Believe It Or Not, Real Estate Was Not His First Rodeo
Tom Wilkins, broker/owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins and Associates in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, was the first broker to affiliate with the brand when it launched in 2008, but interestingly real estate was not his first career.
To set the stage, the Wilkins family has been in the Poconos for four generations. The first business owner in the family, Benjamin Wilkins, Tom’s grandfather, was a tailor who emigrated from Russia and opened a small tailor shop in 1930. In the late 1950s, Tom’s father, Morris B Wilkins, bought a floundering hotel which he named Cove Haven. He is famously known as the inventor of the heart-shaped bathtub which instantly made the Poconos into a honeymoon destination.
He later sold his hotel to Caesars World and served as president of Caesars Pocono Resorts, which initially included Cove Haven and Paradise Stream and later expanded to include Pocono Palace and Brookdale. By 1984, the four Caesars resorts in the Poconos were Caesars World's most profitable businesses and employed close to 700 team members.
Tom started his career working in the family resort business, but the entrepreneurial bug that ran in his family led him to start his own leather goods company called Sundance Leather. Tom’s heart-shaped tub came in the form of a Stetson cowboy hat, which he provided to the entire United States Winter Olympic team to wear in the Lake Placid opening ceremony in 1980.
He then started Wilkins & Associates Real Estate in 1988 with three people. By 2008, the company had grown significantly, but Tom felt it was time to take things to the next level. Through personal connections to the Realogy network, now Anywhere, Tom had heard about the launch of the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate brand.
Less than a few days later, he was in New Jersey at the corporate headquarters with every intention of being the brand’s first real estate brokerage. Tom stopped the Realogy team halfway through their pitch and declared “sold.”
Tom recalls that he had already made up his mind. He was confident that the brand’s inherent trust with consumers and broad awareness would help him connect with clients and build his business.
Today, the market-leading brokerage serves Northeast Pennsylvania including Pocono Mountains, Monroe, Pike and Carbon counties, Lake Wallenpaupack area, the Lehigh Valley area and historic Milford. The brokerage is complemented by a property management and relocation divisions.
Fifteen years after the brokerage became the first Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate company, the firm is still flourishing, with Tom and his wife Christine running the company. Their son, Tom Jr., who also lives and works in the Poconos, keeps the Wilkins name front and center as part of the family’s fourth generation.
From a small tailor shop to a regional, multi-faceted real estate services business, the Wilkins family continues its entrepreneurial legacy.