2018-01-31 / Local News

Davis Enterprises owner turns attention to camp project near his heart

MEET MITCHELL DAVIS…
By JAYNE JACOVA FELD Voice staff

FAMILY: Wife Jackie (passed away two years ago), fiancé Carolyn Lindheim, sons Perry, Neil and Adam; step-sons William and Philip; Carolyn’s children Danielle and Matthew; parents Jane and the late Roger.

RESIDES: Malvern, PA

HOBBIES: Travel with family, golf

LATEST COMPLETED CONSTRUCTION PROPERTY: Jackie’s Crossing in Marlton

Davis Enterprises CEO Mitchell Davis has snippets of memories of the summers he spent as a happy camper at the JCC Camps at Medford. There were the changing-room pavilions that housed lockers used for swim, petite milk cartons served with dairy lunches and the “bug juice” with meat dishes. He recalled coming off the camp bus after a day spent running around and playing outdoors completely filthy—like Pig Pen from the Peanuts cartoon—but happy.

“It was the good life,” said Davis, 55, the third-generation owner of the Burlington County-based commercial real estate company that developed, owns and manages several South Jersey linchpin properties, including the Promenade and the Weston Club at Sagemore, and the Doubletree Suites, among other office buildings and rental properties.

Camp memories have returned in recent days as his attention has turned to the 120- acre property that still looks and feels like it did when he was a camper in the 1970s. Fresh from celebrating the official opening of Jackie’s Crossing—a four-story, 55-unit upscale rental apartment complex in Marlton—his construction crews are currently at the camp working on the construction of a 3,500 sq.-ft. Welcome Center, which will serve as a reception area, staff offices, and a sensory room for campers with special needs.

Davis not only developed the plans and is building the structure, but he is also putting up half the funds to get the job done by May—giving camp staff breathing room before the 75th consecutive opening day on June 25.

“It’s going to be a breath of fresh air for them,” said Davis, 55. “For forever and a day, they’ve been working out of trailers and it’s been their longtime vision to get out of them. This is going to be really nice.”

Les Cohen, the Katz JCC’s executive director, agreed. “For them, it’s a little project, but to us this is big,” he said. “Mitchell Davis and the entire Davis family have been incredibly generous to the JCC and the JCC community. They have donated funds through the years to allow us to make a number of major improvements at camp and have inspired others to support us. This latest project, the Welcome Center, puts a whole new face on the camp from the moment you enter it.”

Like his father and grandfather before him, Davis is committed to a philanthropic mission based on helping the South Jersey community that has long been its base of business. Besides the longtime relationship with the JCC Camps, he is strongly committed to Habitat for Humanity and the Ronald McDonald House of South Jersey. In fact, his construction team spends one week each year on construction sites for Habitat, which provides substantially reduced-price housing to low-income families.

“When we first got involved, they were not putting our skill set to good use, having us do demolition work, hanging, and putting up dry wall,” he recalled. “I told them to let us frame their houses and now they get the properties and we frame the houses.”

When Davis’ grandfather Harold and his father Roger started Davis Enterprises, South Jersey was ripe for a building boom. The year was 1963, two years after the opening of the Cherry Hill Mall. The father and son team’s first project was a 72-unit rental property in Vineland called The Barclay, which is no longer part of their portfolio.

While Mitchell and his sister Patricia were growing up in Cherry Hill, Davis Enterprises’ world was expanding with the construction of the Allison Apartments in Marlton, Ryan’s Run (for Mitchell’s middle name) in Maple Shade, among other residential and commercial ventures.

There was never any question in Davis’ mind that he wanted in. By the time he was 12, he spent snow days shoveling properties and summers digging ditches with the maintenance crews. After majoring in political science at the University of Hartford, he joined the company in 1986, making his debut on the construction site of the Tricia Meadows, a manufactured housing community in Mount Laurel. From there, he went to work on the first phase of the Sagemore development, which was the construction of apartments, before he landed an office job focused on land acquisition.

Davis worked side by side with his father until Roger’s passing 15 years ago. Of his three sons, two step-sons and his fiancé Carolyn’s two children, his oldest son Perry (the namesake of Perry’s Lake in Manahawkin) shows the most interest in the business. For now, Perry, 26, works for a real estate brokerage firm in North Jersey selling investment apartments.

To Davis, that’s a good start.

“I have told my kids that if they want to get into the business, they have to start from the ground up. They are not just going to walk in here and have my seat.”

Why not? There would be no other way to prepare for the intricacies of a job involving development and management and maintenance of so many properties, he explained.

“There is so much going on with so many different properties,” he said. “I enjoy waking up every day and coming to work. It’s nice knowing what’s going to happen.” 

Return to top