The Story of CG&S Design-Build

This is the story of CG&S Design-Build, founded by Stella and Clarence Guerrero in 1957. It wasn’t easy trying to start a company while raising eight kids, but Stella and Clarence’s commitment to their family and business made for long-term success that would eventually become a foundation for their children to build on. We invite you to watch the first chapter of this three-part series, which shares our history and how it intersects with Austin, the city we call home. Music graciously provided by UK improvisational pianist Silvertortoise. Additional thanks to our editor Ted Powers and sound/camera consultant Jason Gamble Harter.

By the late 80s, Clarence and Stella were ready to phase out and impart their company to the next generation. With new leadership at the helm, a new and creative vision of what CG&S could be took shape. We invite you to watch the second chapter of this three-part series, which shares our history and how it intersects with Austin, the city we call home.

Today, CG&S is changing rapidly, but the core values of family, integrity, teamwork and love still guide us. Please watch the final installment of our three-part series, which shows you how we make it work and build to last.

Celebrating 60 Years

CG&S Embarks On Documentary Series Project

by Ann Chen

Clarence Stella Fireplace

History is a story, and, as with any story, there are multiple versions.

For us, CG&S’ 60+ year history is many things at once. It's the story of Clarence and Stella Guerrero, who founded the company in 1957 without much of a plan, but with carpentry skill and business acumen that allowed them to succeed and support a growing family. It’s that of the Guerrero children who grew up watching their parents run the business—of the eight, four would end up leading CG&S at different points. It’s also the story of our employees, vendors, clients and friends, without which we would not have made it to today.

Nineties CG&S Group

I’ve been reflecting on these things because we’ve been working for the past few months on a short documentary series that celebrates and records some of this history. Each part of the series will look at a different era in the CG&S lifespan: the foundational years when we were a mom and pop remodeling business; a younger generation’s re-envisioning of the company as a design-build firm; and, of course, our company today—what we’re doing and what we look forward to in the future.

CG&S Team

The documentary team is, left to right, Marc Clapp, Ann Chen, & Iris Davis-Quick. Ted Powers is our editor, & Jason Harter our technical consultant (not pictured).

Vintage Family Photo
Stewart Dolores

As I’ve worked on this series, I’ve learned that everything we do is embedded in the lives and decisions of individuals. For Stella and Clarence, starting a business was about being able to work for themselves and provide for their burgeoning family. The expansion of our services to include design hinged on Dolores (Clarence and Stella’s daughter) marrying Stewart Davis (an architect), whose potential value to CG&S was recognized by John Guerrero (Dolores’ brother and General Manager at the time). Each project we do today centers around particular families and people, each of whom have design and construction needs specific to their homes and lived realities.

Multiple Documentary Interviews

That is to say, history is built out of people’s lives.

It is an accrual of lived moments, even when it is daunting, momentous and dramatic. Life is all of those things, even when it’s the life of a remodeling project, or that of a company.

CG&S Filming

Shooting locations, the adventure of documentary photography!

CG&S Interview Stories

Why do we tell stories? I would say to make sense of our multifaceted experiences and give meaning to them. That is why I think this documentary is important. We’re making sense of something complicated and telling a kind of history that people might not think about—the kind that doesn’t usually make headlines, but which is real and has affected people’s lives in important ways.

Vintage Photo of Runners

It is a remarkable company that understands the value of that and chooses to honor it, and I’ve learned that valuing the lived experience of everyone we work with is just part of the culture here. We’ve changed a lot in 63 years, but, in that way, we’re the same.

Ann Films Cows

Building A Documentary

Reflections On Part II

By Ann Chen

When I pitched the idea to make a documentary series about CG&S’ 60-year history, I was taking a chance. I had worked on documentaries before as a production assistant and writer, and I knew all the steps to go through; but I had never tried to put a documentary together from start to finish. I would need to figure out how to use the camera equipment and editing software, how to set up a shoot, how to make a budget. It would be built from the ground up.

Iris Marc East 5Th

Thankfully, I wasn’t alone. I had collaboration and support from a passionate co-director, Marketing Director Iris Davis-Quick, and an enthusiastic film buff turned intern, Marc Clapp. Together, we navigated the (for us) relatively uncharted waters of video production.

Austin History Center
Stewart Pre Interview

What did this involve? For one thing, research.

To tell the company’s history, we had to first learn for ourselves what it was. We began by filming pre-interviews on a cheap digital camera. This was the documentary equivalent of recon—taking stock, asking questions to find out what people had experienced and, from that, what we wanted to keep or explore further. Concurrently, we researched what we would need to create a small studio to shoot the interviews in; we bought a new camera and lens; and we looked into licensing for the software. Everything was happening at once.

Reviewing Rough Cut

As we worked through the pre-interviews, and then the real interviews, a story emerged. The story was one of unconditional commitment and tenacity, what made it possible for Clarence and Stella Guerrero to start their company at a time when anti-latinx prejudice was still widespread. It was a story of generation building on generation—each working with inherited skills, resources and experience to create something new, ambitious and visionary in its own right.

I found my own experience was beginning to mirror what I was uncovering in the interviews: just as we were trying imperfectly to make something we had never attempted before, every generation of this company has had to figure it out, has had to build something from scratch with whatever they had. And—as with the documentary—realizing those ambitions was always more complicated than expected. Risk reared its head at every stage; mistakes and miscalculations were made; dysfunctional communication had to be recognized and worked on. Success only came once painful experience revealed what to look out for.

Script Edits

We constructed the script by transcribing all the interviews and then editing the pieces together to form the story we wanted to tell.

90S Core

Yet no one was doing it alone.

We found that CG&S’ success was interconnected, the composite of many people’s ideas and labor. Designers, estimators, project consultants, office staff and project managers all played a part in the success of the whole, making improvements or developing new systems that allowed for growth. As CG&S expanded to include new team members with different skills and work styles, people within the company had to learn how to better listen to and support each other. Ultimately, our company has survived the ups and downs for 60 years because the people in it have been able to adapt and evolve.

Ann Truck Bed

As we entered post production and began to edit the film down to the most fundamental elements, it became clear that life would always have to be more complicated than its representation. I had to let go of certain parts of the story I loved in order to create something shorter than 20 minutes (our goal was 10). I found myself wondering, “What is the most important thing? What are we trying to say?”

The answer is not a statement, it's a feeling.

I hope that people feel and understand that so much was done out of love and a desire to stay true to where the company came from without circumventing what it could be. Though the ways and means to that were sometimes in dispute, I know the voices that disagreed also came together because they believed that CG&S could be bigger and better than it was. Everyone who developed the company felt and understood that they were part of something greater than their individual contribution, and that their role was important for sustaining the people they loved.

As we near the end of this experience, I have to think differently about the story. We are no longer telling history, because, with our final installment, we must explore the company as it currently is and what it may become. As we start the interview process one last time, I’m aware that I am not the architect of this company’s future, even if I am trying to shape its narrative. Rather, I plan to draw from the voices of our current members, the friends and coworkers who have become my own, to articulate a vision for us all. I couldn’t have done this documentary alone. Whatever comes in the future, I know we’ll do it together.

The Making Of

In which filmmakers Ann Chen & Iris Davis-Quick reflect on the making of the CG&S documentary as well as giggle a whole lot:

Close up of colorful fabric and succulent

A Final Note

CG&S 60th Anniversary Party

To cap off our 60th Anniversary celebrations, we threw a party for former and current clients, family, and colleagues at the South Congress Hotel. The gathering took place on a cool evening under powdery blue skies that faded to a gentle dusk. The atmosphere was convivial. Glasses clinked, guests’ talk rippled through the courtyard. It was a pleasure to see so many people from the past—different micro eras of the company’s history—gathered together in one place and making new connections in the present. The party was a celebration of everything that has transpired, but also everything to come in the future.

You can view the full set of party images here

All photography by Annie Ray

Close Up of Home Succulents
Iris Davis-Quick

Marketing Director Iris Davis-Quick organized the night's proceedings

CG&S Event

Ryan Davis, Ann Chen, and Marsha Topham. Ann co-directed the 3-part documentary series

CG&S Event

former clients

CG&S Event

former clients

CG&S Event

former clients

CG&S Event
CG&S Event

Our good friend and longtime collaborator Michael Mack with his wife Pamela. Michael has been our main contact at McCarthy Press for over a decade. McCarthy prints all of our print materials.

CG&S Event
CG&S Event

Founders Clarence & Stella Guerrero with a declaration from the Texas State House

CG&S Event

The Guerrero family in 2017—what a trip!