Willis Allen celebrates 100 years in San Diego

By Kristina Houck

For 100 years, Willis Allen Real Estate has helped San Diegans find their dream homes.

“Here’s a service company that has rendered help to community members for so many different decades over so many different events in our world,” said Andrew E. Nelson, president and CEO of the real estate company. “This is a little company that started in the small village of La Jolla in 1914. We had World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and it still existed and still proceeded to go forth while so many companies collapsed. That, to me, is pretty exciting.”

Businessman Frederick L. Brown founded the company in La Jolla in 1914. In 1940, the company’s namesake, Willis Allen, Sr., bought the business, changed the company name and grew with the city.

“It was the foundation of what happened in the community,” Nelson said. “There were so many different homes and complexes in which he was the listing agent or selling agent.”

Under Allen’s leadership, the company opened its second location in Rancho Santa Fe in 1952 and expanded to Del Mar in 1973.

Allen was a mentor to Nelson, who started with the company in 1977. Both had served in the U.S. Navy and both shared a love of real estate.

In 1981, Nelson became the new leader of Willis Allen Real Estate. He later purchased the company in 1995.

“I wanted to make sure that we lived on the legacy that had been passed on by prior leadership and ownership, including Willis,” said Nelson, a Del Mar native. “We’re a high-end boutique company, but we worked very comfortably in the neighborhoods in which we operated. The whole idea was to make sure the integrity of our small close-knit group was maintained.”

Under Nelson’s leadership, the company has more than doubled in size. With offices located in La Jolla, Rancho Santa Fe, Del Mar, Point Loma, Coronado and downtown San Diego, Willis Allen Real Estate has expanded throughout the county.

Although much has changed since the company first opened its doors, Willis Allen Real Estate is still committed to hiring the best and brightest agents who go above and beyond for their clients, said Nelson.

“The integrity and the commitment to have strong one-on-one client relationships has stayed the same,” Nelson said. “It’s been that way from the beginning.”

Still an independent and family-owned business, many staff members and agents have worked at the company for 20 or more years, Nelson said. Following in their father’s footsteps, Nelson’s two sons now work at the company.

In honor of the Willis Allen Real Estate’s centennial anniversary, agents, staff and family will celebrate with a party mid-April on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Midway.

“It’s a commitment on everybody’s part to trust and work as a team,” Nelson said. “We’re trying to make sure we’re giving the best service we can to the public.”

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