Manufactured Homes: M & W Home Sales is on their Third Generation of Serving Customers
Fifty-four years ago, two business partners jumped into a smoking hot industry and set up shop. One of them, Noel Williams, was the grandfather of Craig Williams, the third-generation family member who would run M & W Home Sales. The Hemet, CA based business distributes manufactured homes throughout the state of California for the Skyline Corporation.
“My grandfather would be blown away by all of today’s changes.” said Craig Williams, 49. That’s because every inch of today’s models can be customized, from floor to ceiling, from cabinets to countertops. In 1959, when Noel Williams and Jimmy McFarland opened M & W Trailer Sales on a 2 acre lot in Escondido, CA. customers were limited to just 2 options: avocado green or harvest gold appliances.
Noel and his wife, Sue, lived in a trailer on the property. The business that the Williams family has nurtured for over 50 years, earned the ‘Retailer of 2012’ award from the California Manufactured Housing Institute. “They’re highly customer-oriented and have long term experience in the business, so they don’t make many mistakes,” said Jess Maxcy, President of the California Based Trade Association, “I wouldn’t be surprised if every one of their customers recommended them without blinking an eye.”
Terry Decio, Vice President of sales for Skyline in Elkhart, Indiana, praises M & W’s “great integrity” and emphasis on pleasing customers. “They treat them like kings” Decio exclaimed. As the company thrived and expanded, structures once known as “trailers” morphed into “mobile homes” and now, they’re called “manufactured homes.” The Williams family moved the business to Hemet, where they still own and operate what’s been rechristened M & W Home sales.
Gary Williams successfully continued M & W after his father, Noel Williams, died in 1982. “My dad did everything from hauling, setting up and servicing the manufactured homes” said Craig Williams. Located in a 1978 mobile home model, M & W’s headquarters offers a peek into the ghosts of trailers past, before high ceilings and granite countertops became vogue.
Craig commutes every day from Carlsbad, where he lives with his wife and three children. His mother, M & W’s bookkeeper Joan Williams, still lives in Escondido in Craig’s childhood home.
Behind their mobile home office lays another bit of nostalgia: The original 1959 truck the founders used to haul trailers. It saw its last day suddenly when an especially heavy construction load that Gary and Craig were towing, lifted the front wheels off the ground. “That’s when my dad turned to me and said ‘Well it’s time to get a new truck” Craig remembers.
Sales peaked between 2002 and 2006, netting more than $5 million annually. “Real estate drives our business” Craig recalls, “It was easy to get a loan then.” But his company, along with the entire industry, has weathered rough patches. “The last 5 years have been a struggle.”
For the first time since 2005, industry wide business is slowly beginning to increase, according to Maxcy. Today, 660,000 families (a total of 1.6 million people in California) are living in manufactured housing, with the Inland Empire (Where M & W Home Sales business is located) boosting the largest market.
Even when the economy cratered from 2005 through 2012, almost 400,000 people purchased manufactured homes. “They cost 15 to 20 percent less than a site built home and you can customize them any way you want” Maxcy said. Another plus, according to Craig Williams, is the wait time between ordering a manufactured home and moving is around 8-10 weeks.
As for M & W’s future, there may be another “W” waiting in the wings. Craig said that when his 12-year old son, Bryce, visits the Hemet office, he introduces himself to customers as “the fourth-generation distributor of manufactured homes.” The future is bright.