James Ham Jr., owner and chief executive officer, bought Coker’s Builders in 1995 from his grandfather, Ray Coker.
Family Tradition, Quality Products Fuel CMI
Turbeville, S.C.—Carolina Modular Inc. is a distinctive manufacturing-contracting firm based out of the small town of Turbeville, S.C. With a population of only 2,100 people, the company is situated only a half-hour from Florence, in close proximity to Interstate 95, which makes shipping easy.
James Ham Jr., president and owner of CMI, is the grandson of the company’s founder, Ray Coker, who started Coker’s Builders in 1958, Coker still works every day, however, the company has changed drastically from the company he started almost 40 years ago, and which Ham purchased from his grandfather 10 years ago.
Ham, a graduate of Wofford College, began working in the family business in his childhood. After obtaining his finance degree, Ham was placed in charge of the company’s two Congress Resort communities in Nassau, Bahamas. Designed and manufactured by Coker’s Builders, the position of managing the resorts offered valuable on-site training for Ham, who returned stateside to work for the Regional Council of Governments before buying Coker’s Builders and renaming the firm Carolina Modular Inc. in 1995.
“My grandfather was eager to sell the facility,” Ham rec
Erin Kell is the office manager and helps with the purchasing of forest products.
alls. “I was fortunate to be able to inherit 15 long-time employees, who still represent the nucleus of our manufacturing staff.”
Ham added that his friend, and 31-year employee, Mitchell Barrneau, serves as plant manger. Donnie-Ray McKenzie, field construction supervisor, and Erin Kell, office manager and assistant purchaser, are all part of that nucleus.
“We’re a tightly knit group who focuses on single-family custom design and turnkey production,” Ham said.
As a fully-licensed manufacturer of modular buildings, and a general contractor as well, CMI is a multi-faceted business combining computer technologies, innovations in modular construction and conventional building techniques by people who care, according to Ham.
“At first, we built modular schoolrooms,” Ham said. “But, soon we expanded to motels, dormitories, offices and medical centers, learning as we progressed. Today, our spectrum includes high quality, multi-story and multi-family buildings, as well as the more traditional single-family, one-story dwellings. Our specially-designed interiors have won praise from veteran builders.”
The company’s brochure describes the company as “dedicated to utilizing the considerable energies and abilities of its workforce, along with advanced techniques and resources to produce buildings th
CMI produces modular homes and buildings in the 50,000-square-foot facility in Turbeville, S.C.
at are attractive, well-designed, cost-effective and superior in value.”
According to Ham, quality is the main consideration at every construction stage from the design tables to on-foundation delivery. In a typical month, Ham and Kell purchase an average of 20,000 board feet of SPF, and 3,250 board feet of Southern Yellow Pine from wholesalers and distributors, in addition to other wood products.
Ham said that almost all of CMI’s business is in South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia, but the majority of the business is in South Carolina.
“Most of it comes in by phone or e-mail, stimulated by word-of-mouth from satisfied customers,” Ham said. “We have no salesmen, but may add one or two in the near future. Clients are mainly second-home seekers for nearby beaches or lakes, but we frequently greet walk-in customers who are newly-married, first-home seekers.”
The company stores SYP and SPF under t-sheds on the property.
With four to six floors in the works on most days, the plant, a 50,000-square-foot building that used to be a cotton gin, is only one block from the original Coker Building factory.
“Unlike most people, we are not eager to grow rapidly, and customer satisfaction continues to be our primary consideration,” Ham said. “We have growth plans, definitely, but our ultimate goal continues to be a product superior in structural excellence, energy efficiency and exceptional quality, limited only by the imagination of clients and the skills of our imaginative CMI craftspeople.”
Stock and custom designs are available from the three dozen people at CMI, headed by the third generation of builder expertise, according to Ham. He also said that one-on-one contact with customers and potential clients continue to be the name of the game for those seeking a quality modular home.
This home is being fabricated in the warehouse before being installed at St. Helena Island, S.C.