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Meet the Oates Family

Tryon Equestrian Farms  may be a newly developing residential community in Mill Spring, NC, but for the Oates family, it’s a story that’s evolved over nearly a century. It all started with a small family business built on quality American-made products and outstanding customer service.

With deep roots in Western North Carolina, the Oates family built a foundation in the region through three generations. Their priorities, which continue to be reflected in their business ventures, include:

  • Being active participants in the communities where they live, work and play

  • Investing in their backyard and neighborhood

  • Preserving the local community culture

  • Maintaining a love of and respect for the land

Our History in WNC

The Oates family values continue to drive what’s become a sought-after equestrian lifestyle community. The history behind Tryon Equestrian Farms is long and storied:

  • In 1932, at the depth of the Great Depression, Tom Oates founded Manual Woodworkers and Weavers and turned it into a top crafts and novelties manufacturer and distributor. Its headquarters remain in nearby Hendersonville, NC.

  • In the 1970s, Tom’s son Lemuel, with his wife Sandra, bought and expanded the business. Today, the company employs 500 workers, 1,000 during the holiday season.

  • In 2008, Lemuel and Sandra’s children Travis and Molly became third-generation co-owners of the company, which they rebranded MWW, Inc. They spun off MWW On Demand to satisfy a need for third-party manufacturing and distribution fulfillment services in the textile and custom printing industry.

  • In 2012, Lemuel and Sandra opened Burntshirt Vineyards in Hendersonville. It was originally just a grape-growing operation.

  • In the early 2000s, Travis began purchasing land in Mill Spring.  Later, the rest of the Oates bought additional land, making the 1,000-acre tract that is now Tryon Equestrian Farms. The Mill Spring properties were acquired with help from real estate agent and family member, Betty Oates.  They aim to preserve the land and foster the equestrian community in the area, which the Tryon International Equestrian Center made more popular when it opened in 2014.


Tryon Equestrian Farms came into being through the vision of the Oates family. Travis took on the project and brought in land planner Ed Lastein, well-known landscape architect who mapped out the property lines in the earlier years. Sadly, he unexpectedly passed away in 2016 before he could see the completion of his efforts.   Billy Taylor and his team are marketing the project as the exclusive Realtors. Travis sees the development as a continuation of the Oates family legacy in Western North Carolina to preserve the culture of the local community.

Meet Travis Oates and Molly Oates Sherrill

Travis Oates and Molly Oates Sherrill both earned degrees from Appalachian State University and then went to work at MWW. Travis was Production Control Director, Director of Operations and Chief Operating Officer. Molly worked in Product Development, increasing the company’s product offerings, and managed the Manual Gift and Home Division. And now they own the company.

Just as Lemuel and Sandra Oates expanded into the wine business, Travis and Molly had their own ideas for taking the family enterprises in new, exciting directions, such as:

  • Creating MWW On Demand to satisfy a need the company hadn’t previously fulfilled

  • Renovating the successful Manual Gift and Home division to bring it up to date

  • Branching out into real estate with exciting projects like Tryon Equestrian Farms


While no one can predict the future, the Oates bought the land with a plan to develop it into a beautiful horse and home area. Tryon Equestrian Farms is ready for the next wave of homeowners to enjoy the rolling hills and scenic mountain views. Horse trails and other accommodations add to its exclusive splendor. Call today to schedule a personal tour of the property.

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