Doug Ritter and Kyle Wilkins have been family friends and construction partners in the modular-homes industry in Sussex County for more than 16 years. Recently, the two shook hands on a deal that will bring Tidal Homes LLC to Wilkins Construction Services LLC of Dagsboro under the Wilkins flag.
Wilkins Construction will own and operate Tidal Homes. Ritter will continue with the newly merged business after the acquisition of his company, its assets and the client base. The friends and construction colleagues signed the deal at M&T Bank which provided seller financing.
“Kyle and I have talked about this move for years,” said Ritter. “I was talking to a friend who sold a business and they said you have to make sure you hang around for a year or two and make sure you can help direct the ship until Kyle is ready to take over.”
In fact, Ritter said that he still has “six homes on the ground” to be completed, including one modular home property at 17 N. Horseshoe Drive in the Country Estates neighborhood. On the day of closing the asset transfers of Tidal Homes to Wilkins, June 28, Ritter had just received final inspection on N. Horseshoe from Sussex County and was awaiting the certificate-of-occupancy.
The new Country Estates home will sell for $329,000 to a couple who are excited to move to this established neighborhood. Real Estate records show the 10,000 square foot property sold at $80,000 for the land.
“I have been involved in the modular industry since we first built our own home in 2002 or 20 years ago,” said Ritter. “I just loved the concept of being able to bring these homes together and having the modulars come into a true home for people here.” He started Tidal shortly after.
“One of the first people I met was Kyle when he was only 16 years old and working for his dad and today Kyle is 36 years old,” said Ritter. “He has been working for me or we partnered up for 16 years — we agreed to join forces on projects when he turned 20” which is a long apprenticeship.
“Right now is a great time to sell in the real estate industry at the top of the market,” said Ritter. “I worked with banks like M&T and did a business valuation of what the Tidal business was worth. Kyle thought it was a fair number.”
Ritter noted that his pay-outs for the Tidal business will come over time; so that after an upfront deposit from Wilkins, the two friends will remain engaged on the full acquisition.
“I get paid as he does,” noted Ritter. “After Wilkins Construction deposit and our agreement on sharing the revenue — that is how small business gets done.”
“After 2 p.m. today, [June 28], he will get all the titles, the title to my trucks — it’s his business to run.”
Ritter said Wilkins has bigger plans to have a model modular home, establish a real estate practice to promote Tidal, and build on the base of business he is purchasing this week.
“I have done this by word of mouth,” said Ritter, who noted that many of his modulars are built in Millsboro where they are popular. “I have been doing 12 homes a year recently and that is a little too much demand for me.”
Ritter mentioned his wife Kara is a 50-50 partner in the business. They were married in 1993 and about to celebrate 29 years of marriage this summer, so it seemed like a good time to partially exit the day-to-day operations. Their son Zach attended Ohio State University and works for Cox Communications in Columbus, Ohio, near the Buckeye stadium where he settled. Their daughter Kara recently graduated from Georgia Tech and relocated to San Francisco where she works for Intuit. Both children are technically minded people.
“I have known Kyle for 20 years and he is one of the hardest working guys I know,” added Ritter. “He built his own company working seven days a week and sometimes 12 hours a day. He is ready to be the general contractor of a modular building company.”
“He already owns Wilkins Construction but he is also assuming Tidal Homes. For the next few years, his name will be at the top of the payroll.”
What’s next for the Ritters? A flag pole business.
“I am going to start my flag pole business,” said Ritter. The family will start production on flag poles for boats and slips this summer as well as off-road and ATV vehicles.
“It started with [friendly competition] on the boats on the Inland Bays and Indian River Inlet,” said the construction operator. “We put up a flag pole outside and we wanted to identify our boat slip.”
“My son was at Ohio State then and they won the undisputed national champion [in 2015] and I wanted to really go after the Penn State crowd down at the inlet. So, we built a better flag pole that would allow our Scarlet and Gray colors to really fly.”
“People [used to] strap some PVC to the boat or zip tie a flag to their slip and I figured a better way with stainless steel,” said Ritter. “It has been underway for a few years [as a side business] and we are ready to do a production run here shortly.”
“My wife and I started this new venture in the form of a one of a kind custom flag pole holder for the off road and marine industry. Check it out at holdmypole.net. We plan to do our first production run in about three months.”