By Robin Wojtanik
Tri-Cities’ real-life “Property Brothers,” David and Nathan Croskrey have found success as a team, building, buying and selling properties around the area for decades.
[blockquote quote="We wouldn’t do it if it was not fun." source="Nathan Croskrey" align="right" max_width="300px"]
But it’s not a business model they would recommend for everyone.
The identical twins credit their faith and shared values for fueling their strong partnership.
Nearly 25 years after their first purchase, the brothers have bought, built and sold dozens of properties across the Tri-Cities.
Their current project is a $1.3 million commercial building being built on Queensgate Drive, just north of Keene Road in Richland. It will house Oasis Physical Therapy’s fourth clinic and bring the first Orangetheory Fitness to the Tri-Cities.
It’s a part of town Croskrey Properties first broke ground on more than a decade ago, back before anchor stores like the Richland Walmart opened.
“People thought we were crazy,” said Nathan Croskrey, adding, “People think we are risk takers, but we don’t think we are because we’ve been evaluating things over the years.”
Their calculations have led the brothers to try and fail more than once before settling on commercial construction as the focus of their careers.
The brothers didn’t grow up dreaming of running a business together. Nathan attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and spent five years flying helicopters for the Army.
David attended shipping school, intending to be a tanker engineer. He earned a degree in auto mechanics, and throughout his career, held jobs at Boeing and Burlington Northern Railroad. David joked that he’s covered, “Trains, Planes and Automobiles,” referring to the popular 1987 comedy starring Steve Martin and John Candy.
The 55-year-old twins each returned to the Northwest while still in their 20s and were inspired to open an automotive shop in Puyallup.
“We had a lot of fun, but the business failed. We learned a lot about business, and about business failure,” David said.
After the business closed, they bought the building where the shop was located. It was the first time the Croskrey brothers owned a building, and they successfully leased out the space.
The move allowed them to pursue other career opportunities while collecting rent.
Nathan took a job as an engineer at Hanford and his brother moved to California. The twins’ parents had moved to the Tri-Cities, and David eventually chose to join his family too.
Making their second attempt at business ownership, the Croskrey twins unloaded the building in Puyallup in 1993, and looked to open a plastic media blasting company in the Tri-Cities.
They struggled to find an appropriate site due to a lack of industrial building space. People suggested they simply construct their own building, but the brothers felt they didn’t know the first thing about it.
They set their sights on the Port of Benton where some land was being surplused near the Richland Airport.
David said they found immediate support for their business concept from the port. “They really liked the idea. They’re in it to promote businesses,” he said.
Their father helped draw up some of the plans, and the brothers learned how to frame, sheetrock and pour concrete.
The brothers launched their new business in their new building, but barely had time to call it a success before they were offered the chance to lease out the building to another company instead.
The brothers chose to close the company, but retain ownership of the building.
Having twice closed businesses and twice owned buildings, the Croskreys started to feel like a higher power was directing them more toward building ownership and less toward running a business.
Since then, the brothers have built four homes, three storage unit properties, and 14 buildings, including 10 at the Port of Benton alone, near the Richland Airport.
“The Tri-Cities has been a great building atmosphere and community,” Nathan said. “The people have also been great to work with. We wouldn’t do it if it was not fun.”
The brothers prefer to see a project through to the end, rather than have multiple sites operating at once. They set a pace of one to two buildings a year.
Their most recently completed project is a storage unit property on Road 44, off Argent Road in Pasco. It is their third storage unit venture and the largest of its kind to date.
The brothers said they had their eye on the spot for a while and eventually it all fell into place. Following the old real estate adage that it’s all about location, the Croskrey brothers said if you pick a good location, and maybe pay a little more for it, the investment will eventually pay off.
The brothers say they have no specific formula when it comes to their business plan.
“The main concept was just leasing buildings for personal income and putting kids through college,” David said.
They have bought existing buildings to lease out, built buildings strictly to lease out, and then built others where tenants have an option to buy. The latter allows them to support local entrepreneurs in their dreams as well.
“Any time we build a building or sell it, we really want to add value to the business,” Nathan said.
The Croskrey brothers credit much of their success to the people they have surrounded themselves with, likening it to a president relying on a strong cabinet.
“God’s given us a talent, I believe. But you surround yourself with good counsel. Our parents, our wives and even our kids counsel us at times,” David said.
The twins point to everyone—from strong bankers and realtors to contractors and subcontractors—as making up that successful cabinet for their business model.
The Croskreys don’t have specific roles defined for themselves when it comes to operating their business. Nathan tends to do more of the bookkeeping, but said David could easily handle, if needed. They point to a shared set of values that allow them to individually make decisions for the business, if needed, without having to consult the other.
Guided by their faith and the belief that “you only need so much money,” David said, the brothers are looking to focus more on investments that give them the opportunity to pursue continued missionary work.
Nathan has taken multiple trips to both Haiti and Romania. He said he hopes to use his own experience and talents in Haiti to help with a vocational school, agriculture business and even an arts school, allowing Haitians to retain some of their culture. Thinking of the global impact, David explained, “There’s all these opportunities, might as well be generous.”
Anticipating each other’s thoughts and moves brought the twins early success as doubles players in high school tennis, and now decades of success as business partners.
The only next move they might find a challenge is how to turn their lucrative business over when the time is right.
The twins have eight children between them and one son is a current employee, managing the newly-opened Pasco storage units.
The Croskrey brothers enjoy sharing some of the secrets of their success and are open to advising those starting out in commercial construction. They feel there is plenty of land to go around the Tri-Cities and would encourage others’ success.
“We just love building for the creative side of it and dreaming up new projects. If the building side of it wasn’t fun, I don’t think you’d go through it for the creative side of it. The people we work with are really great to work with and so it makes the process enjoyable,” Nathan said.
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