Related families join forces for modular home sales
The Hughes and Sherry families of Indiana County are bound by common ties both at the workplace and at home. Members of the extended clan credit those bonds as a major factor in the success of their business — 422 Homes, one of the largest manufactured modular home retail companies in the northeastern United States.
“Being that it's a family-operated company, you have a commitment to seeing the business succeed,” said Billy Hughes, vice president and general manager of 422 Homes, which was the 2008 winner of the annual Family Business Award presented by Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Center for Family Business.
“You don't leave work at work when you go home at night. You take work home,” Hughes added. “It's constantly on your mind, you're constantly trying to improve the business.”
The Indiana-based business' family orientation is evident in its upper management assignments, headed by patriarch Bill Hughes, as president, and his brother-in-law, Paul V. Sherry III, an equal partner and the company's secretary-treasurer. Also involved are Hughes' sons — Billy and John, vice president of finance; and Billy Hughes' wife, Kim, and his mother, Cindy, both interior decorators.
Sherry's sons, Paul IV and Vince, are involved in other ventures but remain part of 422 Homes as shareholders in the company.
Bill Hughes, Paul Sherry III and Sherry's sons all live in Shelocta, with the rest of the family members residing in Indiana.
The family connections don't end there. Billy Hughes' brother-in-law, Kevin Frantz, manages the company's Prospect location, and the Hughes and Sherry sons have children of their own who help in the business.
“So it's actually third generation,” Billy Hughes said of the company's family legacy.
Billy Hughes' son C.J., 14, is involved with web design and marketing; Paul Sherry IV's son, Paul Sherry V, 16, works with building set-up; and John Hughes' daughter Ciara, 18, helps with sales. There are other children who aren't old enough to contribute to the family trade.
Billy Hughes said it's his wish that operation of 422 Homes should continue to pass to the younger generations of the family: “God willing, the business will be theirs. It depends on if they want it.”
The 422 Homes story began when Bill Hughes and Paul Sherry III became close after Hughes married the sister of Sherry's wife, Carmella. The men had separate retail careers at the time — Bill Hughes in lumber and Paul Sherry in food.
Their foray into home-building began with an extra piece of property that Sherry owned.
“We were chatting and said, ‘Let's put a house up and sell it and see if we can make any money from it,'” he recalled. “It went very well. The house went up below budget and quicker than we thought.”
The house sold within four weeks of completion, and the pair were convinced that home-building would be a lucrative endeavor. They decided to go into business together in the late 1970s, a time when Indiana was a “boom town,” Sherry said.
At first they delved into “stick building,” the typical method of home construction, but they soon discovered that modular housing could be completed more efficiently.
“They were more cost-effective and the time frame to get them up was a lot quicker, so you could get more volume,” Sherry said. “And they're built as well as a stick home — in a lot of cases, even better.”
The term “manufactured housing” encompasses single- and double-wide units that, according to federal standards, emerge from the manufacturing facility 90 percent complete.
Modular homes are built to individual state codes and include ranch, Cape Cod and two-story models. Each dwelling is at least 60-percent complete when it arrives on site, where the remainder of construction work is finished.
In the case of 422 Homes, houses are built indoors, where they are protected from the elements. Each line employee performs the same specialized function on a daily basis, reducing the manufacturing process to a science. With the method, the company also is able to purchase materials in bulk at a less expensive price, passing the savings along to the homeowner.
“The process is just a lot quicker and less expensive than if you were trying to build one on-site,” Billy Hughes said. He noted that 422 Homes prices are generally about 50 percent lower than those for new homes created with traditional construction methods.
But, he added, “We use the same materials that you do in traditional site building.”
The company offers a “turnkey package,” where it handles everything from building permit applications and financing to construction. “All we do is hand you the keys to move in,” Billy Hughes explained. “We make it as seamless as possible. You're not dealing with multiple contractors or subcontractors.”
The company's corporate office and main sales center is located on Route 422 West in Indiana, with additional centers in Prospect and Delmont. All told, it has more than 50 model homes on display, with 400 styles from which prospective homeowners can choose.
The company also operates two subdivisions with lots for sale in Shelocta that are at about 75 percent capacity, according to Billy Hughes.
Business is slowly regaining momentum after the housing market was struggling in a slump for the last eight or nine years “It is slowly coming back, and the public is realizing that they get more for their money in manufactured or modular housing, and they're seeing the benefits of quicker build times,” said Billy Hughes.
On average, he said, it takes three to four weeks to build a modular home.
Much of the 422 Homes labor force is seasonal, with as many as 75 people at work during the peak building season from April through December.
Billy Hughes said his family lives by one simple rule when it comes to making decisions that will affect the company. “Not everyone views things the same way,” he noted. “Not every family member agrees with everything, and if we don't all agree, we don't do it.”
For Paul Sherry III, working alongside family members provides some flexibility when it comes to attending his children's school activities and taking them on vacations.
“I believe it makes the family closer,” he said, but he added, “It can also create tension. It has its tough moments and its good moments. But ultimately, everybody has to be treated as an employee and put the business first.”
For more information about 422 Homes, visit www.422homes.com or call 724-349-5544.
Gina DelFavero is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2915 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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