On This Rock, I Will Build

WORDS Dwain Hebda
IMAGES courtesy Tim Mays and Jessica Meadors

If ever someone was preordained for a career, it was Tim Mays and home building. The third-generation owner of the family construction business, now known as Tim Mays Homebuilder, Tim’s professional life was foretold at an early age, as captured in a treasured family story.

“My dad always loved to tell the story,” he says. “When I was twelve years old sitting in church one Sunday morning, I drew a truck on a piece of notebook paper like kids do in church, just drawing. On the side of the truck I put, ‘Tim Mays and Dad.’ Dad always loved to tell that one.”

The mention of his late father puts an undertone to Tim’s voice. Larry Mays was more than the family patriarch and head of the business he inherited from his father and company founder J.L. Mays. Larry was Tim’s hero, mentor and best friend and the sting of his passing in September 2020 still hurts.

“Dad and I, we worked together, we hunted together, we fished together, we built street rods together. We just enjoyed each other’s company,” Tim says quietly. “I lost my dad last September, a little over a year now, and there’s a sign on the back of my truck that says, ‘My hero was a homebuilder.’ And he truly was.”

“Dad taught me number one, love God; number two, love your wife, and he showed me how to do those. Number three, love what you do and we’re fortunate enough we get to do that. I love what I do. Not to say it’s peaches and cream day in and day out because some days are harder than others, but we just really love it.”

There’s no doubt that Larry beamed with pride and was always well pleased with his son. Tim Mays Homebuilder has continued the family legacy for quality craftsmanship and is in high demand by all manner of families who entrust the Fort Smith native and graduate of Van Buren High School with their slice of the American Dream.

“Most everything I do is anywhere from about 1,600 to about 2,600 square feet. So, you’re talking $250,000 to $400,000 as our average right now,” he says. “We enjoy doing that because it fits with our program and there’s a big demand for that price range.”

“I take a lot of pride and satisfaction in what I do. I don’t build a perfect house, but I try and get as close as possible. All I’m doing is building the house. The family makes it a home.”

Of course, it’s not that simple, especially over the past two years when the pandemic put the squeeze on materials and labor alike. The latter aspect Tim has survived because he’s adhered to his father’s lessons about taking care of subcontractors, a central plank in the company’s commitment to fair and ethical business practices.

“We have a heritage of Christian principles in our family and that bleeds over into our business life. People say business is business and that’s separate. Well, no it’s not. You don’t put your morals in your pocket when you go to work,” he says. “Dad taught me when that sub comes off the job and he’s done his work and he needs to be paid, you pay him. That’s why he’s out there doing what he’s doing. Everybody’s trying to do their job.”

“A lot of my subs are some of my closest friends. My electrician, heating/air, plumbing, framer, all those guys, they’re personal friends. We go to dinner with them. We socialize with them. It’s a team thing. I realize I’m in charge and I’m writing the check, but it’s still a team effort. As a result, we’ve got a lot of subs who have been working for us for years. My framer, he worked for my grandpa and my dad and me; he’s been working with us for well over forty-five years now.”

As for the other challenges related to supply chain and the state of the economy, Tim’s managed things the best he can. The company preorders speculatively to avoid as many delays as possible, ordering multiple appliance packages, windows, or other components for as many as six, eight, even ten houses at once, storing them until needed. Still, it’s a difficult and precarious balancing act.

“It’s very frustrating,” he says. “Prices have gone up thirty-five, forty percent in some cases. Instead of calling and getting it next week, now you call and order it and hope you see it in eight weeks. When I sign a contract with somebody or when I start a house, I’m immediately ordering windows, doors, plumbing fixtures, electrical fixtures, all that kind of stuff.”

“In the whole process of two or three months of building a home, you’re talking to those suppliers every week making sure everything is still on schedule coming in. Most of the time we’re able to get it. Sometimes not. Sometimes you start all over.”

In spite of everything, the market is still booming. The company has its own subdivision, Lakeside Crossing, and just broke ground on a second, The Meadows. Both developments are located in Chaffee Crossing.

“Home building is up nationwide and we’re feeling that here as well,” Tim says. “We’ve been fortunate to be in our own subdivision and be the only builder. I’ve been buying out and doing that kind of stuff so it kind of protects our market and our interest. A lot of builders are looking for places to build so we’ve been fortunate enough to have our own.”

Demand has pushed the company from its normal production of about twenty-five homes per year closer to forty in 2021. Tim oversees these projects with his son Colten by his side and he revels in carrying on the family legacy through the same father-son bond he and Larry shared; a partnership that saw them build around 1,000 homes together.

“Colten is in it for the long haul,” Tim says. “I’ve seen a young man who didn’t know a whole lot about the building industry take a hold of it to where he can run things. I watched him develop skills on how to talk to people and how to treat people, be good to people, yet still be a boss. That’s a fine line there. Every day I am just more amazed at the skills that he’s learning and how far he’s come.”

“I go back to the days when I started and I’m sure my dad watched me do the same things, and if he was half as proud of me as I am of Colten, that’s pretty cool. It’s fun to get to work with your son and have a good relationship. It’s a true blessing that I don’t take for granted.”

Building a balanced life, not unlike building a house, isn’t without its challenges. Tim says a mentor once admonished him to stay in balance and pay as much attention to his family as he did to his profession. The advice stuck and his wife Deena, Colten and his daughter Jessica Meadors get to enjoy his off-duty side much more as a result. Even so, he still confesses one affectation that straddles work and family time.

“I’ll drive through a subdivision and just sit there,” he says with a grin. “My wife probably despises it more than she lets on, but she knows I enjoy it. We go to dinner on a Friday or Saturday night, and I may end up driving through the subdivision just looking at the houses in the evening and thinking, ‘I built that, I built that, I built that, I built that.’ I know those homeowners, and many have become friends.”

“I mean, there’s a lot of good people out there and I would have never met them if they wouldn’t have bought a house from me. And for that, I’m very thankful.”

Tim Mays Homebuilder



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