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Island’s oldest realty company moves into the future as AMAC

STORY BY STEVEN M. THOMAS (Week of October 21, 2021)
Photo: Alex MacWilliam Real Estate owner/broker Buzz MacWilliam and his son Alex MacWilliam IV.

The oldest real estate company on the island – Alex MacWilliam Inc. – now has the most modern logo, a bold orange jolt of a word rooted in the firm’s family history and intended to carry it into an expansive future.


“It’s our Nike Swoosh,” says marketing manager Tammy Adams, an emblem designed to evoke a venerable company with a contemporary flair.

And the logo is just part of a complete rebranding that will be rolled out over the next couple of months, aimed at capturing the attention of younger clients and agents who are a growing part of the island’s changing demographic.

Alex MacWilliam IV, who has been known as “AMAC” since grade school and who is now being groomed to lead the 72-year-old business into the future by his father, owner/broker Buzz MacWilliam, said his nickname “rolls off the tongue a little easier than Alex MacWilliam Real Estate.”

Shortening the common name of the brokerage is part of trend that has seen Hewlett Packard become HP, Dunkin Donuts become Dunkin’ and Weight Watchers trim its name down to WW, to cite just a few examples.

As part of the new look, the company office, built at the corner of Ocean Drive and Flamevine in the early 1950s, will be repainted light gray with orange and burgundy accents – the colors of the updated brand – and the reception area will be completely remodeled to reflect the company’s new contemporary style.

Alex IV says he and Adams started talking about rebranding a couple years ago. They asked for thoughts from local companies but didn’t see anything that lit a fire under them.  Then the pandemic came along, and project was put on hold until November 2020. At that point, the company cast a wider net for top designers.

“We interviewed three ad agencies that specialize in brand identity,” says Adams. “One was in Jacksonville, one on the west coast of the U. S., and Helium Creative, the company we chose, which has offices in Fort Lauderdale and Baltimore.

“Helium has a very compelling story and website, and they describe themselves as ‘brand junkies,’ which really got my attention.”

A comprehensive rebranding that Alex IV says soaked up “a six-figure” investment began in March and wrapped up in late September.

Helium co-founder and creative director, Ryan Heller, told Vero Beach 32963 that MacWilliam’s deep roots on the island were integral to the creation of the new brand.

“You want to make sure there is an authenticity to who the company is that roots them an idea, a concept, a place, whatever the story stems from,” says Heller. “Knowing that AMAC has this incredible history in Vero set the foundation for us. It was great to have that story and that history, but then we had to move on to part two – how do we make it relevant in today’s market?”

The design process included careful selection of font and typography along with in-depth consideration of color psychology.

“There’s no other brokerage on the east coast of Florida using orange in their logo,” says Buzz MacWilliam. “The color orange is associated with joy, warmth, sunshine, creativity, enthusiasm and success.”

“Orange evokes Florida citrus and our sunrises and sunsets,” adds Alex IV. “It has a beachy feel.”

Good as the new AMAC look is, the question still arises: Why?

That is what Buzz MacWilliam wanted to know when his son and marketing manager brought up the idea and began to push for it.

The prior logo and look – which Buzz describes as “very traditional” – was created 20 years ago, granted, but it still looks good, and business has been great in recent years.

“Last year was a record year and this year so far we have experienced about a 30-percent increase in both our number of sales and sales volume,” says Buzz.

So why change?

Adams says shifting demographics are at the heart of the move.

“We want to maintain our connection with our primary demographic, which is the 65-plus community, but also be more appealing to woman and younger buyers and agents.

“Our community is changing. There are a lot more younger people, millennials like AMAC, 30- or 40-something moving into the community, often coming home to be close to parents and have grandchildren close to grandparents.”

“I meet people around town all the time, millennials who have just moved here from Chicago, L.A. or New York as part of the COVID shift in migration,” says AMAC. “They can work from home, and they love the lifestyle here.

“I’m hoping the new look will help us attract that demographic as customers and agents and allow us to recapture some of the market share we’ve lost as more real estate franchises and companies have come to town.

“I’d also like to attract some high-producing agents in the area, and we have already heard from some of the top agents at other firms that they like the new look.”

“I am the oldest one in the office and the most conservative and I was like, ‘We have been here all these years and we are doing great, why do we need to change?’” says Buzz. “And the color orange – I was very resistant to that at first, but they gradually won me over.

“It isn’t just the demographic change; almost everything in real estate has changed. I believe the human element is still the most important. Buyers and sellers still want a good agent to guide them through the process. But we use technology now in every aspect of our business and there is a lot of new competition, and we have to be forward-looking.

“When my father started the business in 1949, there was no MLS or Realtors Association here. He and the other three real estate agents in town met once a week at a drugstore with spiral notebooks to share information and find out who was looking to buy and sell.

“It has been a continual evolution since then. When I joined the company in 1980, we had eight agents. Now we have 65. The prior logo lasted us 20 years. Hopefully, this new one will last as long, with tweaks along the way.”

“We believe this design will withstand the test of time,” says Heller. “Any brand needs to undergo modifications; that is the nature of the beast, but we see this as a brand that is minimal in its approach but timeless in its nature that will weave its way into the community.”

The MacWilliams’ history in Vero Beach goes back to 1919, when Buzz’s grandfather, Alex MacWilliam Sr., came to town to design the Riomar golf course.

He was a World War I hero who was awarded a Silver Star, two Purple Hearts and the French Croix de Guerre. Wounded in a mustard gas attack, he was being treated in Cleveland where he was a landscape architect by one of the doctors who founded Riomar when the doctor asked him to help design the development.

He met his wife at the Riomar Club, where she worked in food service. They settled in Riomar and had a bunch of kids as he pursued a career that included serving as Vero Beach mayor for 20 years and founding the Indian River Mosquito Control District.

When his son, Alex MacWilliam Jr., Buzz’s father, came home from fighting in the Pacific in World War II he ran an officer’s club called “Club Mac” in the building where the Ocean Grill is now and then decided to go into real estate, opening an office across from the downtown post office.

He moved his business to the island in the early 1950s, building the office where it still operates. Buzz says he specialized in selling raw citrus land to growers, helping them drain the land and plant groves (that orange color), and selling mature citrus land with producing groves to doctors and others looking for tax write-offs.

He also sold to Llwyd Ecclestone the land where Ecclestone created John’s Island Club and developed Riomar Bay and other projects.

Buzz took the reins of the company in 1991 when his father retired and is now focusing much of his attention on mentoring AMAC to be the third-generation leader of the company.

“We have to be forward-thinking.” says Buzz. “Our investment in rebranding is an investment in the future.”

“We wanted to do something that would help us stand out in the community and compete with the big brands infiltrating into our area,” says Adams.

“It will take 12 to 18 months for all of this to fully integrate into the community so that people see AMAC and know instantly that is us. We will look at where we are a year and a half from now to measure the success of the new brand, to see if we have picked up market share, had an influx of people visiting the website or improved in other ways.”