Longtime Hudson Real Estate agent Wayne Johnson isn’t ready to retire, but there are some changes involving his Coldwell Banker Burnet realty group. The most visible change is a rebranding of the name. What was Wayne Johnson and Sons Realty will now be known as The Johnson Group.
The sons, Brian and Mark, are getting more and more involved in the business and the agency recently added Barb (Kelley) McNamee as an administrative assistant and staging specialist.
“Business has been good and we continue to grow,” said Wayne, 66. The history of the firm shows that growth. The Johnson Group has been a top 40 listing agent for the entire Coldwell Banker Burnet company for 10-plus years -- that’s a competition between 1,700 agents. The Johnsons have also been in the top 50 in sales for six of the past seven years. The firm has earned numerous other state and national awards.
One aspects of The Johnson Group’s growth is more attention to lake and vacation homes. That is where more of Wayne’s energies have been directed in recent months.
Despite his rise to become one of the top local real estate agents, Wayne didn’t start his career in real estate. After graduating from Hudson High School in 1967 and UW-River Falls in 1971, Johnson began his career with the Twin Cities’ firm Univac – which eventually evolved into Sperry Univac and later Sperry and Burroughs merged to form Unisys.
Johnson was involved in marketing management with a company that was deep into government contracts and the “latest and greatest” in military equipment.
“When President Reagan told the Russians to tear down the Berlin Wall in 1987, it soon became apparent that the cold war was grinding to a halt – the U.S. was king of the hill,” Johnson said.
With that came a sharp drop in government contracts to firms like Unisys to design equipment to outdo the Russians.
“The handwriting was on the wall,” Johnson said. “On top of that, I was tiring of the corporate structure. I decided it was time to find something different.”
Talking with friend Tom Everson one day, his buddy suggested he try real estate. Oddly enough, Johnson was dabbling in investment property and his role at Univac also dealt with some of the same issues facing real estate agents.
“Luckily with my education and background, I came into real estate with a working knowledge of the business,” Johnson said.
In 1993 he hung his shingle with Coldwell Banker Burnet.
“I looked at several firms,” Johnson said. “I liked Coldwell Banker because they were just expanding into Wisconsin. At the time there were only three or four of us in the new Hudson office and it was the only Wisconsin office.
“The company had 2,000 agents in the Twin Cities, but most of them did not have a Wisconsin license. Whenever somebody walked into a Minnesota office and was interested in Wisconsin property, our office got the referral.”
Sons Brian and Mark got involved about a decade later. Both are HHS grads (Brian 1997; Mark 1999) and both graduated from UW-Stout. Both played football at Stout and Brian was an all-conference tight end.
Both earned their real estate licenses before graduating, although Brian wasn’t sure he wanted to be in the real estate business.
“I earned a degree in business and a minor in property management, but thought I might want to try something different,” Brian said. “But I worked as an intern with Coldwell Banker in the Twin Cities corporate office and helped my dad. I decided to give it a try, knowing I could try something else if I didn’t like it.”
He graduated from Stout in December 2001 and started working with Wayne in January 2002.
Mark, on the other hand, was gearing for a real estate career during college. He also has a business major and marketing minor and worked for dad during summers before graduating. He graduated in December 2003 and went to work with Wayne in January 2004.
Just before Mark came to firm, Wayne organized the name of Wayne Johnson and Sons.
“It’s been a very rewarding job,” said Wayne. “Like everything, you have to put in time and effort, but it’s like owning my own business. I have flexibility. I’ve always been a people person and most people who are house hunting are excited and happy.”
He said there are nights and weekend hours, but said it all seems to work out in the end.
“There comes a time, however, when there are only so many hours in a week,” Johnson said. “That’s when you have to add support staff. In addition to Wayne, Brian and Mark, the team recently added Barb (Kelley) McNamee as an administrative assistant and staging specialist.
And how about working with family all these years?
“It’s been good,” Wayne said. “It’s been a rewarding experience.”
Wayne and his wife Rhonda have the two sons. She was a nurse before retiring. The couple recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary.
Brian and his wife Amber have three children: Ellie, 11, Maya, 8, and Breanna, 6.
Mark and his wife Sarah also have three children: Lilly, 8, Calvin, 4, and Oliver 18 months.
Barb McNamee is the daughter of a longtime Hudson business family. Her dad Ed Kelley was the founder of Kelley Galleries and her mother Pat Kelley founded Lavender Tymes. NcNamee managed both businesses at various times for about 25 years.
Both of her parents, however, died within a year and Barb decided to pursue a different career. She left the businesses she knew so well, and after a couple of months off, joined the Johnsons in March 2014. Barb and her husband Al live in North Hudson and have four children.