Bethany Beach’s Marnie Oursler Promotes Use of American Construction Products Through Marnie Homes

A spokeswoman for 84 Lumber’s Build American program, the 34-year-old contractor has built 28 homes in Bethany and is also set to receive her MBA from Duke University.


Published:

Oursler helped 84 Lumber roll out a Build American campaign in January.

Photo by Maria DeForrest

Marnie Oursler of Bethany Beach may be one of the few people to get accepted to a prestigious MBA program after admitting in an application letter that people thought she was crazy.

But after eating almost nothing other than peanut butter sandwiches for two years, Oursler, an $11-an-hour real estate assistant just two years out of college, had saved enough to buy a $250,000 house seven blocks from the ocean. Her intent: fix it up, then sell for a nice chunk of change. Her parents thought she’d lost her mind.

Oursler got busy. She bought materials with her credit cards and did much of the work herself. Nine months later, in 2004, she sold the home—and pocketed a cool $89,000. With the profit, she bought a new lot, then started building a home from scratch.

Oursler has parlayed the experience into the most successful custom home-building business at the beach. Her constant exploration and innovation have led her to another success: showing the country’s largest private supplier of construction materials that building American costs no more than the industry-wide practice of building with materials from around the world.

Now Oursler is a national spokeswoman for 84 Lumber’s Build American program. Together they hope to revitalize a sagging construction industry by boosting sales of American-made products and creating jobs. Oursler knows it can work. In her own small way, she’s done it.

Sitting at the dining table in her home—a beautiful place with soaring ceilings, custom millwork, random-width plank floors, and retro touches such as white subway tile in the bathroom and stained five-panel doors—Oursler smiles. “I like a challenge,” she says.

Oursler grew up around construction. Her great grandfather was a builder. So was her grandfather. So is her dad, Marvin Oursler, who would often park his daughter at job sites around their home in Calvert County, Maryland, before delivering her to softball practice or soccer games. “I was literally digging foundations, tying re-bar, sweeping houses, taking out trash, doing whatever a girl could do,” Oursler says.

She wasn’t much interested in construction, at least not that she nor her father were aware of then. Oursler preferred sports. Her skills landed her on a nationally ranked traveling softball team, as well as a position on the Maryland state soccer team. “Digging a ditch is no harder than sliding into second on your face,” Marvin Oursler says. “Marnie never was this dainty thing out there with the guys. And because of the sports, she related to the guys well.”

When it came time to choose a college, Oursler headed to the U.S. Naval Academy. The famous Plebe Summer, when new students, called “plebeians,” suffer through all manner of tests, “changed me forever,” Oursler says. “I have no fear that I can’t do anything.” Yet when her grandfather passed, she had a change of heart. “I was a good plebe. I just didn’t want to do it anymore.” So she left the academy, heading to East Carolina University on a softball scholarship. There she was named All Conference Big South Shortstop and earned All Conference Academic Honors three years straight, and her Division I team ranked 23rd in the country. She also served as an officer in the Chi Omega sorority. A dual major in information technology and education, she planned to become a teacher, like several of the women in her family, until she realized she didn’t like the school environment.

Soon after graduation in 2001, Oursler moved to her family’s beach house in Bethany while she tried to determine a new path. “My parents said that was OK,” she laughs, “as long as I didn’t work in a bar.” She landed a job as an assistant at a local real estate office. She also started to chart market trends. Based on that research, she identified her first property. By the time she started building her first home, her own, in 2005, she had taken a job as a saleswoman for a regional builder. She won several awards for her performance, but by 2007, the market had started to founder, and so did Oursler. She needed a challenge. By then, she had become acquainted with her neighbors, who had an extra lot they wanted to build on. With nothing to show but the home she’d just finished, a design sense inherited from her mother and a meticulously itemized bid, the 28-year-old persuaded the skeptical couple to make her their contractor. She finished the job ahead of schedule and under budget. Referrals started coming in.

Since then, Marnie Homes has built 28 houses around Bethany. Annual revenue grew from $450,000 at the start to $4 million last year. Oursler performs all design and building functions. Over the years—the worst in the history of the local building and real estate market—she has kept people employed and kept contractors in business. She also ended up building the first LEED-certified home in the state (the acronym stands for Leadership in Environmental Engineering and Design) and, at the request of another client, built a home with 95 percent of the materials produced in the United States.

Featured in the local paper, that house caught the attention of an executive at 84 Lumber. He reached out to Oursler. In August, she and 84 Lumber joined forces. The company has since found a way to make more American materials readily available, based on her action plan, and she has become the face of 84’s Build American campaign, a contractor who has proven that building American doesn’t cost a fortune. “We found that it’s pretty easy to do,” says Jeff Nobers, vice president of marketing for 84 Lumber.

Building all American includes mainly the basic materials—framing, sheathing, roofing, drywall, insulation, hardware. Some of those materials do cost more than foreign products, Nobers says, but through cost controls that save money in other areas, a home can be built for less than one with mostly foreign products, as Oursler has demonstrated—not to mention that American-made products are of superior quality.

With Oursler, 84 Lumber rolled out the Build American campaign at the International Homebuilders Show in Las Vegas in January. With 250 stores in 30 states, 84 Lumber has the might to promote awareness of the benefits of building American. “Marnie has found a way to make this very doable,” Nobers says. “Anything we can do to protect and create jobs and keep dollars in the U.S. is beneficial to the economy.”

Having built a successful business and hitting on a revolutionary idea, what’s a woman to do? If you’re Oursler, you go to Duke University. At 34, she is in the second of six terms in the Fuqua School of Business’ competitive Cross Continent MBA program. The program takes her to various countries for two weeks to provide global perspective on business, followed by several weeks of course work and group projects. No sooner had Oursler returned from Dubai, she left for Las Vegas.

“I stay busy,” Oursler laughs. “I love what I do. Right now I’m just taking it day by day. I don’t want to focus only on my career. I want to focus on my life and family. But I love being the national spokesman. We’ll see where this takes me.”  

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View map »


Website »

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The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
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Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

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By Michael Gotch Directed by Mark Lamos Thompson Theatre JAN. 16 – FEB. 2 ​After last season’s wildly successful Minor Fantastical Kingdoms, Michael Gotch returns with a darker...

Cost: $20 - $37, with discounts for Seniors, Students, and UD Faculty/Staff

Where:
Thompson Theatre
Center for the Arts
110 Orchard
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: 302-831-2204
Contact Name: REP Box Office
Website »

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A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including paintings, drawings, ceramics, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

65 million years ago, dinosaurs roamed the earth. Travel back in time to see their world as they knew it, and be the dinosaur. Drawing on today’s modern technology and tested and...

Cost: $9 ages 3-59, $8 seniors, $3 ages 1-2, free for under 12 months and DMNH members

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-384-3694
Website »

More information

RECONSTITUTE Draper Experiment by Jacintha Clark December 6, 2019 – February 23, 2020  Opening Reception: Friday, December 6 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop Jacintha...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

Mitch Lyons is a well-known and important part of the local art community, who over the past five decades developed a truly innovative form of print-making. Lyons received his undergraduate degree...

Cost: Free with Museum admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

GESTURE OF MOTION Haeley Kyong January 10 - April 23, 2020 Opening Reception: Friday, February 7 5 - 9 PM during first Friday Art Loop The idea of relativity is pronounced in color...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

A HISTORY OF THE WORLD - SORT OF Hugh Atkins and Jenna Lucente January 3 - January 27, 2020 Opening Reception: Friday, January 10, 2020 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop “Let there be...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

MALICE’S RESTAURANT Hennessy Experiment by Natalie Hutchings January 10 - April 15, 2020 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, February 7, 2020 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Hennessy...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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More information

Directly inspired by the Delaware Art Museum’s Pre-Raphaelite and American illustration collections, this commission from Angela Fraleigh presents a contemporary look at gender and identity...

Cost: Free with Museum admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

BEIJING BOOSTER PAINTINGS Peter Wayne Lewis October 4, 2019 to February 26, 2020 VIP Preview Reception:  October 3, 2019 | 5 - 7 PM Public Reception:  October 4,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

LOOK TO THE LAND A Mary Putman Retrospective November 16, 2019 - April 6, 2020 Opening Reception: Friday, December 6 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop Long-time Delawarean artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

Curated by Deborah Willis, Ph.D., “Posing Beauty in African American Culture explores the contested ways in which African and African American beauty have been represented in historical and...

Cost: Free with Museum admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

On a bitter cold night in London's East End, a baffling murder occurs. Has Jack the Ripper returned or has another chap taken his place? London needs your help! Polish up your looking glass...

Cost: Admission is free. All wine and food purchases are pay-as-you-go.

Where:
Chaddsford Winery
632 Baltimore Pike
Chadds Ford, PA  19317
View map »

More information

The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
View map »


Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

More information

By Michael Gotch Directed by Mark Lamos Thompson Theatre JAN. 16 – FEB. 2 ​After last season’s wildly successful Minor Fantastical Kingdoms, Michael Gotch returns with a darker...

Cost: $20 - $37, with discounts for Seniors, Students, and UD Faculty/Staff

Where:
Thompson Theatre
Center for the Arts
110 Orchard
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: 302-831-2204
Contact Name: REP Box Office
Website »

More information

Show More...
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The Delaware Beekeepers Association will be holding two beekeeping workshops at Wesley College in Dover on January 18th 2020.  Beekeeping 101 is an all day workshop for those interested in...

Cost: 50.00

Where:
Wesley College
120 N. State Street
Dover, DE  19901
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Sponsor: Delaware Beekeepers Association and Wesley College
Telephone: 302-242-7859
Contact Name: Kathleen Curran
Website »

More information

A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including paintings, drawings, ceramics, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Instructor: Roe Murray   

Cost: $55 Members, $70 Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Ketnmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

65 million years ago, dinosaurs roamed the earth. Travel back in time to see their world as they knew it, and be the dinosaur. Drawing on today’s modern technology and tested and...

Cost: $9 ages 3-59, $8 seniors, $3 ages 1-2, free for under 12 months and DMNH members

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-384-3694
Website »

More information

A HISTORY OF THE WORLD - SORT OF Hugh Atkins and Jenna Lucente January 3 - January 27, 2020 Opening Reception: Friday, January 10, 2020 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop “Let there be...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

GESTURE OF MOTION Haeley Kyong January 10 - April 23, 2020 Opening Reception: Friday, February 7 5 - 9 PM during first Friday Art Loop The idea of relativity is pronounced in color...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

BEIJING BOOSTER PAINTINGS Peter Wayne Lewis October 4, 2019 to February 26, 2020 VIP Preview Reception:  October 3, 2019 | 5 - 7 PM Public Reception:  October 4,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

MALICE’S RESTAURANT Hennessy Experiment by Natalie Hutchings January 10 - April 15, 2020 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, February 7, 2020 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Hennessy...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

Directly inspired by the Delaware Art Museum’s Pre-Raphaelite and American illustration collections, this commission from Angela Fraleigh presents a contemporary look at gender and identity...

Cost: Free with Museum admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Curated by Deborah Willis, Ph.D., “Posing Beauty in African American Culture explores the contested ways in which African and African American beauty have been represented in historical and...

Cost: Free with Museum admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Mitch Lyons is a well-known and important part of the local art community, who over the past five decades developed a truly innovative form of print-making. Lyons received his undergraduate degree...

Cost: Free with Museum admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

LOOK TO THE LAND A Mary Putman Retrospective November 16, 2019 - April 6, 2020 Opening Reception: Friday, December 6 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop Long-time Delawarean artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

RECONSTITUTE Draper Experiment by Jacintha Clark December 6, 2019 – February 23, 2020  Opening Reception: Friday, December 6 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop Jacintha...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

Thanks to books like Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home, there’s an increasing interest among homeowners, property managers, and municipal governments to include more native plants in...

Cost: $20

Where:
Mt. Cuba Center
3120 Barley Mill Rd
Hockessin, DE  19707
View map »


Website »

More information

Shake off the winter blues at the Brandywine River Museum of Art's Arctic BBQ! Roast marshmallows by the fire and have a “snowball fight” in the Museum Courtyard. Explore the River...

Cost: Free with museum admission

Where:
Brandywine River Museum of Art
1 Hoffman's Mill Road
Chadds Ford, PA  19317
View map »


Sponsor: Brandywine River Museum of Art
Telephone: 610-388-2700
Website »

More information

.Enjoy a Guide-led tour of the special exhibition Posing Beauty in African American Culture.  Image: Susan Taylor, as Model,c. 1970s. Ken Ramsay (1935–2008). Gelatin...

Cost: Free for Members, Free with admission for Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

On a bitter cold night in London's East End, a baffling murder occurs. Has Jack the Ripper returned or has another chap taken his place? London needs your help! Polish up your looking glass...

Cost: Admission is free. All wine and food purchases are pay-as-you-go.

Where:
Chaddsford Winery
632 Baltimore Pike
Chadds Ford, PA  19317
View map »

More information

The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
View map »


Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

More information

By Michael Gotch Directed by Mark Lamos Thompson Theatre JAN. 16 – FEB. 2 ​After last season’s wildly successful Minor Fantastical Kingdoms, Michael Gotch returns with a darker...

Cost: $20 - $37, with discounts for Seniors, Students, and UD Faculty/Staff

Where:
Thompson Theatre
Center for the Arts
110 Orchard
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: 302-831-2204
Contact Name: REP Box Office
Website »

More information

Show More...
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