Chris Abington: Small Steps That Moved Him Forward

By choosing Arkansas Tech University for his education, Chris Abington made an investment in his future that led him to helping others plan their futures in the River Valley. As the owner of River Valley Realty, Abington does more than sell real estate; he sells community, security and dreams for the future.

For many businesses, 2020 offered a myriad of challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in March 2020, Abington wondered how his real estate company would survive the unknown.

Chris Abington working in his office.

“We’ve actually had more sales in our market than we’ve ever had,” said Abington. “So, in the midst of everything going on, we’re selling more real estate. Who would have guessed that?”

Abington credits utilizing existing technology to aiding his business model during the pandemic. Everything from virtual tours to online meetings with clients helped sales during the uncertain times of the year.

“When you are a service business, you have to find creative ways to communicate and serve clients in this time,” said Abington. “We’ve had a lot of the technology in place, but [the pandemic] probably pushed us forward from the technology side of life. It’s created all these circles, and we probably would have gotten there, but we got there a lot faster than we ever would have.”

His degree in economics and finance from ATU prepared Abington to weather the changes in real estate. Growing up in Russellville, Abington’s parents owned a real estate company for much of his early life. Desiring to work in business in the River Valley someday, Abington knew Tech was the right place for him because it offered everything he needed close to the community he loved.

Abington credits professors Dr. Tom Tyler (professor emeritus and retired dean and professor of economics for the College of Business), Dr. Michael Benefield (professor emeritus and retired associate professor of finance) and the late Dr. McGaughey (retired professor of management information systems) for making his business education challenging and fun.

When he started college, Abington was adamant that real estate was not in his future. The business still called him, though, through marketing and management, and later economics and finance as he changed his major. Abington soon realized he enjoyed both the numbers and the creativity of the real estate business. He already had ties to a few professors in the business program, including Dr. Benefield, who had purchased his home through Abington’s parents.

Chris Abington in Russellville.

After his parents sold their company to Century 21 when Abington was in college, he earned his real estate license and worked as a broker for the company during his last year of classes at ATU.

In 2016, equipped with his degree and many years of experience, Abington and his wife, Tara, purchased the company that is now River Valley Realty. The company has more than 40 agents and runs a property management division in addition to traditional residential and commercial sales. Somewhere along the way, Abington had come back to his roots in real estate.

“I like the versatility that this business offers,” said Abington. “I get to use my degree in finance almost every day when analyzing numbers and returns on real estate. I get to use my classes from management and marketing, as well, with the team we have and the properties we represent. It’s a good combination of both. I love to see things done creatively and excellently in our company and in this community.”

As a business owner, Abington has retained his ties to Arkansas Tech University, his company selling homes to many new faculty and staff members through the years. He has spoken to multiple business classes throughout the years on the value of investing and owning real estate. River Valley Realty has hosted a real estate investing class with Dr. Ed Bashaw (former dean and professor of marketing) on the ATU campus. Abington has represented ATU in real estate acquisition and disposition with the purchase of properties along El Paso Avenue and the recent sale of the Lake Point Conference Center.

Abington is proud of his alma mater for the improvements on campus during and since his time as a student.

“A lot of construction happened around the time I was there,” said Abington. “I was there when we were in the original library [Tomlinson Hall] and then moved to the new library [Ross Pendergraft Library and Technology Center]. To watch the university from when I started to where it is now just from an infrastructure standpoint…I’m really proud of how the university looks, everything from landscaping and trees to the buildings that have been constructed. The campus has so much to offer students.”

Abington cites Arkansas Tech’s ties to the community as a mutually beneficial asset.

“I think one of the greatest strengths our community has is the university being located in our city,” said Abington. “Arkansas Tech has made a lot of strides to connect to the community, everything from the President’s involvement down. To have this education on your doorstep and alumni and a community that wants to see you succeed, I believe, is a recipe for growth. I believe there are a lot of doors that can open to you from this combination of career and education. People in this community want to see graduates succeed.”

According to Abington, he’s confident that any Arkansas Tech student or graduate could call a River Valley business owner for advice on a future career path and be greeted with warmth and helpfulness.

“The great part is, even with the size of [ATU and the community], you have small connections that can help make big steps for you moving forward,” continued Abington.

His love for the River Valley community inspired Abington to take on other roles in his hometown. One of his affiliations has been an active leadership role at City Church in Russellville. Along with campus pastor David Howell, Abington led the church’s efforts to partner with RIP Medical debt (a nonprofit organization that purchases medical debt at a steep discount) to pay off $3 million in medical debt for residents of the River Valley in 2019.

Chris Abington and Dave Howell in front of City Church

About his church, Abington said, “We value and love this city as much as anyone. We believe in sending people overseas but also recognize the needs here locally.” He and his family have worked with teams from City Church during the COVID-19 pandemic to serve at the Main Street Mission in Russellville, offer drive-through prayer services, and their congregation collected approximately $25,000 to distribute to families in the community who were affected by the pandemic.

While the world continues to face COVID-19, Abington is thankful to live in such a great community with his wife, Tara, and their six children.

“We are committed to this community and have a heart to see it grow,” concluded Abington. “We believe in it. I’m raising my children here because I believe that from this great place we live, we can change the world. From education and beyond, this community is the best place to launch from.”

-By Brandi Easterling Collins
for the Tech Action, Spring 2021