If you have lived in Dallas or North Texas for more than six months, chances are you have been inside a Hawkins-Welwood Home.
Hawkins-Welwood homes are everywhere, stretching from the Park Cities to Plano to Frisco and soon, Southlake. The company is also delving into luxury high rises: Hawkins-Welwood Homes has created the amenity areas at the exciting new McKenzie on Harvard, a recently completed luxury apartment tower by Streetlights Residential.
John Hawkins is the principal behind Hawkins-Welwood Homes, and he has been building homes for three decades. How does a man so beloved by his clients that even when he has had to (rarely) fix something in a clients’s home, they come back to a Hawkins-Welwood home the second, third and even fourth time? How does a small luxury builder create a zero-lot line development so rock-solid, owners seldom move out?
You have to know John Hawkins.
“It’s easy to build 95 percent of a house,” says John. “What’s difficult is keeping all the balls under the water. Home building is a complicated coordination of units along a time line. Really, we are air traffic controllers.”
In 1989, the Dallas native and UT graduate was running his own commercial real estate business. The savings and loan crisis was in full bloom and John needed a job. Gagewood Homes, a local home builder in partnership with a builder named Curt Welwood, brought John in to run their sales and marketing.
“I think I was hired for my relationship skills,” says John with a laugh. “I knew very little about home building.”
From 1989 to 1992, he worked to build the company’s brand. In 1992, Gage Prichard and Curt Welwood split up, and John continued to work for Curt.
Then, in 1994, tragedy struck Curt Welwood. It was the kind of mind-numbing horror that changes your life forever. Curt’s daughter, Amanda, was killed in a car wreck while father and daughter were en route to Indian Princesses. John Hawkins stepped up to keep the company running for his hurting friend and employer.
Three years later, the company became Hawkins-Welwood Homes.
“It was Christmas 1996, I recall, and I was figuring all the company bonuses,” says John. “I gave my report to Curt and he said ‘what about you, what’s your bonus?’”
John smiles at the memory, “I told him that was his decision to make.”
Curt Welwood then said, “well, why don’t you just become my partner?”
It was a momentous, decisive moment for John, who says that most people make four or five decisions in the course of their life that have major impact.
“That’s one of my favorite phrases, actually, or what they call a “John-ism around here,” says John.
John-isms are truths John preaches to his staff, usually sage words of advice about life or homebuilding, and the intersection thereof.
Like “we don’t have to win.” Or “bad news does not get better with time”.
That momentous decision put him at the helm of a highly reputable home-building company. John took the ball and ran with it. For a few years in the late 1990’s, like a machine, Hawkins-Welwood Homes built five homes a year in Preston Hollow. I know, half of my friends lived in and loved them. But the company also built in the Park Cities, Willowbend, Stonebriar Park, and Bent Tree. The company built 60 homes in Glen Abbey!
Starting in 1995, Hawkins-Welwood built 120 high-end, empty-nester homes in a far North Dallas community called Cambridge Place. It was a pivotal development; one of the first communities catering to empty-nesters, an idea that was ahead of its time. Hawkins-Welwood was the ONLY builder in the development, so it carried the H-W brand strongly. Very few homes trade even now in Cambridge Place, says John, and the homes have increased in value.
“Cambridge Place turned us into a mature company,” says John. “We worked with Robbie Fusch and learned so much about architecture and scale, especially getting everything homebuyers want on a small lot. It’s very possible.”
Now John is building more homes like those in Cambridge Place, in an empty-nester development off Keller Springs Road called The Lawn at Glen Abbey.
John believes strongly that Dallas is becoming an urban environment, even on the plains of former cotton fields.
“I was so impressed with D Magazine’s recent special issue on Dallas as a stirring Urban center, I made everyone here read it!” says John. “It’s all about walkability, fewer cars, self-driving cars, and living vertical. People will live in riskier locations to get close to the core, and to walkability.”
John takes the long view on building homes by providing great architecture, quality construction and great customer service. The company that began in 1961 will continue to thrive as John builds a leadership team to continue his high standards after he decides to work less and enjoy his grandchildren more.