Corbett’s Mobile Home Center in Live Oak now in its third generation
Ashleigh Corbett, left, stands with her sister, Brooke Corbett, in front of the sign at their family business at 1126 East Howard St. (Hwy 90) in Live Oak. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson
By Tami Stevenson
Live Oak, Fla., – Even through these hard times our economy is facing, there are businesses that are not only surviving, but thriving. One such business is Corbett’s Mobile Home Center in Live Oak. Since 1968, they are now in their third generation and show no signs of slowing down.
Along with his wife, Erikka, Robert Corbett, like his father and mother before him, Cheryl and Bobby Corbett, have handed the reins to their offspring, Ashleigh and Brooke Corbett. They have successfully managed the business for approximately a year now, with their father in what he calls semi-retirement. He is never too far from the helm to answer questions and advise them in managing the business and has encouraged them from the beginning.
Corbett’s Mobile Home Center began in 1968 in Lake City where Corbett’s Mobile Home Supply sits today. Bobby and his brother, Ronnie Corbett, sold mobile homes at the site for awhile, along with a parts center.
The day Robert was born, his father, Bobby, was in Jacksonville delivering a home and so the entire set-up crew came in the hospital when their dad was born.
Their grandmother told the girls as soon as Robert was potty trained, he was going with Papa in the truck, set-up situations and everything, just hanging out with his dad at the Lake City location.
“He can tell you anything about mobile homes. His father taught him every aspect of the business from top to bottom. He can fix anything,” Ashleigh added. He always said it’s just easier when you grow up in it and learn a little bit at a time through experience.
Ronnie and Bobby did so well in Lake City, they decided to split, in 1985 Bobby went to Live Oak and Ronnie stayed in Lake City.
Then Bobby’s son, Robert, took over the Live Oak business in 1998. That’s when their Papa retired, although he still visited almost daily, just as Robert does today with his daughters.
Ashleigh and Brooke’s Great Uncle Jerry Corbett owns the other Corbett’s in Live Oak, although their businesses are not affiliated.
Robert “Bobby,” Irby Corbett sadly passed away in January of 2018.
Wayne has been working for Corbett’s for 15 years and knows where EVERYTHING is! -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson
Both Brooke and Ashleigh remember going to work with their father growing up. He was always teaching them. One day Brooke recalls, when she was about 13 years old, her father told her today she needed to go upstairs and clean all the spider webs down.
“If you want to come to work you can’t just sit around and be a distraction, you have to help. You have to learn every aspect of everything. If you want your paycheck, you have to work for it and learn every aspect, so yes, go clean the spider webs on the second floor.” Her dad told her.
Growing up, each of them were taught things like changing out a light socket, plumbing, how to change the oil on their cars and how to change a tire. Robert never intended to raise his girls not knowing how to survive.
Through the years, he taught them every aspect of running the company by teaching them one thing at a time. His philosophy is you learn by doing, so they learned about the parts in the parts store, bookkeeping, billing, and how to manage a business one step at a time.
Ashleigh said growing up, she spent a lot of time with her Papa, Bobby Corbett, and saw how much he cared about the business. “This is always what I wanted to do,” Ashleigh said.
At one point their parents really wanted them both to go to college. Brook admittedly was ready to explore that world. She moved away for a few years while Ashleigh continued to work with her father. Brooke said her parents wanted her to become a lawyer, but she soon realized that was not for her. She took a semester in medical school, thinking becoming a doctor may be her calling, but soon realized that career would not allow her to spend time with her family she hoped to have in years to come. Her parents were at every game, every recital, every event they had growing up. “They were the fun parents who would let you take friends with you on vacation.” She wanted that for her future family, so she happily changed her college courses to business with the intention of partnering with Ashleigh in the family business.
Ashleigh always knew what she wanted. She wanted to work in the family business like her father and Papa before her and was not really interested in attending college. She did attend schooling for cosmetology, however, to have something to do on the side, but her passion always was and still is the mobile home business.
Brooke Corbett, left, stands with her sister Ashleigh Corbett, in front of one of their most popular homes, along with a sign that says established in 1968. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson
They each said although their parents always hoped one day their daughters would want to take over the business, they never tried to pressure them into it.
“Obviously it was Dad’s ultimate dream for us to one day take over the business,” they added, “but he never pressured us to do it. He said, ‘That would be awesome if you want to do that but I don’t want you to choose that for your life if it’s not what would make you happy.’”
When asked how they got through COVID they said they just kept showing up for work, followed the rules, wore masks and kept the lobby sanitized. They went to mostly online applications, some were done totally online and the only in person meetings were the closings.
Most of the houses they offer have websites with 3D walk-throughs. They sell Destiny, Clayton and Champion homes. All in all, they said COVID didn’t take a huge toll on their business, but every business took it differently.
Ashleigh added they don’t chase their customers around the lot. They offer to go with them if they want, but also offer them a map with descriptions so they can look at their leisure, if that is what they would rather do.
Brooke said something that really sold her on wanting to be in the mobile home business was something her father texted her one day.
“We had just gotten a house out and I texted him a video of it and he texted me back and said, ‘You know, we do really big things here. That home is going to be the home that someone raises their family in, that’s the home that somebody gets to experience love in, get married. What we do here is not just selling a house, we’re giving someone their forever home and even a temporary home.”
“But the way that he wrote it really got me!” Brooke said she never really thought about it like that before and it really touched her. “And that’s the way he looks at it.” She believes that’s why he has done so well in business, because he genuinely cares.
They both added that slogan on their sign, “Friends Helping Friends Buy A Home,” isn’t just a slogan, that’s really the way their father feels about his customers and is instilling that in his children.
Ashleigh added, “He’s not going to just sell a home and never talk to the customer again. He wants to be able to say, hey, how you doing? How’s the family? He’s just more personal.”
Ashleigh, who specializes in sales, said, “Just give us a chance for your business. If you’re not happy with the end of it, we’ll do our best to fix whatever it is you’re not happy with. We never want a customer to leave not happy. Obviously there’s bumps in every business. We have problems and things happen with houses but we always do our best to fix it or see to it that whoever is responsible fixes it, if it’s one of our vendors, for instance. We do our best to make sure our customers are happy at the end of the day.”