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Charco Construction has designs on strong future for new venture

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In 2011, Charco Construction Co. Inc. founder and President Chuck Swimmer gave a valued employee the freedom to create a parallel company based on the same ethic but a different focus.

For Armando Flores, the employee whose hands Swimmer left this second venture in, that focus is clear: It's all about the love of lines.

“I like the design aspect of it, you know — creating the spaces,” Flores said. “It's just being proud of something you designed.”

Many clients turning to Charco in recent years have seen the eyes and mind of Flores at work in his remodels.

But with the recent creation of Charco Design & Build Inc., Flores — Charco Design & Build's owner — now has a dedicated avenue through which to siphon his visions and his love of elegant architecture. Despite having a flair for the fancy, Flores isn’t one to turn down smaller projects when they fall in his area of expertise, and he appears to have a knack for creating something big from modest beginnings.

“This type of work is not something that one day after another you decide to do just high-end jobs,” Flores said. “It takes a lot of patience.”

It can also take a lot of time. In describing the relationships he's built through the years with his clients, he recalled the times when he was on certain jobs for months, and how it’s impossible to not develop a close bond with his clients when he sees them day after day, as he would his own family.

Swimmer began Charco in 1966 as a home remodeler. As time passed, the company's reputation grew, as did its list of customers and scope of work. He expanded the business to build apartment homes, industrial office buildings, condominiums, storage facilities and other commercial projects. In time, Charco became the largest new-construction builder in the Imperial Valley.

When he returned his focus to greater San Diego, Swimmer took the business in the direction of also building large custom homes as well as commercial properties. It was during that time, in 1997, that Flores entered the scene. With Flores' marriage to Swimmer’s daughter, Rachel, a working relationship was born between the two men.

Armando Flores is Charco Design & Build's owner. Staff photo: Sarah Strong

“I was fortunate that my daughter and Armando got together, and that Armando, who had a good history and background in the business, has joined me for the last 15 years,” Swimmer said.

Flores started out in familiar territory with Charco, bringing his previous experience in sales from his time with Mega Builders in Los Angeles to Swimmer in San Diego.

A 1989 graduate of Platt College with a degree in architectural design, Flores added to his game by also taking classes online in interior design.

It's Flores’ ability to meld his architectural knowledge with his grasp of interior design and innate vision that sets Flores apart from the rest in the remodeling world, Swimmer said.

“Most contractors, they can't do this,” Swimmer said. “This is like artwork.”

Even though he has a core group of associates and interior designers around town that he turns to regularly as projects roll in, being a company owner doesn't keep Flores from pouring himself into each project undertaken.

He takes pride in being a part of the process, and says that designing something that fits the budget of the client while achieving what the client wants is of the utmost importance.

Flipping through the pages of Flores' recent remodels lays that passion out on the table for the viewer.

One client, whose remodel consisted of razing a Point Loma oceanfront home and replacing it with Flores' design, had Flores design for him an artistic combination of changes that included a bamboo stairway free of supports, a barrel-vault ceiling, a shower with multi-directional sprayers and what ended up as a melding of two ideas for the kitchen, since the client couldn’t choose one over the other.

Charco Design & Build Inc., a distinct entity from Charco Construction despite the collaboration between the two, first opened shop in early 2012 after Flores qualified for his general contractor's license.

Securing his license set the stage for what Flores hopes will be a lifelong venture, and for the handing over of reins from one generation of architect to the next.

“Nobody has the energy to do it forever,” Swimmer said, “so I just decided that I was going to shift gears a little bit and let Armando, who I think has great capacity to assume the good name of Charco, accomplish at a level higher than I did.”

It's the type of thing that Flores specializes in — expanding creations into seemingly different dimensions. Only now he’s doing it with Charco name.

And Swimmer is more than OK with that.

“My take on remodeling is that I haven't been looking for the highest of design type of projects,” Swimmer said. “I’m looking to serve them, the people, and that’s why I’ve done so many projects. Armando has this fetish about wanting to take care of the people that want something really strong.”

In the end, it's all still about the lines, and how Flores’ smile widens when describing what he does as a type of art that keeps him wanting to create.

For years, Flores has worked with Swimmer on another level, one in which their love for vintage cars — their tastes in which aren't exactly identical — has brought almost as much joy to Flores as the architecture. A self-described lover of fine art and old Ferraris, as well as the creative director for Swimmer’s San Diego Collection — a collection of rare and exotic cars — Flores draws little distinction between the beauty of art, cars and what he does for a living.

“I think between the architecture, the art and the art of cars, everything has almost the same lines,” Flores said.

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