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Person Behind The Place: Alexandria Cardenas

February 20, 2024 - by Sandy Vo

Alexandria Cardenas, Co-owner of Malama Design & Build

Person Behind The Place:
Alexandria Cardenas

Co-Owner/ Estimator/Designer | Malama Design & Build

Most of Alexandria Cardenas’ childhood memories of Lahaina, Maui, were set on construction sites.

That’s what it was like being the daughter of a construction worker, she said.

Cardenas spent hours every week at her father's job sites, learning construction timelines and phases, reading blueprints, and understanding architectural language. Even the home she grew up in was designed and built by her father. So, when Cardenas decided to start a construction company with her business partner, Michael Radutskiy, it seemed inevitable.

Cardenas’ first job was with a cabinetry manufacturer, where she found a focus on kitchen and bathroom design. In the process of earning her degree in architectural drafting and going to school for construction management, she met Radutskiy in 2014 and they eventually opened Malama Design & Build in 2020. Their company is described as a “one-stop shop” in Old Bellevue for home remodeling and renovation specializing in kitchens and bathrooms. They offer a wide range of services, including tile installation, hardwood flooring, granite and marble countertops, custom cabinetry, and so much more.

Read on to learn more about Cardenas and Micheal's vision for the company, why they decided to locate in Downtown Bellevue, and where they see themselves in 3-5 years.

We know you're following in your father's footsteps; what was so intriguing about construction work?

It just came naturally to me. I didn't realize it growing up, but when I really stepped into that career and became a sales rep for materials, understanding drafting and architecture, working as a project manager for a general contractor, and eventually becoming one, I realized it never really felt like work – it was something that I innately enjoyed doing it. To this day, I still can't believe I get paid for it.

How did the idea of Malama Design & Build come together?

I need to credit Michael, my business partner, for the one-stop-shop idea. Our vision for Malama Design & Build has always been to be a place that can provide just about everything for your kitchen and bathroom remodels.

My contribution is providing cabinetry because it's one of the main ingredients in construction. The other aspect of our job is offering excellent customer service and building a solid rapport with our clients. We’ve seen it many times – you can offer the best pricing and excellent products, but your business will not thrive if you don't provide good service. Michael and I viewed things the same way, and it all came together very smoothly.

There are plenty of great cities that surround us; why did you open up your first location in Downtown Bellevue?

It's a fun city with an interesting history of entrepreneurs – we see many of them right here in Old Bellevue. Michael and I have a solid entrepreneurial spirit, and we felt it was essential and beneficial to be around that type of energy.

In your own words, why should people come to you for their remodeling and renovation needs?

One thing we're proud of is that we barely do any marketing, and we've been solely referral base – we've seen massive success in that because I think when people see our approach, they know it's authentic. We're not salespeople, and we're not here to tell you what you want to hear. We're here to be experts in our field and let you know what will and won't work.

A lot of what we're doing is helping people physically manifest their ideas and their dreams of what their house could look like. In order to do that, we listen to them, build trust, and we're there from start to finish.

What is your favorite part about working in Downtown Bellevue?

For us, it's the people we've met and how our beliefs align with theirs. Again, there's something special about being around business-minded people and entrepreneurs with the same vision as we do. We enjoy striking up conversations with different people and hearing their business stories.

What is your favorite place to dine in the heart of Bellevue?

I go to Carmines like once a week and their food and service is absolutely phenomenal. I also love 520 Bar & Grill because I've gotten to know the Brazen family and enjoy supporting family-owned businesses. Coming from Hawaii, where enterprises are typically multigenerational, it's wonderful to see it in Washington.

Do you have a favorite place to shop Downtown?

Smith & Main in Old Bellevue is incredible. Owner Chanel Smith is a fantastic curator of the products she sells, and I love the price range, too. Some are on the high-end, and others are on the more affordable side; there's something for everyone.

Where do you see Downtown Bellevue in 3-5 years?

We want to see Downtown Bellevue become a thriving urban environment like Seattle. We remember how Bellevue used to look, and it's amazing to see the area become an actual city with high rises and people walking around. In the last 20 years, it has changed a lot, so in the next 3-5 years, we will see even more growth while keeping the small-town charm Old Bellevue provides.

We think the city is doing a great job with events around Downtown and its involvement with the light rail – we see the area expanding and perhaps becoming better than Seattle in some ways.

In 3-5 years, where do you see Malama Design & Build?

We have plans for our next endeavor, which involves helping people remodel and renovate their outdoor spaces – in the future, we want to do more.

Space is the top thing on our minds right now when thinking of the future. We know that the location we're in now is due for a demo – we don't know when, but we know it's coming. Our goal is to stay in Downtown Bellevue, but we know there's not a ton of commercial spaces to go around.

We have faith because, as builders, we can make anything happen.

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Person Behind The Place is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.