VOL. 9 | NO. 52 | Saturday, December 24, 2016
Memphis Small Business Spotlight
Father-Son Duo Dickens Built Taps Infill Market In Collierville, Piperton
By K. DENISE JENNINGS
A father-son home builder duo of Doug and Chris Dickens has taken advantage of a strengthening housing market recently by specializing in infill development, primarily in the Collieville and Piperton areas.
Dickens Built is headed by father-son duo Doug and Chris Dickens. Chris Dickens launched the business in 2006 before the recession, so it started "from a point where it was the worst it could get," he says.
(Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)
While enjoying the chance to work together during the past three years, their collaboration has resulted in the construction of 20 to 25 new homes annually.
Chris Dickens launched Dickens Built in 2006 and weathered the economic downturn of the late 2000s. He started the company after countless hours working and learning from his father.
“The good thing about starting building in 2006-2007 was I saw the bloodbath of the crunch, and I was able to learn from it and start from a point where it was the worst it could get,” Chris said. “We hoped that from there we would grow out of that credit crisis, and we did and we’re moving forward now with seven to eight good years since then.”
As the recession ended and the company stabilized, one of the company’s projects, the 16-lot Washington Street, had lot that were ready to go.
“We created a unique product that was close to the Collierville Town Square, and it became one of the first successful projects in Collierville coming out of the recession,” Chris said.
Doug Dickens has worked with infill land development in the Greater Memphis area since 1979. Over the years, he has been involved with developing 40-plus communities along the Poplar corridor.
From 2003 to 2014, he handled infill development for Boyle Investment Co., and he has partnered with his son since then.
“With infill projects, you have two challenges: to design something that will be a part of an already great neighborhood or to create something new to replace an area on the fringes that has diminished,” Doug said. “You have to be compatible while at the same time being exciting.”
He describes himself as in the early stage of retirement but still interested in good infill opportunities within Collierville.
“After retiring from Boyle, Chris and I have developed Hallsworth and Natchez Place, and he’s finishing up building in both of those now,” Doug said.
The 13-lot Hallsworth community near Collierville Elementary School features standard sized lots of 15,000 square feet or more, with homes averaging 4,000 to 5,000 heated square feet. Prices start in the $600,000s.
“I have one vacant lot left at Hallsworth and one market house that’s almost complete,” Chris said. “At Natchez Place, we have one home coming online in the first quarter of next year and another by July of next year.”
The nine-lot Natchez Place project on the east side of the Collierville Town Square includes zero-lot line homes starting in the $500,000s and sized at roughly 3,000 heated square feet. Logistically, the homes are close to highways 385 and 72, an additional draw for buyers that have ranged from millennials to Baby Boomers.
“We tend to create the zero-lot line homes for the empty nester Baby Boomers, and there are a lot of Baby Boomers in the Greater Memphis area,” Chris said.
The homes feature more livable downstairs areas and less maintenance, and they are located within walking distance of outdoor spaces, restaurants, office space and other commercial and retail shops.
He expects both of the company’s current projects to be closed out by middle of next year, and then the Dickens will turn their focus to 12 additional lots near the town square that will be coming on the market by the end of next year.
“Collierville has grown so much in the past three to four years that land is hard to come by in some areas,” Chris said. “With infill product, we can control what we do a little bit better, and the homes are unique and tend to hold their value. Well-planned, carefully thought-out communities help create investment growth for our homebuyers.”
Financial Federal has worked with the Dickens for many years, supplying development and construction loans on a variety of communities.
“The big thing is they’ve found their niche and done a fantastic job with it. I can’t say enough good things about them,” said John Summers, VP with Financial Federal. “We just did the development and construction loans for them with Natchez Place, and it’s been one of the fastest subdivisions I’ve seen to be built and sold in only about a year.”