Lots of history and over 1,000 sales
When David Martin, president of Stearns Farms Corp., decided to catalogue all of the real estate sales since his company was founded in 1960, he was surprised. "We sold over a thousand homes since my father started the business 47 years ago with two partners," he said. "That's a lot of sales."
He tried to pinpoint the sale that was number 1,000, but he wasn't entirely successful. "I'm not sure," he said. "I think it was some people who sold their house in Jamestown and bought a condo over in North Kingstown, but it's difficult to tell exactly when each sale was made. It doesn't really matter, I guess. Over a thousand homes sold in 47 years is quite respectable." Without a doubt, Stearns Farms is a highly respected and successful real estate and insurance company in Rhode Island.
As he reflected on the real estate business in years past, he couldn't help but compare the prices then, and now. "The difference is dramatic, even in an inflated economy," Martin said. "I remember my father selling waterfront lots in the Jamestown Shores during the early 60s for anywhere from $500 to $7,000, depending on the size and locations," he said. "I can also remember selling summer cottages along the East Passage for $8,000 back in the late 60s and early 70's. Last week, we sold a 2-acre parcel of land in an inland location along the East Passage for $450,000. I would never have dreamed that land purchased at that time in the same area would bring the price that it does today."
The year was 1959. Martin had just graduated from high school and moved from Providence to Jamestown with his family. The company opened their little office a few months later in a family owned cottage on Summit Avenue in the north end in 1960. The cottage is still in the family today. Now, it is a year-round rental.
After his father, Terrence F. Mc- Gaughan, started the little real estate and insurance company, Martin joined the Marines. He served for three years and was honorably discharged in 1963. He then decided it was time to finish college. Martin earned a degree in economics from URI in February of 1967 and joined his father's company the same year. It was now a growing enterprise.
His father bought out his partners and in 1965 moved the company from the north end cottage to a house on Eldred Avenue. That house was acquired by the state through eminent domain in 1991 to make way for the new Jamestown Bridge. So, his father bought a house on Narragansett Avenue and North Main Road and moved the offices to where the company is headquartered today.
During that time, Martin married Janice Murdock in 1969. Her family owned the original Jamestown Hardware that was located in the old Jamestown Distributor building on Narragansett Avenue, across the street from what is today, the Bank of America.
Although his father stayed active in the company, Martin became president of the corporation in the early 1970s. He and his wife had two children, Jennifer and Bradford.
Jennifer, 32, is married to Neil Talancy, and they have a one-yearold daughter, Maida. Martin's son Bradford, now 34, teaches high school in Storrs, Conn. Bradford has two children, Virginia, 3, and Eleanor, who is 3 months old.
Martin's mother, Mary Stearns, started the Humane Society of Jamestown, and Martin has been involved with the organization as either president or on the board of directors for over 35 years.
Martin's commitment to the town has been exemplary. He was Chairman of the Charter Commission and was instrumental in the drafting of the original town charter. He served as chairman of the Planning Commission from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. He was also a member of the Jamestown Rotary Club for 37 years and served as their president for two terms.
The staff at Stearns farm consists of three sales people and one secretary. Mark Ferranti has been selling for the company for 18 years. Winthrop B. Reed, Jr., has sold for Stearns Farm for 17 years, and Martin, the president, has been with the company for 40 years. Becky Knight has been the company secretary for five years.
At 66, Martin runs the Stearns Farm Corporation with enthusiasm. He is a man who obviously enjoys his work. He never mentioned anything about retiring. That word appears to be foreign to his vocabulary.