The Journey

by Don Pence In 1977, Real Estate and Construction were almost at a standstill. Interest rates and unemployment were about the same; on the way to 18% to 21% in 1980 in many areas of the United States.

President Jimmy Carter began to promote a “Back to Nature” concept. “Do with less, plant a family garden, build your own home, etc.” The idea caught on. Log homes fit that program perfectly.

Don Pence, then building brick homes, was having an open house on a new brick home. A young couple, the Darnell’s, came in, looked at the home, and then stated, “We like your work, but we really want to build a log home. We’ll need some assistance. Can you help us?”

Builders think they can build anything so Don said, “Sure.” Over the next few months nine log kits were sold by the Darnell’s.

The timing was perfect. Don continued to sell log kits and in 1983, with the help of his son Paul and two of his best friends, Nick Morganelli and Gene Cook, sold over 200 log kits.

In 1985, Don and his two sons, Paul and Steve, incorporated Colonial Structures, Inc. Don’s brother Troy discovered that cedar was the best species of wood for log homes because it has the highest insulating values, and is more resistant to insects and decay. Colonial structures offers a lifetime warranty against termites and decay.

The road was not always smooth. Building inspectors were not familiar with log construction. Some power companies would not provide electricity. No testing had been done for energy efficiency. A tremendous amount of research had to be accomplished.

The National Bureau of Standards conducted a test in Beltsville, MD, using six different homes; brick, different types of siding, and logs. The log home out-performed the other five by as high as 24% in cooling and 46% in heating during specific times of the year.


Interior Detail

Interior detail.

Dale Earnhardt's Custom Log Home

Dale Earnhardt’s custom log home.

Colonial Structures was chosen to erect a complete house, fully furnished and decorated, in the National Home Show in Washington, DC. The company also built the featured home in the Cleveland Home and Flower Show. These and many other shows, fairs, articles, and pictures in magazines and newspapers, have given the company exposure that has led to fantastic projects and wonderful friends.

Sharing Experiences

We all love to be the bearer of good news. Have you ever heard, “Hey, guess what?” When we hear of something good, or have a great experience, it’s only natural that we want to share it with someone else. This is the power source upon which recommendations and referrals are built.

If one wants a great recommendation, simply develop a great relationship by serving your clients to the fullest extent.

In 1992, David Allen, an agent for the late Dale Earnhardt, one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers, called and asked if we would be interested in building a log home for Dale and his wife, Teresa. Of course we were! He said that Dale was in New York at the time and he would call me. Dale had just won the championship and was at the awards banquet at the Waldorf Astoria when he called to talk about building his log home.This was the beginning of developing many wonderful relationships with people involved with NASCAR.

In 1993, near the completion of Dale’s home, he called me aside and said, “Don, I want to introduce you to someone who wants a log home. His name is Hank Jones. He’s the owner of Sports Image, the company that promotes and sells all my souvenirs. He’s looking for the same quality as our home.” Hank had a wonderful plan that was easily adapted to a log home.

In 1994, Lee Gilbert, the owner of several banks in Missouri called and said he wanted to come to Winston-Salem with his wife to see our construction. He wanted a very large six bedroom home.

I really respect people’s privacy, but reluctantly asked Dale if I could show his home. He said, “Sure, let me know when you’re coming and I’ll meet with them.” My wife and I took the Gilberts to Dale’s home and he gave them the grand tour. Then he took them to his racing shop, showed them his race cars and gave them shirts and hats. I didn’t even have to explain R-factors to make that sale.

In 1995, Richard Childress, the owner of Goodwrench #3, Dale’s race car, called to see if I could go to Montana to build his 6,000 sq.ft. getaway home on 600 acres. Of course I could! While there, Dr. Gary and Loraine Zimmerman saw Richard and Judy’s home and asked, “Could you build one for us?” And I said, “Sure.” Their home was designed to enjoy a spectacular view from every window as well as the prow front.

Richard Childress' Montana Log Home

Richard Childress’ Montana log home.

On and on, the story is the same. Relationships equal recommendations. In 1997, Rusty Wallace stayed in Hank Jones’ guest house, the second home we had built for Hank and Linda. He said, “Don, I was ready to go with another company until I saw Hank’s guest house. Then he showed me their main home and I couldn’t believe it!” Rusty and Patti chose a beautiful mountain home.

In 1999, Richard Childress called and said, “Don, I want to introduce you to someone who’s interested in a log home. Let me tell you about him. He’s the vice president of NASCAR, Mike Helton. Bill France, Jr. owns NASCAR, and Mike runs it. Come to the race at Rockingham and meet him.”

When I met Mike, this was his opening remark. “Dale Earnhardt, Richard Childress, and Rusty Wallace tell me if I want a log home, I need to talk to you. Is that right? We built Mike and Lynda Helton the largest home in our 32 years of log building. Mike is now the President of NASCAR. We have built ten beautiful cedar log homes for people who are associated with NASCAR.

Recommendations and referrals don’t come by building the “perfect” house or never making mistakes. They come by doing the best you can, meeting customer’s needs, becoming their friend, and by building great relationships. When all of this comes into focus, clients sing beautiful music. Remember our opening paragraph, “People like to share the good news!