Janet Sailhamer recently made the tough decision to set sail on the next chapter of her life, and retire from Sailhamer Real Estate after nearly 30 years of forging relationships with anyone who walked through the East King Street office’s door. She takes with her many fond memories of running the family business with her late husband, Ron.
Sailhamer has passed the torch to longtime employee and son-in-law, John Dyson, who will continue to run the business his in-laws built from the ground up in July of 1992.
“John and I had been talking about it, and I wanted him to have the business. But, I had to talk to myself to make the final decision and say, ‘OK I’m done.’ It was hard for me to walk away because of all the memories. When I would walk in there every morning, I saw Ron; I saw the things he put on the walls, things he was fond about, things he would talk to people about. It was his dream, and it was hard to walk away from that. We worked together, we made it grow, and it was time for me to go, and time for John to be able to have it.”
Pursuing a dream
Janet met Ron in high school when she was 15, and the two started dating. She said one thing they enjoyed doing together was hunting for Indian artifacts on Sunday afternoons before heading to Diffy’s for a meal and ice cream sundaes.
After high school, Ron served with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He and Janet were married on June 19, 1971, less than a year after he was honorably discharged from the Army. Ron worked for Frank Hollar Jr. at H&H Chevrolet for 17 years. While there, he developed a passion for real estate, and began working for the former Hale Real Estate. He became licensed in 1986.
When Ron wanted to take the leap to pursue his dream and open their own business, Janet admits she had some reservations at the time.
“I was a little worried because we had just bought a house the same year, but, I’m a worry-wart! It didn’t take long to be fine with it,” she recalled. “Ron was always a very hard-working man and he always wanted to own his own business. That was one of his main goals.”
When they opened their doors in the summer of 1992 at 494 E. King St. in Shippensburg, it was just Ron and Janet. Shortly after, agent Tom White joined the team, along with other long-term employees like Barry Negley and Deb Arnold.
“It just kept growing from year-to-year,” Janet noted about the business.
Janet ran the office side of things for Sailhamer Real Estate, including, but not limited to answering the phones, paperwork, advertisements, computer work and managing the company’s rental units. She noted years later, she went and earned her license so she could give customers property information over the telephone.
“I did not go out and list and sell. I did not want to do that at all.
That was never my goal. That was Ron’s thing,” she said. “I like to meet people and talk to people. I never wanted to get involved in people’s financial business. I never got involved in that part. I was there to help and support my husband. We were very close and we worked very close together.”
In 2017, Ron recalled his first property sale. A state trooper wanted to sell his house, and the property sold within seven days … at its listing price. He couldn’t recall the exact number of sales he has closed on over the years, but noted his agency “has handled everything from the Walmart and Lowe’s land acquisitions down to $2,000 mobile homes, and everything in between.”
Janet said Ron’s main goal was to help people, which is what has contributed to the growth of their business over the years.
“When he went to show somebody a house, he wanted to make sure it was what they wanted to buy. He wanted to make people happy. He wasn’t forceful, or say, ‘This is what you should have.’ Some of our customers’ kids, friends or other family members have given him repeat business. Ron was a caring person, he liked all of his clients. He was very professional. I can’t praise him enough. He was wonderful! I’m sure he’s still doing a good job.”
Ron sadly passed away on Sept. 28, 2018, at the age of 69, after a valiant battle with cancer.
When Ron passed away, Janet lost the love of her life.
“When my husband passed, I was told by many people not to make any major decisions for at least a year. It’s now going on three. It was very hard for me to do this. We worked very hard together, and I was holding onto the past; holding onto all of those memories. I’ve been home now a few days, and I still have the memories. And now it is a good time for John and Rhonda and the family. John will do fine. I have a lot of faith in him. He’s a hard worker and likes people, too, and he’s a good son-in-law. He knows I am here if he would need me. I just made up my mind one day, and said, ‘This is it, I’m done. I’ve gotta go.’”
Janet, who turns 70 in November, said she will miss the interactions with customers, both old and new, the most. She isn’t sure what the next chapter will bring, but knows it is now in God’s hands, and He will guide her. “I am close to my grandchildren, and I can be closer yet,” she added.
Janet said Dyson started with the company when he was in high school, and stayed with them after he became licensed.
“He started with us before he was married to our daughter, Rhonda,” Janet said. “I wish him all the success in the world. It was time in his life to be able to do this. He will be fine.”
Janet said she and Ron wished for Dyson to take over the company one day, and they discussed this when Ron became ill.
“It was our wish that we wanted John to have it. Ron would be very happy for John. I know he would because we had all talked about it. When he got sick, and we knew he wasn’t going to get better, there comes a time where you have to discuss things that you don’t want to. By holding onto it, it was still holding onto Ron, in my mind. I just wish John all the luck in the world, and I know he can do it,” she added.
Continuing the legacy
Dyson has purchased the business from Janet, and is now the owner of Sailhamer Real Estate.
He said Tuesday that he earned his broker’s license in 2005 as a backup in case something happened to Ron.
“Three years ago when Ron got sick, they named me broker. And just recently, Janet retired and sold the business to me,” he said. “It’s exciting because I’ve been here for 23 years, and you learn the business, how they’ve done the business and you have your own ideas. I am able to implement those while staying true to who they are, while also getting the business in the new stage in what the market needs now.”
Dyson said the COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges in the real estate business.
“The biggest issue we are dealing with is the inventory is so low. I’ve never seen inventory so low,” he noted. “Right now, in the Shippensburg school district, there might be 49 properties available. I can remember when we had 60, 70 or 80 properties listed. This has given us the chance to boost our rental management business, and help diversify where our income comes from.”
Dyson also said it has been good to be able to work hand-in-hand with agents, and help them through the difficult times they have been facing in the past year.
What will he miss most about having Janet in the office?
“She’s a very good cook and would bring in lots of goodies! I will miss that!” he laughed. “I will also miss her overall organization. She was great at keeping everything organized and in line. This used to be a three-person management team. It was Ron, Janet and myself. Then it was Janet and myself. Now it’s just me, and trying to figure out those roles within myself has been interesting.”
A part-time secretary, Jen Phillips, has already been hired to help in the office.
“Jen has been a friend of mine for years. She’s also very detail oriented and organized, so that will be an asset for me to be able to lean on her for that, and it’s helpful to have someone answer the phones and help people when they come into the office.
Sailhamer Real Estate is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dyson said, depending on schedules, the office might close a little earlier around 4:30 p.m.
“I’m excited to adjust pay scales moving forward, and am hoping to bring on a few more agents,” he said. “Being able to provide a competitive pay for the agents is important.”
He is also planning to make some improvements to the office to spruce it up.
Dyson said through his years in the business, he knows how to gauge the markets and adjust accordingly.
“Real estate is all cyclical. It goes in cycles; markets go up, markets go down. You learn how to look at those markets and adjust accordingly. You focus on the rental management aspect and relationships. You nurture those relationships, so that whenever the instability settles down and people start listing properties more, they will come to us, because we will be the trusted name,” he added. “The best thing in a market that’s unstable is to stay true to who you are. You don’t want to react to what’s happening; you want to be able to act instead of react.”
The most important value that Ron instilled in Dyson was the idea that “we are a business of relationships.”
“As soon as you focus on the relationship of the person that’s in front of you, you don’t look at all the income and debt you’re dealing with, and it all works out. That’s really where I would like to grow our business; that’s where I see our niche. We have the truth and authenticity. Most companies are consolidating or franchising, or are focused on metadata, getting information to large corporations. I think that is a misstep. I see a large part of the population looking for that personal relationship as they look to fulfill their property buying or rental needs. That’s where I see being able to fill that niche.”
Dyson said he will continue to build the legacy that Ron and Janet started more than 28 years ago.
“We’ve always been a family business, and, for me, it’s nice to be able to continue that. I want to be able to nurture the relationships that Ron and Janet grew, and help grow the business from that.”
Sailhamer serves Cumberland, Franklin, Adams, Lancaster, Juniata, and Fulton counties, and has helped sell thousands of properties over the years. They mainly handle residential real estate, but also work in commercial real estate and property management.