebuilding Together Peninsula, visit:
We work hard at PCH to leave every client completely satisfied with both the product and the service that we have to offer. We are passionate about what we do and this translates into the best work we can do on every project. With that same dedication, we are committed to supporting the communities in which we live and work. Some of the important organizations that we support include: