David and Sara have known each other since junior high school, long before either had any thoughts of being architects. They married in 1982 and founded Plan A. in November 1989.
David's path to the profession was direct; an associate degree in architecture from the Northeast Wisconsin Technical Institute in Green Bay, followed by a bachelor of architecture from the University of Minnesota in 1984. Sara's undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota was in housing, but she was drawn to architecture. When David graduated they moved to Raleigh where she received a masters in architecture from NC State.
Plan A's first office was a spare bedroom in their home in Raleigh. From there they designed their first of many restaurants, Parizade at First Union Plaza in Durham. Through this project they developed a relationship with First Union Plaza's developers and spent the following years designing tens of thousands of square feet of office and retail spaces for their tenants.
In 1993 Sara and David designed and had built their home and studio just outside of Apex. Having worked out of their home in Raleigh, they purposefully made their office a distinct entity with its own entrance separated from their home by a breezeway. They also made a conscious decision to keep the firm small and focused on specializing in restaurant design. Their home based firm was also designed to allow them to be there when their two young sons left for school in the morning and returned home in the afternoon.
Being husband and wife as well as business partners would be a challenge, to say the least, for many couples, but through 28 years of marriage and 20 years of business they've found a way to succeed. Their roles in the firm have evolved over time to suit their skills and interests. They work together on every project dividing the various tasks from design to project management.
Over the years restaurants became more and more a significant part of their practice as their reputation grew among restaurateurs, developers, contractors and kitchen equipment suppliers, and others in the local hospitality business. By 1999 they were designing an average of 10 restaurants per year, a number that grew to 15 by 2004. In the twenty years since it's founding, Plan A. has designed over 140 restaurants, bars, and lounges including many well known area landmarks including Parizade, Margaux's, Top of the Hill, and Mama Dip's.
In the early years most projects were for independents, but as the firm gained experience and reputation they began doing work for franchisees as well. McDonald's, KFC, A&W, Bruegger's, Bennigan's, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins, Flying Biscuit, and Moe's are among their franchise clients. They recently completed the first Uncle Fatty's Drive-In in Cameron Village in Raleigh, a prototype for a new franchise for an existing multi-brand company. As of this writing they are working on a new concept called Pronto Pasta for a local restaurateur who was one of the creators of the Ragazzi's.
Recently they have seen an increase in smaller local chain clients including the Draft House, Brig's, Rudino's, Village Deli, and Armadillo Grill. These have been particularly enjoyable projects for David and Sara as they combine the challenge of designing something that is still unique but has a foundation of experience. Many of these clients have returned to Plan A. multiple times for new projects. This, more than any testimonial, speaks to the satisfaction of their clients.
"We've been really fortunate to have had a lot of wonderful client's" David says, "This business is ultimately about relationships. The architect and owner have to share a clear vision of what the end result will be. No project can be truly successful without this collaborative relationship." Twenty years and nearly 150 restaurants later Sara and David continue to prove the value of this philosophy.