KANNAPOLIS — With sunlight drenching her back, DeAnna Ford looked around at the barren stone walls and the still-exposed metal studs and imagined what her future office will look like.
Several weeks into the renovation process, DeAnna and her husband Jeremy recently hit a milestone. The windows at the front of the 3,100-square-foot building that had been boarded up for months were finally replaced.
“Having the windows in just this week was kind of like an ‘oh yeah’ moment,” DeAnna said.
Installing new windows is one of the more recent renovations that have been made to the historic building, but it won’t be the last. By the end of March, the building at 1110 N. Ridge Ave. in Kannapolis will be the new home of DeAnna Ford, CPA.
Built in the first part of the 20th century, the building was occupied for over 60 years by Holbrook’s Radio and TV, which sold and serviced electronics in Kannapolis for 91 years before closing in 2019. Two years later, the building will be getting a second life.
Although the place itself will look different, DeAnna said she hopes to continue to provide the same customer service in her accounting practice that the Holbrook family was famous for.
“Anybody can provide good tax information and knowledge and bookkeeping, but if it’s not coupled with good customer service skills, you’re not going to want to come back,” DeAnna said. “That’s what kept the Holbrooks’ customers coming back is that good customer service and I hope the aurora and the karma from this building will continue on into our business.”
After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University in the early 2000s, DeAnna moved to Chapel Hill to pursue a career in politics. Her political career was short lived.
“I worked in political science for exactly one week and said ‘Nope, that is not what I want to do,’ ” DeAnna said.
For the next two years, she worked customer service jobs, including a stint at a ski resort in Monarch, Colorado, before moving back to North Carolina to work as an office manager for First Defense Fire Protection. Interested in accounting, Ford eventually earned a master’s of accountancy from University of North Carolina at Charlotte and began working for the accounting firm Potter and Company in 2013.
Just over two years later, DeAnna set out to forge a path of her own. The decision to leave Potter and Co. was inspired by a personal hardship.
“We tried to get pregnant when I was at Potter and Company. We’d gone through fertility treatments and tried for a solid five years,” DeAnna said. “We’d finally been told that it was very unlikely that it was going to happen since the treatments didn’t take. We were kind of like ‘OK, well we don’t have anything holding us back, it’s just the two of us, why don’t we give it a shot.’ I went out on my own Dec. 23 of 2015.”
DeAnna was a one-woman show her first tax season and ran her young business out of their family house. Soon, her client list began to grow and in the summer of 2016, she purchased an office building at 1401 Lane St. and hired the company’s first employees. Two weeks later, DeAnna found out she was pregnant.
It was an ironic, joyous moment for DeAnna and Jeremy, but it also came with a caveat.
“She was due March 14, the day before the corporate tax deadline of my second year in business,” DeAnna said.
Savanna arrived on time and was born on her due date. Twelve days later, DeAnna was back at work.
“She was just home for a couple of days and was right back here in it,” Jeremy said.
Despite having a baby in the throes of tax season, DeAnna’s firm was awarded 2017 Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce New Business of the Year.
Since then, Ford has continued to grow, doubling in size almost every year. Now with over 10 employees, her current Lane Street office isn’t big enough to accommodate the firm’s rapid expansion.
In need of a new office building, DeAnna and Jeremy poked around at a few locations in and near Kannapolis, but eventually found what they were looking for on North Ridge Avenue. Even though the former Holbrook’s building wasn’t move-in ready, the husband and wife were entranced by its history and weren’t afraid to take on a fixer-upper.
“Maintaining that identity in little pockets of Kannapolis I think is important,” said Jeremy, who grew up in Kannapolis and worked as an engineer in Charlotte for more than two decades. “From our huge tree canopy in Kannapolis to some of our structures and waypoints, it’s important to maintain identity and there’s no more perfect place to do that than here.”
Through the renovation process, DeAnna and Jeremy have relied on local contractors to get the job done. In fact, many of their contractors are friends or clients of DeAnna. Many of the people who are working to refurbish the building, Jeremy said, have been in it before.
“The contractors come in here and say, ‘I remember coming in here and buying a TV when I was a kid,’ ” Jeremy said. “I’ve heard that story so many times.”
To pay homage to the building’s past and its future, the Fords are currently searching for local artists who would be interested in collaborating on a mural that would adorn the south facing wall of the building.
“We immediately saw the block wall on the south face and said ‘We should do an art wall,’ like a graffiti wall or mural or something to get some local artists in here to participate in putting something together that ties in the city, her business, the Holbrooks, a little bit of everything,” Jeremy said.
In addition to the mural, Jeremy said that they plan on building a shadow box full of items and information about the building’s history.
Brian Holbrook, who worked for years in the store started by his grandfather in 1928, said that he believes the Fords will be good stewards of the iconic building.
“We wish them well,” Holbrook said. “We’re happy for them and we’re happy that someone like them purchased the place because we wanted someone good in there who will be good to our neighbors around us who we’ve known for all these years.”
Even he doesn’t know the building’s exact origins, but legend has it that an 80-year-old man from Granite Quarry was responsible for cutting, carrying in and setting its sturdy stone walls.
Those stone walls will soon be housing DeAnna Ford, CPA.