Thursday, October 12, 2006
Southern Homes/Southern Commercial moves to new offices
By SUE WATSON
A residential and a commercial builder has consolidated offices in Holly Springs under one roof to better serve customers and set in place plans for long term growth, according to Roy Ray, partner in Southern Homes and Southern Commercial.
Southern Homes and Southern Commercial are in their new offices in the renovated old Social Security office building at 153 E. Gholson Avenue in Holly Springs.
Grand opening at the new offices is set for Thursday, October 19, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., he said.
“We invite the community to come out to see our offices and share brunch or lunch,” Ray said.
By consolidating the offices of several companies under one roof, Ray said he and his partner Lewis Clark are assuring their employees and customers that Southern Homes and Southern Commercial are committed to the long-term growth and stability of the companies.
Ray and Clark are getting everything set so they can eventually retire and turn the operations of the companies over to the next generation. Ray said the companies are well staffed with professionals and will need to add to that as the companies grow.
Southern Homes builds both custom houses and spec homes. Southern Commercial takes on big commercial projects like the renovation of the hotel at Fitzgerald’s Casino in Tunica, Roy said.
The companies contribute a lot to the local economies if measured by the weekly payroll, which includes employees and subcontractors.
The Rays bought Marshall County Lumber in 1989, shortly after Roy Ray retired from the military.
“We needed to sell more lumber, so Lewis Clark and I formed Southern Homes and later Southern Commercial,” Ray said.
With over 1,000 houses or commercial buildings as a track record, the two owners have brought the companies a long way.
“We believe there is still room for growth and improvement in the years ahead,” he said.
Ray said the partners do think ahead to retirement, but they don’t really want to retire.
“We just want to find more time to play golf,” he said. “Realistically, however, we are looking at a plan of succession to insure the companies continue successfully as Lewis and I get older. Because of our age, we must think about handing over the reins to some younger folks.
“In that regard, Southern Homes is blessed by many real good officers, employees and subcontractors.”
Those include Jim Holloway, who is assuming the lead in operation of Southern Homes. Barry Ray is moving from the lumber company into a position where he can exercise oversight of all the related businesses.
“Lewis and I will still try to make a significant contribution to the effort as we shift more of the control and responsibility to Barry, Jim and other people in the company. We will recruit (new professionals) in the next few years,” Ray said.
Southern Homes looks to other professionals to see after the field work, really the most important task of the company, Ray said.
Joe Hurdle is a building specialist.
“Joe is the kind of guy that handles any kind of unique or special building requirements,” Ray said. “He gets the hard jobs others don’t want to do.
“Lewis Clark is our most experienced builder and continues to be the major ‘volume builder.’ He can handle 20 to 30 houses a year.
Joe Lundine is in charge of building spec houses (built to sell on the open market).
“Joe’s strong suit is really planning, scheduling and putting the personal touch to the house,” Ray said. “He really makes the houses come alive. He has helped us tremendously.”
In sales, Kurt Sanders, Gail Dunn and her sister, Sarah Woods, and Dan Gill, a newcomer, bring lots of knowledge to the companies.
“We’re proud of all of them and what they bring to the business,” Ray said.
Rounding out the staffing is office manager Rose Clark and receptionist Ashley Morgan. In the business office, Norm Hurdle acts as comptroller, Sue Clark handles accounts payable and accounts receivable.
“These four people are the backbone of our business,” Ray said.
An eye on growth
Local and regional lenders are crucial to the growth of the companies.
“We rely heavily on our lenders and have been fully supported by all the banks in town,” Ray said.
“We want to thank Todd Tally, T. J. Vanzant and Jim Crell at First State; Charles King, Steve Gresham and Gary Hickman at the Bank of Holly Springs; and Greg Taylor at Merchants & Farmers Bank.
In the new offices, the companies enjoy about 4,500 square feet of attractive space with ample parking in the west lot.
Interior space includes a dozen offices, a conference room, a spacious lobby and a plan room with lots of magazines showcasing homes and designs.
As licensed general contractors in Mississippi and Tennessee, Southern Homes serves the deep Delta and has an office in Cleveland, Miss. That office handles the construction of about 20 new homes a year.
The company’s base of customers stretches from the lower Delta, through the belly of Mississippi to the hills in Marshall and DeSoto counties and northwestern Tennessee.
Southern Homes averages about 70 new homes a year, said Kurt Sanders, sales representative.
A quick turn-around in figuring the construction cost is one thing Sanders said his company is proud of.
“We help our customers from the beginning to the end,” he said. “We can usually get a price within two to three days and sometimes within the same day.”
Customers can get help with a mortgage approval and construction loan with one of the local banks. Southern Homes’ main mortgage lender is Homestead Mortgage out of Mt. Pleasant, Sanders said.
“As we’re reflecting on our progress and move into the new office, we remember the dedication and the uplifting spirit of Betty Clark, no longer with us,” Ray said. “Betty gave 110 percent to the success of our company. Betty would be so proud of the new office.”
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