Padel Haus in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Guest: Brandon Singer and Michael Cody
Topics: Marketing, consumer behavior
Chris Ressa 0:01
This is retail retold the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris ReSSA. And I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC management. Hi everyone. I’m excited to announce on Sunday Night March 6 at 7:30pm I will host a live asked me anything virtual event. I’m going to talk about all things commercial real estate and retail. Check out retail retold.com/ama For more details on how to sign up for the event. And submit your questions today. Join me on Sunday March 6 at 7:30pm. Eastern Standard Time. Sign up today at retail retail.com/ama for more information. I hope to see you there. Welcome to retail retold everyone. Today I am joined by Brandon singer and Michael Cody, the founders of Moana of retail, a boutique retail advisory firm. I’m excited for them to be here. They’ve got a cool story for us and they are industry veterans who have a lot of knowledge in the industry. Welcome to the show, guys.
Brandon Singer 1:17
Thanks for having us, Chris. much appreciate the time. Yeah.
So Brandon Michael brand. I’ll start you once you tell us a little bit about who you are Mona and then Michael, tell us a bit more about you.
Sure. I am a 15 year retail real estate broker straight out of college the only thing I’ve ever done professionally I’m 36 years old. I am born and raised in the New York metropolitan area. I went to college in Washington DC then came back to New York City right after college in 2007. And have been leasing retail space all along the way. I was at I started my career at RKf which you know, doesn’t exist anymore. And then a couple years after being after joining our cafe, made the switch over to Cushman and Wakefield, where I was for the vast majority of my career where I met Michael. We partnered up there and then in the middle of the pandemic September of 2020. Michael and I resigned from Cushman and launched the firm, Mona and Monet Mona stands for making up a new age and is focused on the renaissance of retail. Obviously, the Mona Lisa is the most famous artwork from the Renaissance period. And we figured the name Mona was a tribute to that focus on where we are as a retail real estate industry and sort of the changes that are taking place in today’s day and age. So that’s a little about me, Mike.
Michael Cody 2:46
Okay, so I’m an eight year real estate industry veteran. I started my career off at Cushman Wakefield, I had been doing something completely different. That was in the performing arts world for a long time. And it was just looking for a side gig. I wound up enjoying retail a lot more than I thought it was going to getting pretty good at it. And when Brian and I had the chance to go off and kind of do our own thing. It just seemed like a natural progression. So I live in Queens. I’m originally from Southwestern Pennsylvania. And that’s it.
Got it. You said Mona and the Mona Lisa, you have some cool artwork behind you. If you notice my room is not decorated. I have zero artwork here. What is that behind you? That’s
pretty cool. First off, it’s not mine. But that’s one. It’s the beautiful piece of artwork. I believe it’s a Reginald Sylvester is that artists name? Beautiful. I can show you. That’s really cool. Yeah. Not mine. But beautiful.
So why don’t you guys tell us a little bit more. You started this in September 20. Interesting time, right. Especially in New York, right in other places in the country. The world was back to what it was pre pandemic, New York, that wasn’t yet. Tell us about you guys starting your own firm. And what the firm really specializes in what you guys think your, you know, your value proposition to the market is?
Sure. So, you know, while we were at Cushman, you know, I’d say starting in around 2017 or so up until, frankly, the pandemic hit. Michael and I were really sort of focused on the what we call the the new age of retail, a lot of new interesting concepts and companies that were either coming to us to represent them to help find space or we were representing landlords and it just so happened that we were transacting on leases with a lot of those companies, some of which being supreme on the Bowery, or show fields or beta Eden. You know, a few of them are these companies that I haven’t mentioned yet aren’t around anymore. Unfortunately, as a result, of the pandemic in New York City like fit house, for example, that was a really cool new age fitness concept. So we were doing a lot of transactions. For a lot of, like I said, New Age companies that we’re really trying to sort of take advantage of, at the time, if you recall, specifically in New York City, you know, the retail Apocalypse phenomenon, if you walked the high streets of New York, Fifth Avenue Broadway, and so, you know, you name it, it was like, every other store was vacant. So, because of that, I guess, because of our relatively young age, especially at the time, you know, in our early I was in my early 30s, at the time, but also my experience having worked on some of them, you know, some really major transactions with some really prominent brokers at Cushman. It kind of put us in a position that we were able to speak the language with the founders of New Age concepts and really understood where they were coming from, because we were their customer. And we understood it, and we were, you know, it wasn’t, you weren’t, they felt more comfortable working with us than say 30 or 40 year old veteran board, 40 year retail broker veteran, and no disrespect to anyone, but it kind of just felt like a natural progression. And you know, the, the numbers didn’t lie, we were transacting on a lot of deals around New York City around the country. And that’s sort of how we made a name for ourselves independently of our previous experience working on a really big team at Cushman. And it kind of went from there. And that’s how we started the firm.
Excellent. And you mentioned some cool brands. Are you still working with some of those brands you mentioned?
Yep. Pretty much all of them. That’s really cool. The ones that survived the pandemic, but the ones I mentioned, yeah,
supreme being one supreme being one that’s really interesting. You know, I know the store in the Bowery and they’ve done some really unbelievable things. So, really cool. Okay. I’m going to take you to the partner show we call clear the air. I’ve got three questions for each of you. And they’re not easy. But are you ready? Right there was doing Alright, question one. This is a little easier one. When’s the last time you did something for the first time and what was it? Mike go?
Oh, man. I’m gonna take the cop out answer because like, honestly, the pandemic has thrown me off so much. I feel like there’s a lot of things I’ve done for the first time but they haven’t all been fun. I’m gonna go with start a company in September. It points me twice. So my whole thing dude. I would say yesterday, I had kombucha for the first time and it was delicious. It was very good. Highly recommend.
Yeah, I think it’s an acquired taste. I’m surprised on the first time you liked it. But
I was definitely like, well, what is this, but I liked it. I was I was into it after a few sips. Yeah.
Okay, kombucha. All right. Question two. What is one thing most people agree with, but you do not make Go ahead?
That the world is round. Now. Just kidding. I think one thing that a lot of people agree with that I don’t is just the fact that retail is stagnant. I think that retail is absolutely coming back. I think that there is so much more potential, especially in New York City for it to get better and better and better. And there’s been a lot of negativity around REITs over the last couple years. And I don’t agree with that at all. Not one bit.
You just stole my answer again. But that’s okay. I would. Sorry, it’s okay. I would go with, I’d say probably the whole notion about working from offices being a thing of the past and then work from home is here to stay and every company. That’s something I completely disagree with. I think working from offices will come back as soon as sooner than we think and not that working from home won’t be a thing, but I don’t think it’ll be a prominent part of our, the way that we conduct commerce. And I have a whole bunch of reasons why we can probably get into that in another time. But yeah, that’s my answer.
Give me one reason, because that’s an interesting one.
One reason I think the obvious one, you know, chances are if you’re in a, if you’re going to an office, let’s say you’re in a business, right? You’re working for a business, and businesses are predicated on selling things, and you need people to sell things. Typically, if you’re not there, especially in our business, if you’re not there, and I am, I’m going to win and I’m going to make that’s just sort of the name of the game and you got to be around the rim to get the rebound. That’s my fundamental belief. And I think because of that, you know, again, like I said, Work From Home will definitely be a thing, but not like it’s been for the past two years. So that’s why that’s my that’s a number one reason.
So, we’ve seen admire As a short where landlord, we own suburban real estate, suburban retail real estate. So an open air suburban real retail real estate, right? So we’ve seen a significant bump from people living at home right now traveling to work source our centers are located in and around where people live people moving to the burbs. So we’ve seen a bump, and I think we were not closing our office, we have an office, were going to our office. And but I think the office is going to be different. We put in a flex policy, were three days, you work from the office two days you work from home, and, and to give people flexibility, I don’t think that’s going anywhere. I think that can change his consumer behavior and shopping. Right? I was, I recently spoke to the guys that are 45 If you’re familiar with that fitness concept, and I said, you know, what is one thing like, really, that’s like change do you think really impacted your business that people might not see from the pandemic. And he said, Mum, now we have daytime classes. We just have morning and night class. Now we have daytime classes, because people are home during the day and they feel good going to the gym during the day. And so I think consumer behavior is changing. To me. The corporate office is about human connection, collaboration, training and development, these things are not going anywhere and important. And I had the CEO, the former CEO of solid core, a brand that DC that’s got, you know, I think almost 100 locations now and mom on the show, and she said in the middle of the pandemic because I was challenging her on her concept at the time. And she said, Chris, I don’t think and this was like in June of 2020. And she’s like, I don’t think people want to work at home, shop at home, eat at home, sleep at home and work out at home and do everything at home. And I think there’s a lot of truth to that. So Okay, last question. What is one skill you don’t possess, but wish you did?
I’m a really terrible swimmer. I need to take lessons. I’m so bad at swimming.
Just take. That’s an interesting one. Where you can maybe you could join our family. I have a four and a three year old and we’re taking them for swim lessons every week. You should come.
Yeah, please just tell your three year old that the reason I’m doing so bad is I’m just trying to make them feel better. Right? It’s not good for a man who can barely swim. So yeah. Brandon.
I am a terrible, terrible athlete. I wish I had bit more athleticism. I got blessed with a lot of things. Athleticism was not one that God gave me. You got the rest though, you know, so that I wish I had better athletic ability.
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Okay you guys speaking of new age, you guys just made a deal that made a lot of headlines. Why don’t you tell us the story of that deal. Tell us who it is where it was and you know kind of how it came to be and take us behind the scenes.
Sure. Which one? Somebody I’m not joking. But anyway now. Paddle house I think you’re referencing right. Paddle pa D L. So Pradel I think is the proper way to to pronounce it is a tennis like sport. It started in Spain, I believe and it’s sort of migrated its way over to Central and Latin America and then last the past couple of years. With sort of the the rise of Miami and South Florida is like the center of the world with the beautiful weather out there. playing the sport outside became like a super super popular activity and being that the man integration of New Yorkers that took place going down to Florida and going down to South Florida in Miami. A gentleman by the name of Santiago Gomez, who I’ve represented in the past, he’s a big restaurant tour here in New York City. He’s one of the proprietors of cars and a and of Atla. Two very prominent, you know, cool, great, very well respected and rated restaurants in New York, said, You know, I want to bring this thing to New York, what do you think? And I said, Yeah, I mean, I think it would kill it, the challenge is very clearly the physicalities that you need, in order to have an indoor Adele court, you need, you know, significant ceiling height, which is tough, you know, in an urban setting like New York, enough for the ball to fly in the air and not hit the ceiling, right. So 25 feet, plus, not easy to find, that’s one, two, you need column spacing, this is the real hard part that will allow you to have courts that are courts, right. So with major major with So those two things alone, really, really made it difficult to find the space in an area that he wanted to be, you know, if you went to a warehouse in the Bronx somewhere, or in a sort of a less desirable area, for from a retail standpoint, where people would have to take the subway or be driven there, or Jordan or drive there, it didn’t make sense. So we were actually able to, I mean, we searched high, far and wide all over the place for this concept. And coincidentally, we were looking for space in Williamsburg. And we found an amazing location. And the deal kind of just sort of fell in place one of those types of deals that it kind of just seems like it’s meant to be after, don’t get me wrong, we took a lot of stuff that just couldn’t work, the space had ceiling heights that were you know, two feet too low, or the column spacing was a foot shy of what regulation is and the paddle world, whatever the regulating body of Fidel is. So we got we, you know, we it was it was a very, very, very challenged one of the toughest requirements that I’ve ever pursued on behalf of a client to be honest with you. But we found this great building and in Williamsburg in Brooklyn. And you know, it’s right near the bridge and the bridge that’s right over the water. So anyone that wants to come from Manhattan can come. Obviously, Williamsburg has its own phenomenon right now, and has what we believe will be sort of a captive audience in the sub market there that lives there. And that’s really how it came about. And it turned out to be one of the biggest deals done in you know, in Brooklyn in the past in 2021, which was, which was cool. From a physical, you know, from a size standpoint, it was 30, some odd 1000 square feet. And that’s it, the building’s perfect for it, the location is perfect for it. And we’re really excited for it to open and to see sort of how the impact will have on New York because up to that there’s really no other pedal, club or facility that can really accommodate that type of, you know, the plan there, which is basically having regulation courts, to the masses for members that joined the club.
So it for both of you a bunch of questions that come to mind. So one.
When I’m thinking of the migration, that happened, a lot of the migration, at least as I understand that was from Manhattan, was there. And those are the people getting familiar with the sport in Florida. Was there a thought to be in Manhattan over Williamsburg at any point in that discussion? Or was it Williamsburg and why Williamsburg?
I can say that Williamsburg. And the cooler boroughs were always, you know, the top goal.
Um, but the concept is, look, they did look for space in Manhattan. It’s just, it’s really, really hard to find space that works like that and has high ceilings and limited columns and doesn’t cost, you know, just really exorbitant rents per square foot in Manhattan. So Williamsburg, you know, it just checked off all the boxes. It was a really special location and a unique set of circumstances surrounding this place. So that’s why I worked out there.
give the audience some context and listeners that aren’t in New York City. My experience not to be challenging, but people in Manhattan don’t like to cross rivers and so and
that’s that’s that’s very accurate. Yeah. They don’t like across the street. That’s why Starbucks on every other block but
a lot of People in Manhattan, you know, as far as I understand, don’t love to cross rivers. So while Williamsburg is this phenomenon has its captive audience, do you think that people from it is is so special of a concept that someone from Manhattan will go on a regular basis to Williamsburg?
I’m of the opinion, for sure. For really, because of the fact that you can’t find this, this, there’s one development, I believe, on 57th Street, that’s gonna have a coordinate, but it’s for people that live there, I believe. It’s the new Michael stern pro JTS. I think he’s building it. So I’ve heard that they’ll have one. But other than that, it doesn’t exist. And this thing is such a popular sport, I’m telling you, like, when we got this deal done, I was getting calls and texting people that I maybe don’t have my number of knew who I was like, Oh, my God, how did you do this? Amazing, we’re so excited. And we played in Miami all last year. I’ve never had feedback like that on a real estate deal. So from that alone, I have a feeling it’s going to be wildly successful. And look, I’m sure someone will knock it off. I’m sure someone will copy it. But I’m telling you short of taking an existing tennis facility, which obviously all are very popular and successful. And converting it to this, I don’t think the space exists, you know, in a traditional retail setting in, in New York City that Works for actual regulation court, or courts, I should say.
And you know what to like, as far as drawn people, I really think that there are so many people in the Williamsburg area and surrounding area that even if you didn’t have people crossing the river to get there, you’re still gonna have a ton of people, you know,
got it. I, I’m a landlord, right. So someone comes to me with this new concept, this, you know, there’s there’s new concepts, and then there’s new concepts, right? There’s new concepts, like it’s a new clothing store and this summons, but I understand, you know, what they’re trying to accomplish? You go to a landlord, and you say, we’re, we’re creating a new sport in Manhattan. How was the response from the landlord? And it’s not like, he’s, maybe, maybe he is, but I don’t know, I don’t imagine he’s getting a signature on the lease. That’s, you know, like, you know, a big this big corporate entity on this. So there’s a lot of going to change this whole space to be this, like, sporting venue. And it’s new, and you don’t have this big corporate signature. What was the landlord’s feedback on that?
The landlord thought it was cool. The landlord liked it. I mean, he Yeah, like you said he didn’t get you know, you didn’t get a major chord Apple right and Apple credit worthy signature on it. But you did get a an established, you know, f&b hospitality operator, someone that’s incredibly well respected, that has reputation and you know, then somewhat of a related type of field meaning hospitality. So that that comfort of the landlord in you know, I think the landlord, I guess, knew about the sport and had an idea as to what it was, I don’t know if that’s because he was in Miami, or just knows what’s going on in the, you know, in that in that world, but he was pretty, pretty good to deal with about that, you know, to his credit, so it wasn’t that much of an issue.
Okay, after you actually found a space and you guys walked out and you’re like, alright, this might actually work. How long did it take to get a deal done?
I’d say probably about four or five months from them. Typical,
you know, okay. And any, any interesting bumps in the road along the way, deal terms or anything that might be unique to this use outside of the physical requirements?
No, I mean, there was obviously, look, the building is a it’s, you know, two story one story type of like, you know, traditional warehouse. So, the typical requirements from a landlord with regard to like sound attenuation and other types of soundproofing, things that are used like this would likely, you know, require because of vibrations and music, and people running around all the time and the ball bouncing back and forth, weren’t really an issue here, which also made it really appealing because any one or two other things that were even remotely close to working, you know, they were at the base of 50 storey buildings or in the lower level of a humongous building. So, ownership said great, we’d love to have him if he could lay it out. But you know, I just want to be upfront with you. If you can lay it out and we’re able to make a deal. Great, but you’re gonna have to soundproof the shit out of this thing. Excuse my language. Sorry, I know we’re on a family podcast here. But But no, that was sort of the the challenge but it didn’t really come up in this because of the fact that it’s a one story building.
Got it? That makes a lot of sense. I’ve put loud club fitness class fitness facilities adjacent to a massage Studio before so I’m very in tune with sound mitigation. Okay, so and when do we expect this to open?
Soon? They, I’d say within the next two months or so it’ll be open, I believe by spring.
Wow, is he? Is he doing memberships? Is he selling like memberships right now?
I don’t know if that change, but when, as of the last time I got updated on the whole business plan? Yes. It was a membership concept.
Very, very cool. Well, I’m excited to check it out. I’m not familiar with the sport, I’m going to check out the sport more and pretty cool, exciting to see a new concept coming to New York. Really, really cool. And congratulations,
what so much?
What is what else can we expect from in New York coming? Coming to New York,
I think you’re gonna see, you know, truthfully, like I said, the name of the REIT, we’ve named this company after the Renaissance for a reason. And I think you’ll see that I think the benefit of, you know, obviously, as terrible as COVID has been for everyone around the world, and specifically our city. I think one of the when it’s all said and done, and hopefully that’s sooner than later. But when it is all said and done, I think one of the benefits you will see specific to our business and retail is that a lot of these brands and companies and you know, concepts that were teetering and probably should have been gone 15 or 20 years ago, but somehow stuck it out. COVID Clear the slate. And I think because of that, you’ll see disruptions in a lot of different spaces that needed it and new comp new concepts, whether it’s in the medical field, you already see it with, you know, a lot of these like I’m not referencing like the COVID testing centers, but you have the you know, in the dental space, in the medical space, you have these membership concepts you have, it just seems like there’s an every single category, new players that are looking to do things better, smarter, you know, in a more interesting, modern, technology driven type of way. And I think that that’s one of the takeaways that New York will see coming out of COVID in the next however many months.
All right. Gotta hit up the last part of our show. I got three questions for you. Let me know when you’re ready.
Cool. I’m ready. Thank you for having us, by the way, but yeah, I’m ready. Mike, you ready?
Speaker 3 27:26
Thank you. Yeah, Brandon, if you want to answer first because it kind of I kind of screwed you over the first round. So
cool. All right. Let’s go Go for it.
Question one. What extinct retailer Do you wish would come back from the dead?
Sharper Image? Mike
Hills department stores.
It’s from the Midwest.
I went there all the time when I was a kid.
No one’s ever said that one. Very cool, too. What’s the last item over $20? You bought in a store?
About a cake. Cake. It was okay.
Okay, last question. If all three of us went shopping at Target and I lost you what I would I find you
I’d say by the probably by the you know, I don’t know if this is an actual IO but it should be the games and you know, whether it’s video games or board games stuff like that things to do activities.
There’s there’s a big board game Island target.
There you go. There. It’s find me there. Mike.
This is the hardest question that day because I love Target and I’ll just spend hours walking around it but I’d say probably like the video games and like books in the CD section of CDs even just I don’t know.
Got it music. Well, guys, this was great. Thank you so much for telling us the story. Thanks for letting us know a little bit more about Mona.
Thank you for listening to retail retold. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you are a part of on our show. Please reach out to us at retail retold at DLC mgmt.com This show highlights the stories behind the deals from all perspectives. So it doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, broker, entrepreneur, architect or an attorney. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to retail retold so you don’t miss out on next Thursday’s episode