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Updated: August 10, 2023

Merger of two design-build firms creates sum greater than its parts

hay runner hq Courtesy Hay Runner / Hannah Cormier Hay Runner is based at 99 Federal St. in Portland's Old Port neighborhood.

The merger of two Maine design-build firms will unify firms with footholds in Portland and the midcoast.

Portland-based Hay Runner announced Thursday that it has acquired Rockport-based Phi Builders + Architects.

Hay Runner / Greg Clarke
Bettina Doulton, left, owner of Phi Builders + Architects, and Shannon Richards, owner of Hay Runner.

Hay Runner is led by Shannon Richards, who is also 2023 vice president of MEREDA, while Phi Builders + Architects has been led by Bettina Doulton, who also owns Cellardoor Winery.

Hay Runner has made a name in the Portland area by offering a full-service approach to home ownership — including design, construction, real estate sales and services like house cleaning, landscaping and interior plant arrangements. 

Phi Builders + Architects has based its business around fine home building and cabinetry. 

The combined firm broadens the overall footprint, encompassing the midcoast and Portland areas, while deepening the expertise in design and construction.

Hay Runner plans to continue to operate the Phi Builders location from West Street in Rockport, and retain the field staff, shop team, architects and administration. The firm will be known has Hay Runner. 

The combined company will have 80 employees.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to grow Hay Runner, a company centered around simplifying the property ownership experience, in the rich soils of Phi Builders + Architects. A well known, midcoast Maine business with 20 years of respected history. The staff, I’ve been working with, is both professional and talented — and a true indication of the breadth overall of the enterprise. Bettina Doulton has been a long time friend and mentor, and I look forward to nurturing that relationship for years to come," said Richards. 

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

hay runner team
Hay Runner / Greg Clarke
The team at Hay Runner.

Hay Runner's growth

Hay Runner, which was founded in 2018, has been growing at a rapid pace.

In the past year, Hay Runner has doubled its staff (to 40 before the acquisition), purchased a fleet of vehicles, designed, built and established a permanent headquarters at 99 Federal St. in the Old Port, added an interior plant design division and now expanded onto the midcoast.

Richards has envisioned a Hay Runner with multiple locations.

Phi Builders + Architects "is a company she has long admired, owned by a trusted friend and respected mentor, Bettina Doulton," Hay Runner said in a release. 

Hay Runner
The Phi Builders + Architects office in Rockport will become part of Hay Runner.

Phi Builders

Phi Builders + Architects was founded in 2003 as Phi Home Designs, a custom furniture shop. While it continued to build heirloom furniture, it expanded into custom cabinetry, millwork and historical window renovation and eventually construction and design services. 

Bettina Doulton assumed ownership of Phi Builders + Architects a decade ago, strategically growing the company’s staff, project portfolio, reach and reputation as one of midcoast Maine’s respected architectural and construction firms.

"I never intended to steward a construction company, but when presented with the challenge I have given it my best effort," Doulton said in the release. "We often speak of the team culture, the individual contributions to designing, building, and managing are greatly appreciated on each project. Reflecting on learnings from respected mentors, we strove to treat our team as 'the most important asset that walks out the door every night and has the choice to walk back in the door the next day,' to respect the very personal investment clients are making in their homes, and to appreciate our vendors as truly partners in our projects. I trust Hay Runner is motivated similarly and am pleased to have found a steward to carry on our good work, strong relationships and opportunities for our team."

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