The owners of PureBuild homes have one goal in mind: for the reaction from buyers when they see the final product to be “That belongs here.”

Tom Wuelpern and Jeff Scheffman founded the custom homebuilding business in 1994. They specialize in owner-involved design with a nod to matching the look and feel of existing neighborhoods when working on infill projects in older areas.

The duo also builds rammed earth walls and lands jobs around the country.

While PureBuild doesn’t have developments, the company is the primary residential builder in the Mercado District, west of downtown, and built a cluster of homes in the Santa Rosa neighborhood, south of the Tucson Convention Center.

Michael Keith, CEO of Downtown Tucson Partnership, has known Wuelpern for more than 20 years. Together, they bought lots in the Santa Rosa barrio in the late 1980s, “with the idea of recreating historically compatible architecture.”

That concept continues with PureBuild homes, he said.

“They have taken those early thoughts and run with them,” Keith said. “You can see that in the Mercado … the insistence of the builders to stick to their original concepts and quality of construction is remarkable.”

For Wuelpern and Scheffman, the prevalence of national homebuilders in the Tucson market is irrelevant to their niche.

“We are a completely different market,” Scheffman said. “Buyers make all design and finish decisions.”

The relationship begins when a buyer finds a piece of land.

“We tailor the home design and budget in great detail to all of our buyers’ needs,” Wuelpern said. “Every element in the house is a choice that the owner is involved in, as well as the design itself.”

This approach “is not what the larger builders do or are geared up to do.”

They say their relationship with customers is the most important thing they offer to stand out from other custom homebuilders.

“We appeal to those who just want things exactly the way they want them and cannot find that in the ‘retail’ market of mass builders,” Wuelpern said.

He laments that many buyers just go into master-planned communities without first considering a custom home.

“I think the amount of custom homes being built anywhere in the U.S. is a smaller share than it used to be,” Wuelpern said. “It’s akin to there are a lot more fast-food and chain restaurants than individual restaurants any more.”

PureBuild has five employees and annual revenues of more than $2 million.

Both owners are optimistic about the renewed interest in downtown Tucson and predict a lot more activity for the surrounding area in coming years.

“I think there will be less growth on the perimeter and more and more downtown,” Wuelpern said. “Our downtown is becoming very special and it is the only one we have; I think you have only begun to see activity downtown.

“People want convenience, community and walkability. With character. That is downtown.”

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at