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Like fathers, like sons: Cressy & Everett.

Some people can't work together for 44 minutes without having an argument. That's why Cressy and Everett, a 44-year-old real-estate firm spanning two generations, stands out as unusual.

And it is unusually successful because the respect that co-chairmen Don Cressy, 44, and Ed Everett, Jr., 48, have for each other keeps the business running smoothly. That respect is the source of the company's strength.

Currently, the firm's residential sales division, Cressy & Everett Better Homes and Gardens, is the market share leader in the cities of South Bend, Mishawaka and Elkhart. its commercial division, Cressy and Fverett Commercial Company, Inc., was co-developer of the enormously successful University Park Mall, which was the first regional shopping center to open in north-central Indiana.

"Ed Everett has been a wonderful partner and prime mover in the growth of the residential company," says Cressy, who is chairman of the commercial division. "That (selling existing houses) is where his interests are, while my interests are in commercial development."

Everett, chairman of Cressy & Everett Better Homes and Gardens, agrees that it is good for business partners to have separate interests. That way, they can support each other, without one's being tempted to look over the other's shoulder. "We have a mutual respect for each other's area of expertise," Everett says. "There is no jealousy."

The Cressy and Everett partnership (technically, it is a Subchapter S Corporation) is an outgrowth of the post-World War II home-building boom. In 1945, Don's father, George, now 72, and Ed's father, Ed, Sr., now 81, returned to South Bend from military and government service and took jobs with a local contractor selling the houses he was building. "There was a great need for small bungalows on the west side of South Bend for Studebaker and Bendix workers," says Everett.

The elder Cressy and Everett, however, quit a year later to form their own company. "The company they left was more into home building, while they wanted to get into brokerage," says Everett. "They felt brokerage was a better opportunity."

The fathers did not push their sons into the real-estate business. Both sons wanted to become lawyers. They didn't decide upon real estate as a career until after they had earned undergraduate college degrees.

I didn't really have a career goal," admits Everett, who majored in philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He wanted to go to law school after he was graduated, he says, but instead went to work for his father's firm selling houses in a subdivision near Mishawaka that Cressy and Everett had developed. "I turned on to the sales aspect," Everett recalls. "I enjoyed it so much that I never went back to school."

Cressy attended the University of Dayton and spent his summers working in factories in that Ohio city. "I never had any intention of getting into real estate and my dad never pushed me," Cressy says. During his senior year in college, however, his father encouraged him to get a real-estate license. He agreed, he says, because he "wanted to go to law school and I thought real-estate law would be fun."

Cressy studied at Valparaiso University Law School for one semester, but an experience during the summer of 1967 convinced him real-estate development was more exciting than practicing law.That summer, his father took him out to an old farm road now known as Grape Road. At the point where it crossed the Indiana Toll Road, he remembers his father saying, `This site would be a great place for a regional shopping center." That shopping center idea became the younger Cressy's pet project.

It turned out to be an endurance contest. University Park Mall was not completed on the Grape Road-Toll Road site until 1979. "But it (the mall project) was so much fun, it whetted my appetite for the development business," Cressy says.

In 1974, however, the Cressys realized they couldn't build the mall without outside help. They interviewed several prospects before selecting the Edward J. DeBartolo Corp. of Youngstown, Ohio, as their partner.

"We needed help securing the (anchor) department stores," Cressy recounts. "We got L.S. Ayres, but we needed one, preferably two, more." DeBartolo, the nation's largest shopping center developer, was able to bring in Hudson's and J.C. Penney Co., Inc., as the other University Park Mall anchor stores.

Everyone involved has reason to feel happy.

"The University Park Ayres store is the most successful in the chain," says Cressy. The Grape Road corridor is the second-busiest in the state behind Keystone at the Crossing (in Indianapolis). Except for his malls in Florida, University Park is DeBartolo's most successful mall."

Cressy & Everett Better Homes and Gardens is among the largest residential real-estate brokers in Indiana. It is either the largest or second-largest outside of the indianapolis area, Everett estimates.

In 1979, the company had only one office. Now, it has seven offices with 125 to 130 sales associates who generate around $100 million in sales a year. Selling houses continues to be its core business, accounting for 80 percent of its revenue.

In 1980, Cressy and Everett set up an office in Elkhart during the depths of a recession. Now it is the market share leader in that thriving city. Two years ago, the company opened offices in Goshen and Michigan City. "There's no dominant firm (in either community), so we hope to make inroads," says Steve Deane, president of Cressy & Everett Better Homes and Gardens and Cressy's brother in-law.

Why were they successful?

"I wish I could say we were smart enough," Everett replies. "But we were ambitious and our commitment to (the) Better Homes and Gardens national franchise network played a major role."

Today, neither Cressy nor Everett is directly involved in sales. Because the firm is so large, they are "managing partners," as Everett puts it. "We don't hire part-timers," he says. "We look for someone committed to a career. Then we give them a two- to three-week, full-time training program on how to make money in real estate.

"The knowledge a salesperson has to have now is three times as great as when Don and I got into it," Everett points out. Environmental- and consumer-protection laws and complex financing arrangements account for the difference. Buyers also are more sophisticated. People buy four or five homes in their lives, so they know what they're doing. You the salesperson) better know what you're doing, too."

The brokerage operation is involved in 1,700 transactions a year, but "only a minute fraction of them are problems," says Everett. "Training and recruitment prevent them. We make mistakes and our people make mistakes," he acknowledges, "but if there's a problem, you deal with it and go from there."

Meanwhile, Cressy is devoting his attention to another big, long-term development project-the Edison Lakes Corporate Park, which is located on more than 700 acres between downtown Mishawaka and University Park Mall.

"Now, we have seven office buildings (on Edison Lakes)," Cressy says. "We'll start an eighth in the spring (of 1990) and we might have a ninth and 10th started (in 1990)." There is room for a total of 40 to 50 buildings on the Edison Lakes site, and Cressy believes more corporate executives will find it attractive as a company headquarters location.

"For years, this market sat with just one office environment-downtown," says Chris Davey, president of Cressy and Everett Commercial. We won't compete against downtown, but complement it. Downtown will continue to have the banks, law firms and government offices."

Cressy will not go overboard as did developers in Texas and Arizona, however. "When a building is 50 percent leased, we'll start another one," he says. "We try not to be too speculative. We'd rather be a little behind."

Tangible evidence attests to the growth of a single, interconnected urban area among the cities in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties, along with nearby Michigan towns. The rivalry between South Bend-Mishawaka and Elkhart continues to exist, Cressy says, "but we've got to convey the attitude that the three cities are one large community. If something good happens in one of the cities," he concludes, "it's good for all of us."
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Title Annotation:Don Cressy and Ed Everett Jr., co-chairmen of Cressy & Everett Better Homes and Gardens real estate firm
Author:Kurowski, Jeff
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Feb 1, 1990
Previous Article:Mead Johnson.
Next Article:Real estate around the state.

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