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Mom + Pop Commercial Real Estate.

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A few years back.

I remember meeting them. It was sunny and a bit cold. They pulled up in a pick up truck and a clean but used Toyota sedan. They had reached out to me because of a referral from a friend. They were looking for some light industrial flex space. We had talked on the phone and I had asked them the usual questions. As we shook hands and smiled they seemed anxious. ” This is a big step for us. We need to make this work . It’s now or never.” They didn’t sound like super tech savvy entrepreneurs. They didn’t look like them either. He wore blue jeans a Carhart jacket and sturdy work boots. She had on jeans a pull over sweat shirt and white athletic shoes. She had him on size. She was taller and wider. He wore a cap that looked like he never took it off. His glasses were thick and round.

We entered the space thru the front door. The lights were on. I had arrived a few minutes early and switched everything on. I had leased out other spaces in this building and for this owner. I knew the who how what where when and why. I let them walk around and look at the space for themselves. She took the lead and checked out the office set up and the bathroom situation. He walked straight into the warehouse and looked at the electrical set up and the ceiling heights. I stayed with her and she looked at the placement of the outlets and the old phone set up.

” We have our old phone system. We would need to bring it in and get it set up.”

” What are the odds it’s compatible to this system?” I asked.

” Probably zero.” She smiled and tilted her head towards the door to the warehouse. ” Is he still out there?”

” I let him go explore. I think he has his phone out and is taking pictures.”

” Really, he doesn’t even know how to set the ringtone.”

” You may have to delete the ones with his finger over the lens.”

She smiled and walked towards the warehouse. I let her go and hung back. As she approached he turned to her. I could hear conversation but not what they were actually saying. He held the phone up and stood still. She glanced back my way with a big smile and reached for his phone. I could tell she was swiping thru the picture gallery. As they were talking he gestured and pointed. He pulled a tape measure from his belt and ran it up the dock door. They both turned and walked towards the steps that went up to the loft storage space above the office. He took a long look at the HVAC set up and she looked over the stair rail. They both came back down.

” I know we have talked about the numbers and timing but could you tell us again exactly how this works?”

 A few months ago.

I see him at the gas station same truck same type of hat same Carhart jacket. He smiles. “Hey why don’t you stop by and say hi?”

I say I will this afternoon around three or so. He smiles and starts up his truck.

I pull into the lot. It’s full. I remember when they started they had three “employees” and just the two of them. I walk into the office and notice it now takes up almost a quarter of the original space. Ladies in jeans and sweatshirts look up as I enter and smile then focus back on their computer screens. I get the attention of the “BOSS” she smiles thru the glass window with the phone in her ear. She motions for me to come into her office. Putting the phone down ” he said he saw you at the gas station.”

” I’m not hard to miss all red car and chrome.”

She laughs ” nothing wrong with a nice car.”

” Is that your new Toyota out there?”

” Yes, the other one just about had it.”

” I noticed he still has the same beater truck.”

” He’ll never sell that thing. He has more money in it than it’s worth.”

” Mans gotta have a truck.”

” I guess. I don’t even ride in it. I don’t think there is room inside for me.”

” Maybe that’s his strategy.”

Laughing ” it’s working then.”

” So things are rolling along?”

” Keeping the lights on. We just finished up the redo of our assembly area and are getting ready to take on a new manufacturer.”

” Sounds good. I remember when it was you and the baby in the office.”

” Yes, I remember I had the playpen next to my desk and express milk in the refrigerator.”

” Wow, yea I remember. How old is she now?”

” Nine.”

” Nine? Your kidding?”

” Nope and taking clarinet lessons already.”

” That must make the house interesting.”

” She spends a lot of time at grandmas so I don’t get it too much.”

” Wow it doesn’t seem that long ago.”

” I was thinking about that the other day. We have expanded three different times since we started. Thanks for the help by the way.”

” You’re welcome.”

” We’ve added seventeen employees to full-time and he and I actually took a vacation this year.”

” Slacker. Where did you go?”

” Hawaii. I always wanted to go.”

” And?”

” I loved it. I want to go back.”

” How did mister frugal do?”

” Checked the prices of everything twice and still complained. I made him take a helicopter tour. That shut him up. He’s scared of heights.”

” Poor guy. I feel for him.”

” Oh, he’ll be just fine. He had enough rum in him. I don’t think he remembers too much.”

” That’s my boy. It’s the quite ones you have to watch out for. So business is good?”

” It’s better. After we started we almost went down. The recession thing almost killed us but we made it thru.

” I am still amazed at how you did it.”

” Lots of grilled cheese sandwiches and soup for dinner.”

” Low key simple business run with no debt and all positive attitude.”

” Pretty much. If you haven’t got it don’t spend it.”

We continued chatting. She asked me about my girls and my business. We reminisced. I took a look at her clock and mentioned I had another meeting. She thanked me for stopping by and suggested that we grab lunch sometime. I opened the door to my car and put the keys in the ignition. Driving away I looked in the mirror at the plain brown buildings with simple brick fronts. Typical flex space a couple of miles off the interstate in the middle of nowhere.

I thought back to that first meeting. What had changed? Not much really.

A nice couple with a simple idea and a plan.

I know they have never missed a rent payment once.

I know they live in the same house as they did when we met.

I know they pay the people who work with them a fair wage.

I know the people who work for them are loyal and proud to work there.

I know they have helped me pay my bills.

I know they have been loyal to me.

Mom + Pop Commercial Real Estate.

 

 

 

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/msvg/4841819816/”>MSVG</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Neil Johnson

    Duke – Good insights. Over the years, many of my clients (buyers, sellers, landlords, tenants) have been “mom & pop” business people. More often than not, it has been a positive experience, and I feel good about using my professional expertise to help when I can. Unfortunately, since we don’t get a magic wand with our brokerage license, there are times when things don’t work out for them. That always feels bad. – Neil

  • Lauren Kriner

    Cool story, Duke! Makes the world go round. Rewarding ones.

  • This really takes me back to my days doing private capital investments. I still remember the owner that didn’t understand that planting tulips in front of her single tenant medical office “so the patients would feel nice” wouldn’t impact her value since it didn’t impact her rent….

    • Duke Long

      We all have them don’t we.