Parkville, Maryland--To kick-off our 25th anniversary monthly series, we're going "in the beginning" to learn more about a key employee who played a major role in the early success of Oak Crest. Doug Honbarrier served as the community's first Director of Sales from September 1994 to August 1998. During his 16 years with then-Erickson Retirement Communities, Doug also held leadership positions with Charlestown, Riderwood and the corporate office. He now serves as the franchise operator for the Chick-Fil-A at Martin Plaza in Middle River.
Doug recently shared his perspective about the early days at Oak Crest with Jeff Getek, regional communications manager.
Q: What did you think when you first saw the property?
A: I got the opportunity to see the quarry site about a year before taking the position with Oak Crest, and it was hard to visualize the pristine campus it would become. There was obviously debris, and kids were using the property as a dirt bike trail.
Q: What was it like being in the "little yellow house" that served as the sales center on Joppa Road, speaking to future residents about the idea of Oak Crest?
A: Our sister community in Catonsville, Charlestown, had opened in 1983 and was actually a point of reference we used frequently to discuss the lifestyle residents would eventually enjoy at Oak Crest. In fact, we took Oak Crest customers to Charlestown for luncheons and tours. The biggest challenge was not being able to provide visitors with specifics, like the view from their apartment home or how close they would be to amenities.
Q: What are some of your memories of the first year?
A: From the sales team perspective, we were busy! We opened the first building, and then it was time to launch the second. We were averaging nearly 35 move-ins per month, a tremendous pace. And so much paperwork, too, as the Department of Aging had changed some of the forms just prior to March. But, getting to know the residents was the highlight of the year. We knew from the start that this would be much more than a job, but a special place to work and live.
Q: Looking back 25 years later, how proud are you to have been a part of it?
A: I loved working with the people of Erickson and Oak Crest. These were some of the best years of my life as there was a sense of family right from the start. In fact, I met my wife, Amy, while working at Oak Crest, and I believe we were the second couple to be married in the Chapel. From a business perspective, we were achieving industry records with how many residents were moving to Oak Crest, but more importantly, our sales team knew that we were making a positive impact in people's lives, which was a wonderful feeling. I had always wanted to run my own business and came across a terrific opportunity with Chick-Fil-A, but leaving the company was a tough decision because I knew I was truly blessed.
About Oak Crest: Oak Crest, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 87-acre campus in Parkville, Maryland. The not-for-profit community of more than 2,100 residents and 1,250 employees is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of Oak Crest. Additional information can be found at OakCrestCommunity.com.