When Stephen Ray received a disability discharge from the Marines after 19 years of active duty, he went back to Birmingham, Ala., to figure out what to do for a second career. He’d also been in the Air Force, which landed him the Chief Flight Instructor position giving flying lessons at Shelby County Airport.

One of his flying school clients was a local remodeler who knew Ray’s father, who had been a builder in Birmingham. Ray segued into that company as vice president of operations and, long story short, ended up leaving it to revive his father’s old company, Ray Building.

A man whose ties to the community are many and whose passions run deep, Ray’s projects tend to come from certain select neighborhoods in Birmingham, including his own, typically by way of referral.

His projects tend to be on the larger side—often whole-house remodels—and he shows up every day to work on them, on point of principle. “What our clients like to see is involvement with the actual contractor,” he says. “They loathe the term ‘drive-by contractor.’”


  • Ray’s work in the community, and particularly on behalf of disabled veterans, has made this company and its owner a standout. Ray has been active in Homes for Our Troops, a nonprofit that designs and builds homes for severely disabled veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
  • Last September, Ray organized a Wings for Warriors event at the Shelby County Airport. The one-day event brought local disabled vets and their families to the airport for barbecue and pleasure flights while raising money for the national organization.
  • The time and energy he gives to these and other causes, Ray says, will show homeowners that though he “may not be better than the next guy … [he] may be more desirable.”