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The History of Brett/Robinson - Established 1968


More than 50 years ago, brothers Tillis and Gene Brett and Tommy Robinson began laying the foundation of what would become Brett/Robinson through hard work, integrity, perseverance and faith. 


Prior to the forming of Brett/Robinson, Tillis and Gene Brett jump started their real estate endeavors by pooling their combined resources of $500 to form Brett Real Estate. They later partnered with builder and hardware store owner Robinson, who they began working with in 1968, to form Brett Real Estate Robinson Development Co Inc., which incorporated in 1974 in Saraland, Alabama.

Starting their real estate company in Chickasaw, Alabama, Tillis and Gene found success by going door-to-door and that grew into the partnership with Tommy, a successful subdivision developer running Robinson Development Co. who also owned and operated Coastal Home Center in Saraland. Together with their sales and building experience, the company grew quickly and the men never wavered in their commitment to one another, their employees and customers. 

Weathering four recessions, manmade and natural disasters, the men — with a strong company backbone of family and hundreds of employees — have consistently risen to the challenge with their true American can-do spirit, never giving up.  Where other companies have waxed and waned with recessional tides, Brett/Robinson has remained steadfast and continues to flourish. 

“The people made the company and it starts right here,” Tillis said in 2016, a year before he passed away. “We’re dedicated.” 

Gene said, “Our great associates and employees over the years have been a great team.  That’s what makes it — our commitment, dedication, hard work and, of course, the fact that we never thought about quitting or giving up. We never considered it.”

In the early 80s, the three men plunged headfirst into condo development with Island Winds East in Gulf Shores with the first rentals beginning in 1982. Shortly thereafter, with condo owners wanting someone they trusted to manage rentals, the group formed Brett/Robinson Gulf Corporation with William “Chris” McDonough II, serving as president until his passing in 2016.

Phoenix rising

In 1985, where a lone chimney of a burned down beach house once jutted out of the sugar-white dunes in Orange Beach, the first Phoenix condominium rose. Two years later after the opening of Phoenix II, the national savings and loan crisis had the company on the ropes.  Where others declared bankruptcy, the three pulled together. They shifted the company’s strategy to not only selling condos but building them with its own employees and requiring cash upfront.  Building trust among its condo owners and always following through on commitments has paid dividends for decades. 

“From here to Miami and from Miami up all the way up the East Coast, we’ve had numerous people in my lifetime come to us and say, ‘How do y’all do that? How are you able to get people to give you cash?’,” Tommy said.  “What I’ve always told people, and these two guys said it too, is that we’re honest and they trust us. And if we ever lose our integrity we’re going to quit selling.”

Through the years, Brett/Robinson has developed over a thousand homes and two dozen condominium projects with new projects under development.

Today, five decades in, the company is as strong as ever with Tillis’ son John Brett holding the reins of Brett/Robinson Sales as the main broker. On the vacation rental and property management side, Gene’s son Bill Brett leads a dedicated team of employees at Brett/Robinson Vacations. Pat Nelson, Tommy Robinson's son-in-law, has a dedicated team at Brett/Robinson Construction as well. The company welcomes guests year-round to a wide variety of beachfront vacation rentals, including its signature Phoenix condos, along Alabama Gulf Coast’s 32 miles of sugar-white sands from Orange Beach to Gulf Shores to the Fort Morgan peninsula. 

Book your family-friendly beach vacation today at an Orange Beach condo or Gulf Shores vacation rental with Brett/Robinson Vacations. Interested in owning a Phoenix condo? Visit Brett/Robinson Real Estate Sales

What about the name: Phoenix? 

In 1985 when Gulf Shores and Orange Beach were sleepy little beach towns, Brett/Robinson Development, founded by Tillis Brett, Gene Brett and Tommy Robinson, was about to break ground on a new beach property in Orange Beach. They needed a name for the condo.

Gene tells the rest of the story: 

“I was traveling, selling real estate,” Gene says. “I was staying at an old hotel in Birmingham, trying to come up with a name. An old movie, the original ‘Flight of the Phoenix’ with Jimmy Stewart was on TV. I saw it and I thought about it. On the first Phoenix building there was an old burnt out house with just a chimney standing and I thought of that mythical bird that you can’t destroy. It’s very resilient; it’s strength. Well, at the time and you still do it but you go down to South Florida you look at condominiums and you look at the names of them and the people copy that all the way up, the different companies. Different buildings, you’ll see the Moonraker, White Sands, Tradewinds, everywhere and Sea and Shore and all that stuff. And I just wanted something different that people would remember and stand out among all of them. It seems to have worked.”

Always a salesman, Gene had to convince his business partners the name would work. Tommy wasn’t sold on it at first.  

“We thought that was a crazy name,” Tommy says. “We didn’t like it at all because we wanted Sea Oats or Sandpiper, what folks usually name condos, like Island Winds East. We started and it just caught on and everybody liked that mythical bird rising. And Gene pushed pretty hard, he would not back off of it. He’s a hard head, that man.” Thus, Phoenix I was born, and many more followed, shaping the coastline we all love. 

Together, the Brett and Robinson families envisioned a Gulf Shores and Orange Beach that was more carefully constructed than before and that would better endure storms like 1979's Hurricane Frederick. Phoenix condominiums are built with all concrete. Combining their strong work ethics with backgrounds in real estate sales and construction, they built what would become the standard for beachfront accommodations and amenities. 

Book your family-friendly beach vacation today at an Orange Beach condo or Gulf Shores vacation rental with Brett/Robinson Vacations. Interested in owning a Phoenix condo? Visit Brett/Robinson Real Estate Sales