2019 Nominee Four: NAI Spring

Writers great and not-so-great have written odes to spring as the season of renewal. The Spring family of Canton has taken them at their word. Today, almost a century after their great-grandfather started installing basic electric service so homeowners could use electric vacuums, Brian and Dan Spring have reinvented the family business. This time the possibilities are bigger than the previous generations of Springs ever dreamed.

On a spring day in 2001, Brian and Dan Spring sat behind battered desks in a small dreary gray cement block building on 14th St. near downtown Canton. The carpet was held together by duct tape and their only employee was a secretary shared with their family’s electric and real estate business. It was the first year of the Spring Realty Group. The history of the company since that day is a story of being ready when opportunity came calling. It called often.

In the beginning the brothers did everything … showing buildings, then changing clothes to spend afternoons planting signs and cutting grass.  Three previous generations of Springs installed electric and made paver bricks, investing their profits in building warehouses to rent. George Swallow long represented the family’s growing commercial property portfolio and trained Dan in the business when he returned from college and a corporate stint in Charlotte. Brian was working for the family’s electric company and an area accounting firm, but knew his future was with Dan. When given an opportunity to start a commercial real estate company together, they jumped.

By 2008 the brothers had decided they needed eight brokers to become a big player in the local commercial market. So they built new offices on Cleveland Ave. with room for precisely eight brokers and a support staff. When commercial real estate giant NAI Global came looking for a Canton affiliate, the Springs had three things NAI was looking for — Relationships, Reputation and Integrity. After a short negotiation, the Spring brothers jumped through the opening and quickly became part of a 7000 member global network. As they grew they invested profits in their own warehouses for lease, just as their family had done for three generations. They also managed properties, heeding advice George Swallow gave them, “Always be in management. It will help carry you through when sales are slow.”

By 2015 Bill Lemmon had built his one-man real estate appraisal firm into a significant development, multi-unit housing and senior living business. He had already done business with Brian, Dan and previous Spring generations so, looking for growth, he decided to talk to them about a merger. Brian and Dan Spring again found themselves in the path of opportunity. After merging Lemmons’ business with the Spring’s commercial real estate and development business, the combined company had 300 employees. Today there are over 1,300. Brian has moved over to manage operations and development of new Danbury Senior Living Centers, growing from 4 to 19 facilities since the merger, with more on the way. Dan has remained in charge of NAI Spring Real Estate. Both brothers oversee Brookwood Property Management which was not part of the merger. In reality, they work as a team doing whatever has to be done, as they always have.

Almost 100 years after their great-grandfather wired his first home, Brian and Dan Spring have created an entirely new Spring business. Soon their new 22,000 sq. ft. corporate headquarters building will bloom on Pittsburg Ave. in North Canton and this time there will be far more than eight broker offices. It’s an exciting new season of growth for the Spring family.