For 23 years, Judy McLellan has hosted a holiday party not only for her team members but for anyone she has been involved with in the homebuying process.
Friday, Nov. 18, marked the 22nd annual customer appreciation party for McLellan, the highest producing agent for Crye-Leike Realtors Inc., Memphis’ largest residential real estate firm and the sixth largest in the nation.
“Everybody that’s ever done business with us, they get an invitation,” McLellan said, adding that those who have referred business make the guest list, as well. “More than anything else, it’s just to say thank you for doing business with us. We’ve been very appreciative of our customers’ support through the years.”
Besides Judy McLellan, “The JudyMac Team” includes her husband and business and marketing coordinator Mickey McLellan, office manager and closing coordinator Celeste Allen, listing coordinator Tina Bates, and marketing coordinator and IT specialist Holley Vinson.
office manager and closings coordinator Jan Kinard, administrative assistant and listings coordinator Celeste Allen and IT specialist and marketing coordinator Holley Vinson.
The party, now held at Lexus of Memphis, 2600 Ridgeway Road, started off in 1988 at the McLellans’ house on Hunters Hill. Judy McLellan laughed at the thought that during the first year, she “actually prepared the hors d’oeuvres,” which are now provided by Jim’s Place East.
The bash quickly grew to the outside deck, then into the garage and finally to adding a tent off the garage. The couple then moved to their current home with a three-car garage and ended up having to add two tents, along with spillover to the courtyards and pool area.
Then came 2008, and the McLellans made a conscious decision to take a year off.
“We missed one year back when things started really going downhill for the real estate business,” Mickey McLellan said. “It kind of started in 2007 and really hit hard in 2008, so we felt like the mood of our customers and the mood just in general for the country was not a party mood, so we just didn’t feel like it was appropriate to have the party.”
So The JudyMac Team sent out a letter to its database of clients explaining the reasoning behind the hiatus and how the clients would still be honored, but instead by a donation to Palmer Home, a Columbus, Miss.-based charity that places orphaned children in foster homes. That year also gave the group time to reflect and realize the party had outgrown its home base.
About that time, The JudyMac Team hired Amy Howell of Howell Marketing Strategies LLC to oversee its public relations and marketing. Through Howell’s relationship with Lexus, the party was moved to the dealership, providing room inside an upscale venue.
“Everybody that’s ever done business with us, they get an invitation. More than anything else, it’s just to say thank you for doing business with us. We’ve been very appreciative of our customers’ support through the years.”
Broker, Crye-Leike Realtors Inc.
During a time in which it’s easy to get bogged down by emails and text messages, the party provides great “face time,” Mickey McLellan said. And that personal human interaction is irreplaceable amid a challenging economy.
“It gives a chance to rekindle our friendships because most of our customers have become our friends,” Mickey McLellan said. “(The party is) for people that haven’t bought a home in several years now, but they’re still our customers – and when they get ready to buy or sell, we know they’ll call us.”
This year, a little fewer than 400 were in attendance at the customer appreciation party, some of whom came to that first party 23 years ago. And after 35 years of selling houses, The JudyMac Team even has several third-generation customers for which it rolls out the red carpet.
It’s also a time to tout the city’s musical talent, which seems to especially resonate well for out-of-town guests. This year was the anticipated return of Joyce Cobb and Pat Register – local artists who have a long history with the McLellans. The musicians returned thanks to requests of diehard clients.
“If it’s a newcomer that’s coming to town that doesn’t know a lot of people, we love to especially say, ‘Please come and join us for a night of fun, get a babysitter, we’ll introduce you to some people that are probably near your age,’” Judy McLellan said. “A lot of people have never experienced that, so this has been another thing that’s been great for our musicians – to be able to showcase them as well.”