Icon Legacy Custom Modular Homes, LLC was founded in 2007, “just in time to watch the market tank,” remembers Sales Manager Bruce Bingaman. Yet, despite this challenge, the family-owned and operated company managed to thrive and grow to become a strong presence in the industry.
“We survived and now I believe us to be a very strong player in the field of east coast modular manufacturing,” Bingaman says. Thirteen years after overcoming the housing crisis, the Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania-based company is in the midst of overcoming the new challenge that COVID-19 has brought to the table. And the team is drawing on the same time-tested strategies to make it through on top once again.
Being a family company has given Icon Legacy an edge from the very start. Bingaman believes that personal touch is invaluable. “Whether you’re a supplier, a vendor, a customer [independent professional builder]… you have the ability to interact with key decision-makers,” he says. “The decision-making ability is not three states away or located an hour away down the river in the capital city. We are more adaptable to changing situations. You don’t have a board of investors you have to answer to. You don’t have that ownership being located offsite.”
This hands-on approach allows for excellent customer service – a factor that has always given Icon Legacy an advantage. “We are attentive to our customer needs and you don’t have to go through five departments to get to where you need,” Bingaman says. The management team may even travel, on a case by case basis, to an independent builder’s jobsite to inspect the modules with the builder. “If Icon’s customer, the independent builder, requests management to come walk through the modules of a house, we’re not putting it off; we’re going to address this right away with the builder,” he explains. And the team continues to maintain close contact with the builder throughout the service process. This way everyone can work together to double check and trouble shoot, so every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ crossed by the end of the process.
Icon Legacy’s product range of modules and building components is another critical asset. “We do everything from log exterior and knotty pine interior on modular construction all the way to very contemporary, very ultra-modern,” by providing the specific upgrade materials and modules designed to incorporate them in the builder’s finished job, says Bingaman. Icon works with the independent builder to provide whatever building materials and modular components they are looking to have added to their order. “And we do everything in between.”
The size of the building can be just as varied. The company’s modular homes range from four-story multifamily structures to 336 square foot “tiny homes.” “We are willing to look and see what we can do for [every independent builder buying building materials from us],” Bingaman says.
In addition, the company offers a variety of upgrades and finishings. For example, a customer might want an imported window brand from Europe or a specialty roof design, “something we can’t immediately source right here in the Susquehanna Valley.” The company will find a way to get the materials and deliver the desired custom product.
Even the company’s standard modular home boasts a higher than standard quality when it comes to fixtures, finishings, and other details. “We have a level of expectation for the dollar that we spend,” Bingaman says. “Icon is willing to provide you more for that dollar that you’re spending because, at the end of the day, we’re [many times] less than a percentage point apart in pricing many times from our competitors.” Offering value-added features at a standard price gives the company a competitive edge in a crowded market.
Some of these details may seem minor, but they add up to make a sizable difference in the long run. For example, the company uses a tinted primer instead of the standard. “It’s not a finished wall paint, but it’s not modular white,” Bingaman explains. The beige or gray paint means “you’re getting something out there that has a finished look.” Extra touches also include the use of quality materials, such as Merillat cabinets; Certainteed exterior finish products; energy-efficient windows by Seven D, Andersen, Marvin and Ply Gem; Shaw and Tarkett flooring products; and the list goes on. Icon’s standard designs include oversized – taller and deeper – corner cabinets in the kitchen with crown and under-cabinet trim, a Moen gooseneck faucet in the kitchen, and handheld body sprayers in the master bath. Icon homes feature crown molding throughout the modules, and instead of MDF molding in the base and casing, the team uses finger joint pine – a better product that “resists damage better,” Bingaman says. The company can also provide custom wiring and blocking for wall hung TVs, wiring to aid in the builder’s installation of whole house entertainment or security systems, and receptacles with USB charging ports. Also, homes can be designed with gas fireplaces incorporating stone surrounds, bathrooms with tiled showers and tile surrounds at whirlpools or garden tubs – all to make life a little more comfortable and convenient.
Exterior doors are another area that illustrates the Icon difference. “For years within the industry it was a wooden jam and a steel door,” Bingaman says. “From day one Icon offered an insulated fiberglass door and the full composite jams,” materials that outlast what had always been the industry standard. “Twelve to fifteen years from now, when that wooden jam is rotted out on the side of the house where the weather always hits, that’s when these things are truly appreciated. That door costs maybe ten percent more than the steel and the wood jam, but it’s saving those homeowners headaches and heartaches fifteen years down the road.”
The company’s modular homes boast superior windows as well. “We’ve also done a higher performance window from the get go,” Bingaman shares. “Pretty much everybody now has to include windows of higher performance and more insulation,” but Icon Legacy was meeting that standard long before it was required. “We try to include a lot of those value-added features; we’re giving you a little bit more right from the start.”
Icon Legacy’s hands-on management, customer service, product range, and value-added features have helped the company survive in tough times and thrive in the good years, and are now seeing the business though another storm. The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique challenges, but fortunately the team has been able to overcome them.
The suddenness with which the pandemic hit proved particularly difficult. “This was unexpected,” Bingaman says. “You didn’t see it coming. All of a sudden the governor of Pennsylvania announced Thursday afternoon at 4:30 effective tomorrow morning all businesses are closed until further notice.” The announcement left the team reeling. “This had been a busy winter, a busy year up to this point. And suddenly we go from that to ‘bang, you’re closed.’ We had to cancel shipments. We had to cancel delivery of building material.” And sensitive equipment had to be maintained despite the shutdown, which created further complications. “We have adhesive sprayers and insulation machines here that have to be turned on 24 hours a day,” Bingaman explains. “The temperature has to be regulated. We can’t just lock the doors and turn the thermometer down to 42 degrees and go home and wait for it to get better; you’ve got to make arrangements,” and schedule staff to take care of these issues.
Making these arrangements turned out to be quite complicated. “We were getting input from two different directions as to what we could do here,” Bingaman says of confusing, sometimes contradictory messages from the authorities. “We had to figure out what was going on.” To try and get answers, the team took “tons of phone calls from our customers, vendors, suppliers, the bank – nobody knew what was going on and how it was going to affect us.” This lack of clarity throughout this process stands out to Bingaman as a major issue during the shutdown.
And then there was the paperwork and red tape. “We had to seek whatever permission we could get to have people coming in and working in the facilities,” Bingaman recalls. “We needed maintenance people here to ensure that we didn’t sustain a financial loss if the sprayers were damaged.”
Manufacturing could not continue without an onsite workforce, but many employees were able to do their jobs from home. The sales team, processing department, engineering and drafting teams, and human resources department were all able to keep the ship sailing during the shutdown. “So we just had a skeleton crew here to keep the heat on, keep the lights on, and keep the doors open to a point,” Bingaman says.
After filing – and refilling – applications for a state waiver to reopen, the company was able to slowly start getting back to business following the peak and decline in infections in April. The team instituted a number of necessary precautions to help ensure the safety of employees, including face coverings, hand washing stations, and disinfecting procedures.
Now that manufacturing is up and running again, business is booming. “In spite of the coronavirus, in spite of these limitations that we all face because of the pandemic, in spite of all that, new home construction is busier than ever,” Bingaman says. “There’s a lot of development going on.” Icon’s customers, the independent builders, are particularly interested in bigger buildings. “A lot of developers are looking to put in larger, multifamily structures, so we’re hearing a lot more from our customer base and even new customers.”
Of course, the team is eager to meet this increased demand. “We’re here to provide materials and service to our customers,” Bingaman says. “We want to continue to provide quality materials and continue to provide Icon’s customers with world-class service, so they can do their job and build new homes or new light commercial structures – whatever they’re in the process of building.”
The next step forward is to further improve Icon Legacy’s facility. “We’re making that investment, confident of the future and in what we have here and what we provide our customers.”