As the sun sets, Jim Tharp drives around Blue Springs checking his job sites. He listens to country music on the radio while taking a literal trip down memory lane. “I remember building that house right there on the corner. That house on the left with the yellow trim is the first house I lived in when I got married,” Jim says.
Being one of the area’s leading home builders and land developers for nearly 40 years, Jim has truly achieved the American Dream. It is hard to imagine a man who has shaped the growth of one of Kansas City’s largest suburbs came from humble beginnings. “We were so poor that it wasn’t unusual for the lights to go off. Our family never paid all of the bills in the same month. It just wasn’t possible with how big my family was,” Jim says.
Jim was one of six children in a family that moved almost every year while he was growing up. Money was tight, and his family spent many nights unable to afford electricity. The children only got one new pair of jeans each year, but the children were grateful for everything they had. Jim’s dad reasoned, “Well, how many pairs can you wear at once?”
To lessen the financial burden on the family, Jim moved out of his parent’s house at 14 and moved in with a friend in Blue Springs. Jim worked constantly to pay his way and was happy when his father would pick him up every Friday to spend the weekend with the family. “I worked all the time. I had to. That’s just the way it was,” Jim says.
After high school, Jim worked his way through college at Central Missouri State University (now the University of Central Missouri) with jobs that ranged from butcher to laborer at a lumberyard. After four years of studying, commuting and working, he graduated with a degree in marketing.
Jim had a plan. He had always enjoyed carpentry work, and he decided that he was going to build a house. He went to the bank and convinced the bank to give him a loan. After four months of hard work, the house was done.
Now, as Jim turns on to Concord Court, he points out that very home. The 1,600 square foot house with tan and black detailing sold for $50,000 in the mid-1970s. “I can remember building those black beams on the porch with my own two hands,” Jim says. While driving past other houses that he built in the early years of his career, he is surprised that he can remember so many of them. Jim’s motto in building has always been quality, not quantity, which has paid off well for his reputation as a builder.
“I have built more than 400 houses over the years and developed 1,500 lots. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. Can you believe it’s been that long?” Jim says. He shows off his newest gem: a 14,000 square foot luxury home that sold for $2.5 million. The house is in Willow Tree, a subdivision he developed. Jim pulls up to the house and drives past Gary, the man he built the house for. “We really appreciate everything you have done for us, Jim. We love how everything turned out,” Gary says. Jim and Gary talk for a few more minutes about details with the house. As Gary drives away, Jim says, “That’s what I love. I love seeing people happy with their homes.”
Jim’s business is hard work. He’s in his office by 5:30 every morning and has to coordinate his jobs with numerous crews on every home. He also has to work with many city officials for every development endeavor.
Jim and his family have moved nine times in Blue Springs since he started Jim Tharp Builder Incorporated because he keeps selling the homes that his family lives in. Jim says people think that since he is living in the house that he built, it must be extra special, but that is not the case. He builds every house like he would want for himself.
After almost 40 years of business, Jim has no regrets. He has accomplished most of his career goals. Jim cannot imagine doing anything else as a career, and he is rewarded everyday by knowing he builds homes where families can make memories. Jim says, “My favorite part of what I do is going back and seeing a finished product and a happy family.”
Jim has recently opened a new chapter in his career. In addition to building custom homes, Jim tackles renovation projects. “There’s no reason why your current home can’t become your dream home,” he says.