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Making the best of mobile assets: Conway's John Allison got an early start in the business of selling mobile homes.

At an age when most kids are busy with newspaper routes and mowing lawns, John Allison was taking a different approach to making money.

He was selling mobile homes.

His first sale came at age 13.

Allison remembers it well.

"I sold it for $1,000 over the invoice price, and I thought that was all profit," says Allison, chairman and chief executive officer of Spirit Homes Inc. at Conway.

Unfortunately, the salesman had not allowed for overhead, moving costs and installation costs. Needless to say, his first sale didn't yield the bonanza he expected.

But it did provide him with valuable experience.

Working for his father, Robert Allison of Allison Mobile Homes at Jonesboro, John Allison learned the art of sales.

"It gave me a real head start," says Allison, 45. "By the time I was 19, I could trade, swap and finance the way most men couldn't do until they were in their 20s."

After graduating from Arkansas State University at Jonesboro, Allison joined Barcraft of Conway as a mobile home salesman. He quickly was promoted to general manager.

King Of The Castle

In 1972, Allison joined Castle Industries Inc. of Lubbock, Texas. He was given control of the company's Arkansas operations. Castle filed for bankruptcy in 1974, leading to Allison's purchase of 552,000 shares of stock for $1 dollar. The catch was that he had to assume a note for $1 million.

That deal kept open Castle's Arkansas operations, which included a Perry County manufacturing facility at Bigelow. The company's Texas holdings were liquidated to satisfy creditors.

Allison opened a second manufacturing plant in 1979 at Conway and dubbed it King Homes.

In 1984, Allison branched out of the manufactured housing trade, forming an investment group to buy First National Bank of Conway. First National merged the following year with Little Rock's First Commercial Corp. in an $11.13 million stock swap.

Two years later, Allison sold his Castle stock and bought Castle's Bigelow facility to form Spirit Homes. Spirit produces seven homes per day at the Conway plant, which was consolidated last year with the Bigelow operation.

The addition of Prestige Housing Inc. of Conway last year gave the firm 180 employees. Allison expects Spirit to produce 1,600 manufactured homes in 1992.

Allison is also president of Capital Buyers Inc., a partnership he formed in 1988 with Charles Heriford of Springdale. The brokerage firm purchases and resales assets from insolvent savings and loan institutions, specifically new and used mobile homes and mobile home portfolios.
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Title Annotation:Arkansas Business of the Year: 1991
Author:Taylor, Tim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Jan 27, 1992
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