A Future Built on the Past
A family business with longtime local roots continues to grow and expand
By Hollie Deese
Photography by Sam Calderon
When Ted Bertuca Jr. talks about success, business is definitely part of the equation. But he looks more to other things that he hopes to leave behind as bigger examples of a successful legacy.
For him, success means being the man his grandkids and nieces and nephews come to with any problem because they feel safe in his guidance and care. It means building homes that will usher families through good times and bad. And it means handing down a business that does honor to his family name to the next generation.
His father started his love of work and family with his development business started in 1970, primarily investing in McDonald’s franchises. At one point they owned more than 30, and they had 23 in their possession when they sold. Today, Bertuca Hospitality Group’s involvement in restaurants revolves around Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse and Raw Bar, Doc’s Bourbon Room in Louisville and a new property in Florida.
Originally a mortgage broker, Bertuca started flipping homes in 2007 in Florida where he lived. He moved back to Middle Tennessee to help with his dad’s restaurant portfolio.
“But I always had construction and development in my blood,” he says. “I love working with older homes, and so I started flipping homes — just three or four a year because I still had the McDonald’s stores at the time.”
Bertuca met Claudia Tejeda when she was working at one of his restaurants, and they ultimately became a husband-wife team as well as a professional one. She helped tackle some major design decisions on restaurant renovations as a marketing director at McDonald’s, and then she stepped in to help flip homes.
Claudia had moved to Nashville in 2002 from Guatemala when she was 14 with the intent to go back home after high school. The middle of three girls, she and her younger sister came to the U.S. together to join their father while their mother and older sister remained — their sister to finish medical school and their mom to continue her work as a teacher.
“It was a huge commitment, a huge transition,” she says. “It’s a huge transition, and it’s just hard whatever comes with that age. I pretty much became like a mom and a wife, taking care of a house and my younger sister. But I always said, ‘God knows the plan.’”
It wasn’t long before her mom retired and joined the family in Nashville. Her younger sister stayed, too, and now lives minutes from Claudia. Even her older sister lives here now. (Her father died five years ago from Alzheimer’s.)
“My dad was always like looking into our future, always looking at what was next — the bigger picture,” Claudia says. “And I still carry that, his work ethic. That if you are going to do something, do it better. So me and my sisters try to go above and beyond just like he did.”
That translates into the Bertuca family adopting other families in the community during the holiday season, delivering gifts and serving meals, and now organizing a company-wide furniture donation effort for families.
“My dad grew up having nothing, but if he only had one sweater, he would give you that one sweater if you didn’t have one,” she says. At his funeral she was approached by person after person with stories about her father’s generosity, including a single mom he was able to provide with a car.
Keeping house early had gotten Claudia interested in design.
“I remember growing up, and I would be the one decorating my mom’s house,” she laughs. “Sometimes she would be at work, and when she came home her whole living room would be rearranged.”
She worked in restaurants from a young age, and after she met Bertuca she felt like her love of design and creativity was appreciated and given space to grow. After helping him on a number of restaurant renovations and investment properties, Claudia Bertuca Designs has evolved and grown from word of mouth and partnerships with BMK Building.
“I love the way we’re going and what has happened,” she says. “Remodeling homes, it’s like my passion. It was, even when we had the restaurants and I was remodeling on the side.”
After Ted sold the franchises, he and Claudia have been able to focus on the kinds of builds they want to leave behind in the community, and they renovate historic homes in a way that honors the families they have served — and honors the family business they are growing together.
“It reminds me of my dad, working together as a family and having a family business,” Claudia says. “That’s very important to me. We love taking our time with our clients, understanding them, their needs. And when I meet with them, I put myself in their position, just to feel that connection. They work hard to have what they have, and they want a beautiful home. We’re more about quality than quantity,” she says. “The beauty of our team is that everybody has that passion. We know what we want, and we’re on the same page.”
It is her compassion for people and design mixed with his love of family and community that make the perfect base for a family dream to grow and thrive.
“Early on, I was all about business,” Bertuca says. “But Claudia’s changed me more into the person I am today. She’s taught me a lot about family core values.”
That is evident in another branch of the business: BMK Building Group, headed up by Logan King on the construction side. King grew up in construction in North Georgia; his dad was a general contractor who built custom homes.
He met Bertuca’s daughter in high school and moved to the area to work in real estate after they got married. He did some small development deals, and he decided that if he was going to be in construction he didn’t want to be working for another company.
“I’d grown up in it, and so I had a pretty good understanding of it,” he says. “I just wanted to be able to run the projects myself.”
So he did something many people would find even harder — working with his father-in-law.
“Obviously, it’s family. And everybody says family’s hard to work with, but our relationship was great prior, and it’s just gotten better ever since,” King says.
BMK has two sides of the construction business: custom work for private clients, and bigger projects where they act as investors. The custom work could be new buildd or renovations, with historic projects being one of their specialties.
“We’ve got homes in Florida that we’re getting started on currently, and some homes in Wilson County as well as a commercial project,” he says. And that is in addition to local residential projects.
“A lot of Nashvillians are buying their secondary homes in Florida markets right now, and we definitely want to try to better the communities that we go in. We’re not trying to go in and do cheap work that’s not going to hold up. What we’re trying to do is make something that’s going to last for years to come.”
Slowly his team brought in Claudia to help with design and finishes, working with the custom clientele and then adding on the design work for the investment properties.
“I work very hands on with Claudia daily on a lot of different aspects of these homes, and it’s kind of a rare commodity when you get a woman in the construction world overseeing projects and helping do that too. She’s done a great job managing that for us,” King says.
Ultimately the partnership at work means more to all of them because they know they are working toward something bigger for their whole family that will last for generations, whether it is the work they leave behind or their good name and family values.
“When I created this business, I just wanted to stay busy after I sold the restaurants, but that’s when Logan and Nikki said they wanted to move up here. And obviously, I wanted to provide something for them other than them going to work for somebody else,” Bertuca says. “I like the freedom — it allows Logan to go see his daughter in the school play. He doesn’t have to ask anybody. He just goes. And if you work for the man, so to speak, you don’t get that option sometimes, so you are going to miss a lot.”
Other than the freedom a family business allows all of them, Bertuca loves that he is getting to know everyone even better. It’s something his dad instilled in him as he founded what Ted has taken over.
“I’ve known Logan since he was a teenager, but I have just gotten to know him better and develop that family core,” he says. “It’s just all about family and being together and being able to depend and trust on each other. I hope that we’re building generations of great people working together and bringing people together.”