Beverly Raphael was at an antique show back in 1998, tagging along as her husband, Richard, searched for something. What exactly, he didn’t know.
Richard had been a lifelong athlete and horseman, playing his way onto a polo team sponsored by Fendi. Then doctors found three Glioblastoma brain tumors. One is enough to bring someone down, and with three, they gave Richard four months to live. As the end approached, Richard kept looking in antique stores and shows for something he was sure would appear.
“Suddenly there was something that stood out to him. It was something about their strength and character that attracted him to them,” Beverly recalls. Her husband pointed to four figurines—Native Americans looking proud with their muscled horses. “He said, ‘These represent you and the girls. This one is me, this one is you, and these two are our daughters. This will always keep the family together.’”
The figurines sit behind Beverly’s desk, a modest Deerfield Beach office that does little to reveal just how much she and her partner, Rick Rhodes, have built since Richard’s death in 1998.
At that time, Richard ran RCC Associates, a $17 million general contracting firm that specialized in high-end retail. He had just built four Cheesecake Factory locations, and his success pulling off difficult build-outs under tight deadlines had poised the company for more.
After Richard’s death, Beverly considered selling the company. She had no experience in the construction industry, but she knew management, having spent 15 years running a sales company in women’s apparel she sold earlier that year.
When Beverly committed to keeping RCC Associates from the chopping block, the critics came for her, some wondering if a woman could run a construction company and competitors telling clients that it would fail without Richard.
Meanwhile, she had maybe a more daunting challenge at home. Two of the figurines Richard found that day represent their daughters. At the time, Robyn was in high school and Lindsay was in college. Once Beverly took over the company, she spent her days maneuvering a new industry and, at home, being the strong matriarch, showing her daughters that they could survive this.
In an industry with few female CEOs, Beverly redefined the company’s culture to fit her style. Nowadays, an open-door policy is a cliché, a management style taught in every business school. But then it was still a rarity, especially in construction, and Beverly retained and attracted new talent by leaving her door open for their problems and ideas. “It had a woman’s touch, for sure,” she says. “I was very approachable.”
The style worked on her clients, too. The company’s success with Cheesecake Factory and its higher- end cousin, Grand Lux Cafe, soon turned into a major partnership. RCC Associates has now built 80 of them, from Hawaii to Puerto Rico. Often new locations must be built within six months, but twice the build-outs needed to be far quicker.
That success with a corporate restaurant chain positioned RCC Associates as an expert in restaurant construction. It’s behind many of the recent local hot spots: The Capital Grille, Casa D’Angelo, Del Frisco’s, ETARU, Louie Bossi’s, Morton’s Steakhouse, Rocco’s Tacos and Valentino. It works in 32 states and has built outposts for Brio, BurgerFi and Yard House. It’s also become the shop that builds the food halls, a hot trend in restaurants these days, including the stunning three-story La Centrale in Miami and the soonto- come Time Out Market near Lincoln Road.
In 2000, Beverly found help in figuring out the construction industry after a blind date with Joel Altman, a fourth-generation CEO and chairman of Altman Companies. “He was an amazing sounding board for me,” Beverly says. “He has always been there for me through all those trials and tribulations of learning an industry, and he became a step-father and grandfather on top of it.” They married in 2004. “I’m blessed,” she says, “in finding love and an amazing life partner.”
Her daughter, Robyn, is now “an integral part of the executive team” at RCC Associates as vice president of operations, and Lindsay, her older daughter, was a partner at the law firm of Tripp Scott before this year joining Sachs Sax Caplan in Boca Raton.
In all, RCC Associates has grown five times over under Beverly’s leadership, now with revenue above $100 million and more than 100 employees. They have built 2,500 projects, including restaurants, retail, fitness studios and luxury movie theaters.
Behind her through it all, on the shelves in her office: photos of Joel, her daughters, the grandkids and, of course, those figurines Richard found that day, still riding together.