When Bobby Joe Adamson built his first residential development, he did it on land he says he and his parents once worked as sharecroppers.
"It meant a couple of things to me," he says. "One was that I didn't have to farm that land anymore. Didn't have to pick any more cotton on it."
And the finished product, Adamson Place, was a tribute to his late father.
"When I got the marquee [sign] up, I walked across the street to look at it," he recalls. "I said a prayer and told my dad, 'I finally got your name up.'
"It was emotional. It's overwhelming to have a dream like that and see it come to fruition," Adamson says.
If all goes according to plan, Adamson Place will eventually share that 50-acre parcel in the Summit area with two more communities – The Jewel at Summit Pointe apartments and Lillie Acres, a collection of about 50 garden-style patio homes.
That's according to Brenda Jean Adamson, the daughter of Bobby Joe and Floria Adamson, and vice president for operations at Adamson Developers, the company her parents launched in 1993.
"We are multi-faceted, looking forward to the future and increasing capacity," she says. "Rather than building five homes a year, we want to increase that number and get into more multi-family properties."
Brenda Jean's hiring was no one-off proposition. When her father decided in 1993 to start a business, he referenced source material he knew well: the Old Testament.
"I'm a spiritual man," he says. "Psalms 115, chapter 14, says 'May the Lord cause you to flourish, both you and your children.' That became our motto."
Brenda Jean Adamson says everyone in the family who can be involved has a place in the business. Her mother is the company's president. Her brothers, Jeff and Charles, are in the mix, as are her daughter, Lydia Cothran, and nephew, Steven Azbill.
"They've all been in or out at some point," Bobby Joe Adamson says. "Now everybody's in. It's better than I'd hoped.
"You want to have some legacy you can pass on down," he says. "I'm getting to see that."
Bobby Joe Adamson says that years before he started Adamson Developers, he had his own masonry business. He shut it down, he says, when he was "called to ministry."
"But I wasn't making enough preaching and pastoring to support my family," he says. His solution was to develop those 50 acres in Summit, which he says he bought in the early 1980s.
But once the property was ready, Bobby Joe Adamson says, he couldn't get anyone to build on it. He says he and son Charles solved that problem by traveling to Nashville, taking the requisite exams and getting their general contractor licenses.
* Address: 3445 Brainerd Road
* Online: adamsondevelopers.com
* Launched: 1993
Brenda Jean Adamson calculates that, across nearly three decades, Adamson Developers has built more than 77 new single-family homes, more than 100 home additions or remodels and more than 130 multi-family units.
She adds that the company has also undertaken in excess of 100 masonry jobs at sites including the Tennessee Aquarium and the historic Miller Bros. building and a handful of commercial jobs.
"When I look at that [body of work], I feel a fair amount of gratitude," she says. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of this company."
One project that's particularly close to her family's heart, she says, is Mapp Estates. She says Adamson Developers bought the former Magnolia Estates in late 2016 and renamed it to honor the memory of James Mapp, the longtime Chattanooga civil-rights champion who'd passed away in 2015.
Floria Adamson says her company's move there involved far more than sound business strategy.
"It was run down," she says. "Our purpose was to give people in that area a sense of belonging. We wanted to bring integrity back to that area – wake it up, with affordable homes that don't stretch a budget."
Charles Adamson says one of his father's "heartstrings" is making quality housing available at affordable prices.
"We make it affordable, and we make it energy-efficient," he says. "What good is it if your rent or mortgage is low, but your light bill is $500 every month?"