Career Change Takes Alumna from Medicine to Masonry

By Karlie Perry '19, '19

HGTV is missing an opportunity for a renovation show with Ambrea Mikolajczyk ’03 – who is obsessed with creating something special from “undesirable properties” in neighborhoods that traditionally lack investment. Ambrea and her husband Kevin Mikolajczyk ’04 are the owners of ARK Restoration & Construction (ARK) which restores and beautifies buildings that have been forgotten about, paying close attention to quality and detail.

Owning and managing ARK is just the start. Ambrea is a creative mother of four, a real estate developer, property manager and TEDx speaker. A Toledo native, she is committed to the success of her hometown. She attended Start High School and graduated from The University of Toledo with a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences. In 2019, she was given the prestigious 20 Under 40 Award for her ongoing community work. In 2023, Mikolajczyk received a Milestone Award for business, one of the few awards for women in the state of Ohio presented by the YWCA.

The Mikolajczyks live in downtown Toledo in a former tobacco factory they restored with their four children. The family’s favorite activities include attending UToledo basketball games and Mud Hens games, exploring Toledo’s Metroparks, visiting Imagination Station, The Toledo Art Museum and the Toledo Zoo.

Where it all began

“Attending The University of Toledo was an easy decision for me,” Mikolajczyk stated. “I am a native Toledoan, so having the opportunity to stay close to my family and boyfriend, now husband, was ideal.”

“As a kid, I grew up spending a lot of time on campus as part of The National Youth Sports Program. I had also earned a scholarship through The Toledo Excel Program, and I was given an opportunity to play volleyball, so it was perfect for me.”

Mikolajczyk recalled that playing volleyball at UToledo was one of the highlights of her life.

“The competition, traveling to different college campuses to compete and teammates from all over the world, many of whom I keep in contact with today, was an experience I will never forget,” she says. In addition to her pharmaceutical courses, Mikolajczyk enjoyed taking business courses her junior and senior year. “It was new curriculum I had not been introduced to before, like finance, statistics and marketing. Now, I use all of these every day operating my own business.”

Following graduation from UToledo, Mikolajczyk had a very successful career as a pharmaceutical sales manager for two of the largest drug manufacturers in the world. She thrived in that role for 15 years while she and her husband started renovating single-family homes. They soon realized their true passion lay in restoring abandoned structures. Mikolajczyk took a leap of faith and resigned in 2017 to start ARK.

“I realized we had garnered the skillset, the professional relationships, and the knowledge to restore these types of structures. The market had a problem, and we knew how to solve it,” according to Mikolajczyk.

“It’s been amazing to see our impact,” she said. “We beautify communities, improve property values, save buildings and homes from being demolished and create quality residences all can call home.”

Following Your Dreams

“It is challenging work, there are a lot of moving parts, and it is not easy, but the reward is great.”

So far, the Mikolajczyks have renovated several homes and buildings for themselves and clients throughout Toledo and the surrounding areas. Their most recent project was a former vacant Wonder Bread Factory which they converted into 33 luxury loft apartments. The renovation earned ARK “The Best Commercial Rehabilitation Award in a Large Community” from Heritage Ohio in 2022.

As Mikolajczyk began her journey to revitalize Toledo, she immersed herself in the community and now serves on various boards including the UToledo Alumni Association Board of Trustees.

“I wanted to become an Alumni Association member and board participant to support the University and its mission,” notes Mikolajczyk. “The University continues to do so much for me both personally and professionally. Therefore, I want to give back with my time and finances.”

“I would like my fellow Rocket alumni to get involved with the mission of the University,” she says. “There is so much to be done, and if we all pitched in and did what we could, it would assist UToledo in a major way.”

To find out how to get involved with the UToledo Alumni Association, click here.