Masada Custom Builders: A History of Artful Excellence

It’s no secret that the real estate field is full of big personalities, big ideas, and an even larger amount of fast action that culminates in larger than life results. We love it when these dynamic professionals come together because they easily facilitate in-depth discussions that let their true and genuine brilliance behind their work shine through. Our very own Mike McCann “The Real Estate Man” recently met with Philadelphia real estate powerhouses Isaac Ohayon and Naomi Alter-Ohayon of Masada Custom Builders to talk about the brilliant history of their organization as well as their extraordinary, quality-focused, and client-centric business practices. Mike McCann was able to uncover the passion and drive behind the indescribably beautiful work of Masada Custom Builders by revealing their intricate, far-reaching roots and the genuine, down-to-earth nature of the company’s owners, not to mention their love and respect for Philadelphia.

Mike McCann: So, my first question for both of you is, how did this company come to exist?

Isaac Ohayon: It’s a long story…basically, the work that we do, the high-quality that we offer, dates back many, many years in the history of my family. My father is an extraordinary master carpenter, and he started his work in Morocco where he did a lot of work for the King. At some point, most of the work he was doing was for the King. The King required that the work be artistic in order to create the beautiful finishes he desired. This is how my father earned a living in Morocco. I learned carpentry and design from my father which is why I produce high quality, artistic work.

Of course, I started my own business which went in a different kind of direction, building modern houses, but I always strive for a very high level of quality and customization in the design, workmanship, and materials we use in every home that we build. I’m at every job from beginning to end, on-site every day, and I am involved with everything that we do. I handle the original design of our properties, the interior, all of the high-end, custom finishing work…cabinetry, shelving, appliances, everything.  See, a big part of the quality that we provide has to do with our materials – we build relationships with companies that supply beautiful, imported, one-of-a-kind, exotic materials. My brother and I actually do most of the finishing work by hand – this is the effort that we go to in order to make these beautiful, quality homes. In fact, our suppliers even ask for photos of our work, they like seeing the finished product, they take pride in their materials and the work that we do with them.

Mike McCann: Very interesting. Your father did all of this artistic carpentry for royalty which obviously required a great deal of detail and quality, and you, in turn, keep that level of quality, those principles and skills that your father taught you, and apply them to your modern projects. Amazing! How long have you been in business?

Naomi Alter-Ohayon: We formed Masada officially, around 1990, and became incorporated in 1998 since we were taking on larger jobs. We began to take on larger jobs in 1992. Fortunately, our business just continues to grow!

Mike McCann: Can you tell me about your day-to-day operations? What does a day in the life of Masada Custom Builders look like?

Isaac Ohayon: Because of the high-end finishing that we are doing, I have to be at the site watching every little step from the beginning to the end. To get the high-quality finished product that I want, I have to focus from the beginning of the foundation all the way to the end. My days are spent supervising and overseeing all of the construction. I need to make sure that everything is getting done right with the precision and quality I require in our homes, they have to meet the criteria of a Masada Custom Builder Inc. home.

Naomi Alter-Ohayon: The two of us handle everything. I get involved with all of the clients, I’m really involved with picking materials, running the office, every invoice, every… everything! We both have a heavy eye on what happens to make sure all aspects are running smoothly. We give our clients a lot of attention – they deserve it! We like to take care of them, make them feel really comfortable, and I think in turn we have long lasting relationships with all of our clients and they appreciate the attention that we give them.

Mike McCann: What is your favorite part of running Masada Custom Builders?

Isaac Ohayon: Well, this is a passion for us, an art form. Take, for example, the church we completed on Lombard Street. We took a dilapidated church and turned it into one of the most beautiful homes in the world.

Naomi Alter-Ohayon: Exactly, that was a historical church from 1848. It was part of the Historical Society. We had our eye on that for 15 years. When we finally bought it, it was completely run-down, falling apart; it was a disaster and we restored it.  We won the Grand Jury Award for that from The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.

Isaac Ohayon: We bought the church first and then we had several meetings with The Preservation Alliance and they gave us pictures, the earliest pictures they had were from 1900, and we tried to match what we saw in the last pictures; we did such an amazing job, the members of The Preservation Alliance said we made it exactly how they built it in 1845.We are very proud our work and are very honored when they gave us the Grand Jury Award.

Naomi Alter-Ohayon: That was really our baby – it’s absolutely gorgeous. The exterior was preserved to it’s original design and we kept many original elements of the interior of the building and really tried to preserve the history and dignity of the building while making it modern, livable, and luxurious.  We loved the history behind the site – it was part of The Underground Railroad! It just has an amazing history and tons of stories.

See, the elders of the church used to be buried on site, and it was very important to us that those remains be treated with respect. We went on a search to find the descendants of the individuals buried there, or any original church members who may have information about the original history – it was really important for us to respect who was there before. A long, but great story- Now, the pastor, his wife and elders of the church are all buried at the Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church Cemetery at 4th and Pine. There was a huge ceremony and all of the current church members, their relatives, and descendants, were brought together.

Isaac Ohayon: Right. This is us. We really care about the details, about creating a piece of art. We find the most beautiful materials, locally or elsewhere. We really cared about preserving the history of the city.


Mike McCann: That is absolutely phenomenal! While we’re on the topic, what other types of community engagement are you involved in?

Naomi Alter-Ohayon: We are involved with all local neighborhood associations. We respect our neighborhoods and their history. We listen to what people have to say. We respect the communities and bring very high quality to these areas – people respect us because they know the quality that we are bringing.

Mike McCann: Great! What makes Masada Custom Builders different from other builders?

Isaac Ohayon: Well, we are on-site daily for one, and also, I really think our customized work speaks for itself. We are involved in the design and material selection from beginning to end. Our client relationships are extremely important to us. We create long-term clients that really enjoy working with us and do so over and over again. We want our clients to have nothing but good things to say about us. We value all of the beautiful relationships that we have built.

Mike McCann: Can you talk about some of the other jobs that you have done throughout the city? Some of your favorites?

Isaac Ohayon: Well, we’ve done houses all over. Of course, we love the church that we already mentioned, the restoration of the church at 832 Lombard. We also did a very prestigious custom home at 24th and Manning in the Rittenhouse area. We completed several houses in Society Hill’s Delancey Court development, Logan Square, and many different townhomes and condominiums all over Center City.  We always do custom work, quality work, with impeccable, imported materials.

We also built several homes in the Pennsport neighborhood in 2006. Now, these may not have been considered high-end or particularly expensive, but we still built beautiful homes. Even if it’s not considered a luxury property, we will always deliver high quality homes that stand the test of time. – We always stand by our work. I had a vision in Pennsport to help create a new area and build a community.

Mike McCann: What plans do you have for the future?

Naomi Alter-Ohayon: We have three more houses coming and an apartment building with 40 high-end, luxury units.

Mike McCann: Why do you guys choose to work in Philadelphia?

Naomi Alter-Ohayon: We started here.  It is a beautiful city with so much character and wonderful architecture. It is such a walkable city, so much to see, so much detail, different neighborhoods, amazing restaurants, amazing music… Even though it is a city, it feels like a small neighborhood – we raised two kids here in the city. You walk down the street and see people we met 20 years ago! It has a great energetic vibe.

Mike McCann: Awesome! Amazing! I really appreciate this interview. I never knew the history behind your organization and I am just blown away, and completely inspired. The work that you do in this city is just unbelievable. Seriously, thank you so much for sharing all of this with us.

The love that Isaac Ohayon and Naomi Alter-Ohayon of Masada have for the work that they do is undeniable, as is the great pride they take in their craft.  They genuinely appreciate their clients and their community, which is why Masada Custom Builders Inc. continues to maintain such a powerful presence in Philadelphia through their unwavering devotion to creating homes with a truly supreme level of quality. The Mike McCann Team is proud to call these influential and dedicated professionals our friends, and we look forward to see what the future holds for their ever-growing contribution to our city!

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