Publix in Orlando, FL with John Crossman
Guest: John Crossman
Topics: Publix, commercial real estate
Chris Ressa 0:02
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.
I’d like to thank one of our sponsors, retail openings and closings.com. In today’s dynamic retail landscape, tracking openings and closings before they take place has never been more important. Having this intelligence is an undeniable competitive advantage, retail openings and closings.com also known as Rock Tracks, future openings and future closings, comprehensive, accurate and reliable
the rock is your crystal ball and the key to making well informed decisions with confidence in today’s evolving retail climate.
Welcome to retail retold everyone. Today we have my friend John Crossman. John has been in the real estate business for 28 years. And he is a big influencer in the industry. He’s gone in many different directions, has a more diverse resume than most people in commercial real estate. And I think he brings a lot of interesting insights. And I’m excited to talk to him today. Welcome to the show, John.
John Crossman 1:36
Thank you for having me. It’s
an honor to be with you. So John, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you’re up to today? And what’s going on in your world?
Sure, I would tell you that for the first 27 years of my commercial real estate career was pretty normal trajectory of steps and activities. What happened to me last year was that both my mom and my wife developed some serious illnesses not COVID related, this is pre and so I chose to retire, I sold my company and I really spoke folks for six months on caregiving for them. And my two teenage daughters, which was totally worth it. And I will tell you that both my wife and my mom have made really strong recoveries, they’re doing better. And so now I’m coming back, I’m coming back and doing some stuff. And so I’m doing that in two ways. One is really focusing on on the career development stuff, which you know, that in that space I’m very passionate about. And we’ve expanded on do some executive coaching. And then the other side have launched a little real estate company called Crossmark, with a partner of mine, and we’re looking at buying some assets. And we also just want advisory work. But all of that is still I’m keeping a small scale, because they’re still important for me to be closer to home.
Got it and you sold your you said it was like other folks, you sold your real estate company, what for 27 years, what did you do in real estate?
Sure. So I got started in real estate as a leasing agent. I have a degree in real estate from Florida State. And so I did that for a number of years. And that was with facing, which was really good years in my career. And then I got into leadership leading the leasing team. And then I made a switch into investment sales. And so I did retail investment sales for a number of years. That was predominantly with Trammell Crow company. So that was great experience. And then I left and then partnered with my brother and ramped up Crossman and company and we took it from, you know, like a 700,000 square foot portfolio in Orlando to a almost 30 million square foot portfolio in eight states. So, you know, when I look back on my career, it’s like I’ve had heavy leasing experience. I’ve had heavy investment sales experience, and then heavy leadership, building and branding and you’re running a nice sized organization.
Wow. And so how many employees did you have? You know, when you when you left? Or when you sold your business?
You know, it was probably pushing 70 around 70. And then they Oh, yeah, I will say what’s funny is that I think they’re running a company of 10 or less is really fun. And running a company of like 60 or more is really fun. And running a company of 30 is really miserable. I’ve learned what people talking about growing a company. I’m always like, Look, if you get to 10 you want to grow, go ahead, go to 100 because that middle phase is a lot harder than you think.
What what are the what was the pain in that face?
The pain is is that when you get big enough that you can have middle management so you can delegate? That’s awesome. And when you’re small enough that you’re personally doing some stuff yourself, that’s awesome. When you’re in the middle, and you don’t have enough financial resources to delegate and you’re trying to do it all. It’s just terrible. I mean Like, if you’re thinking like, Man, I could I could show space and do deals plus, you know, hire and manage. Like, there’s a point where yeah, you can do that. But then there’s a point it. If there’s a breaking point of that, yeah. Then you got to hire some people and spend some money and then and then jump up the business to the next level. So yeah,
sure, ah, Oh, awesome. That’s, that’s pretty awesome career path. And so you sold your business, and you’ve ramped up these two companies. But even before that, you’ve been pretty passionate about it a lot of different things, you’ve been pretty public about your passion and career development, you’ve been pretty public on your passion for diversity. And for a guy with so much real estate experience. We see you a lot out there social media and conferences. But rarely do I see you talking about real estate, I see you talking about a lot of other things. And so give us some insights to all these other things you’re, you’re focused on, even though, you know, our industry views you as this really strong real estate guy, but it doesn’t seem like you talk about real estate a lot.
You know, it’s funny, you should mention that. Maybe so I’m a little insecure talking about real estate, because I feel like there’s so many smart people like yourself out there, I don’t, what would I possibly add in some conversations, you know, and so I try to focus a lot of times on stuff that’s kind of unique, and additive, right? Like, you know, if you were gonna pick up the phone and call somebody and say, Hey, I’m working on this deal. There’s a lot of people you call and give you counsel on a deal. And I can be one of them, I’d be happy to. I’ve just tried to sort of focus in on a space of some areas that are really hard. So like, you know, if you were asking the question of Gosh, how do we get have more diversity in our company? And how do we do that? You know, you could call me and I could I could give you some counsel on that. Or if you said, John, I got a top performing person in the company, but I think maybe they’re having a mental health issue or addiction issue. What do I do, you could call me. And so I’ve tried to kind of push in some hard spaces, maybe uncomfortable spaces, and then try to be an access point to people. And I have had many times where I’ve given a lecture, that’s resulted in somebody coming up to me in tears, like processing some hard thing, or, you know, I’ve had people who you and I’ve known over the years who have gone to me privately and mentioned that maybe their child or somebody was dealing with an issue, and I’ve tried to help on that. I will say this that I want you to, I want you to visualize something, if I asked you a troubled retail real estate asset. And I said, let’s look at this and tell me what you think. You would look at that asset, and you would look at all kinds of things, and you would come up with solutions to how to improve that asset, right? Like, yeah, you’ll have to do that and being creative. Well, let’s take that same skill set. And let’s look at a person. You know, if we see a person that has some great things going on, but they need some coaching, there’s that. And then we might look at that same thing with Corporation, right? Like we look at a corporation, how do we improve it? And then you can also apply that same mindset to society or to a community, right, what does our community need to do? You know, when we think about healthy retail, healthy retail is relevant to its community. It connects to the community, it provides resources, its provides health, you know, when we think of great retail projects, there’s, there’s a motion to it, there’s a feeling to it, it’s just not an ROI. It’s like, there’s a sense of ownership, right. And so we think about a healthy person, they’re connected to the world around them, you know, a healthy Corporation, I’d look at what Publix has been doing through this crisis. And I was talking about great leaders are irrelevant during a time of crisis. And Publix has just been a phenomenal leader in the southeast, beyond groceries, just really helping people in need. And then again, you know, healthy societies, healthy societies. Communities are connected to one another. When we think about times in history, like, Where does the expression of ghetto come from? You know, and that comes from the Holocaust. And in Poland, where the the wall was put around the city, and those people were suffering to how terrible that was. And and when we think of that in a modern day term, when a community is blocked off, and then we have food deserts and things like that, right? So so so it may be like somebody might look at me and think, John, you’re you’re kind of all over the place. But in my weird brain, I actually see connectivities through there all that we can’t have a healthy retail project. If we don’t understand the community it serves.
Totally. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense when you put it that way for sure. So this, we’re in an interesting time right now. Right? To say the least. And so you said All your successful business and how long did you you started an own crosswind company. I was 13 years, 1313 years. So you sell this really successful business, you have 30 million square feet under management. And you decide you start your own business. And just as you’re doing that, the whole world, you know, starts to go into a crisis, a legitimate crisis. And so, as an entrepreneur, someone who started their own business, you know, what are you? What are you thinking about as you’re you’re you’re trying to grow these two new businesses, as you say, smaller scale, maybe they’re not going to be as big as Crossman and company was, Are you thinking about that through this tough time, right? Because there’s probably a lot of entrepreneurs out there who are struggling, whether small business owner, the pizza guy, the, the, the, you know, the local hair salon. And you’re strapped in and holding on tight, just like them so well, perspective on that?
Yeah, sure. I mean, what I’ve told people is that yeah, I launched these two companies during COVID. I, apparently 911 was taken, right, like, so I just made this time. Well, here’s the deal. This is a great time, to launch, to expand to do great things, because people need us now. Like, when the economy’s fantastic, and there’s no problem, you know, you don’t need me, you’re good. But when things are tough, I think guys like me as like you, people like us are more relevant, because we’re helpful, we can be helpful in a crisis. And I’ll give you a couple examples. I had a consulting client that I was just kept working with, I was working last year working with them, and I had tendered my invoice for January, and then February. And then March came and I emailed him, I said, You know what, why don’t why don’t we take this month off, like, I’m gonna keep doing stuff, but don’t Don’t, don’t pay me. And then I did the same thing in April and, and then this month, we’re just redoing our arrangement. And so I’ve been, you know, I was working for two months for free. And I chose that they didn’t say I chose it. But I chose that because, you know, they’re going through serious stress. And that’s a way I can help them and honor them and be of service to them when they’re going through hard time. Another example would be is that I did in March, April, I held some calls, where I just invited a bunch of different people from across the country, all retail owners institutional kind of folks. And I had a couple of people teed up to talk, and we just had an open conversation about how to handle the crisis. And then when I got done, I typed up notes and share the notes with everybody. And so then, this month, I did the same kind of thing for Uli, and, you know, shared all that open information. And then I had one group call me large company asked me if I could do a specialized version of them, for them. And I did. And then next month, I’m doing a similar one. But this one I’m focusing on the on the retailer side, I got three major retailers, where I’m doing this call, and they can get even have a conversation with what their perspective is. And so my point of all that all that’s free, while it’s free. And I’ve gotten great feedback, but I’ve done it because I feel there’s a need. There’s people that are stressed out and problems, and I want to be helpful in serving those times. So I think it’s a time to lean in, lean back. And I also think that people won’t forget it. Let me let me tell you this quick story, because I love the story. I have a Great Dane named pepper, big figures. He’s 100. She’s 110 pounds, I will say that she could kiss you on the face. And she’d like to, I mean, that’s the kind of kind of dog she is. Okay, so why take her to the doggy daycare, you know, whatever, once a month, and she gets all this first little stuff done. So I dropped her off. And this is like two weeks ago. And I go to pick her up. And as I come in, Samir is the name of the guy that owns the place. I said, Samir, what do I owe you? And he says 45 bucks. And so I pull out my money, but I’m fumbling with it. Because you know, the dogs jumping around. Yeah, I’m looking around. And so he says, you know, just 35 Just give me 35 bucks. And I’m like, You said it’s 45. So I put 45 on the counter. Samir takes his finger, he puts it on the five and he slides it back over to me. And he looks at me, he says we all need to do our part to help each other. Now, I will never do any kind of dog business with anybody else. But Samir, I didn’t need the $5 but I allowed him to do that because I wanted to honor his graciousness right and give him respect as a person. And that’s my point is that, you know, people can and will be defined by their behavior. The opposite you know, when we’ve seen was Adidas and Ruth’s Chris and these company big, huge, rich companies. going after these government money, when you and I know tons of mom and pops who really need it, right? Yeah. So again, it comes back to, these are times when we get so defined. So I would say that if you’re an entrepreneur, and you’re launching your business right now good for you, good for you, this is a great time to launch it. I know this is gonna sound a harsh or paternal harvest gonna come across. But I’ve been talking to college students, and I’ve been saying, I’m so glad you’re graduating now. Because the great greatness is going to come out of this, you and I are gonna look back 20 years from now, we’re going to see an executive who graduated this time. And it was perfect because it grinded him and made him strong. You’re gonna see some retailers every like, Man where those guys come from like, oh, yeah, they launched in 2020. Yeah, but they, they were creative. They came with new ideas, they do things differently. And so all this stuff is hard and painful. But if we handle it, right, it’s worthy.
It’s awesome story with Sameer? Fantastic, really, really cool story. Great perspective. So pivoting a little bit. So through all this, you wrote a book? Yeah. Tell us a little bit about that book.
So you know, for years I’ve done for over 20 years, I’ve guest lecturer different colleges. And most of my lectures would be about the history of shopping centers is what the lectures I do or how to get into commercials, that kind of thing. So several years ago, I was lecturing at University of Florida, and I decided to just write something different again, kind of maybe other people would do. And so I wrote this speech called the top five ways to get fired, and the top five ways to keep from being fired. And I really wrote it from the perspective of if you’re a senior at a major university in America, and 10 years goes by, why would you be super successful versus being terminated? And you and I’m sure you are as yours. I’ve seen tremendously talented people who’ve lost their careers for a variety of reasons. So that speech became my most requested speech, I really got surprised I, I would guess, lecture in, you know, retail, college courses, and they would want me to talk about that. So I turned it into a book. And the reason why I turned the book is because I wanted to provide it as a resource for more people. And then just recently, it’s come as an audio book. And I know you’re wondering, no, I did not have Wesley Snipes read it. My voice on there. And the books that financial loser, it’s it. That’s not the point. The point is, is that it’s a tool, and I hope it can help open up conversations to people to talk about some different different hard but important topics.
This book may be a financial loser, but But writing does lead to wealth. Maybe not in the form of that book. But the brand it creates, certainly helps.
Yes, that is absolutely true. There’s a lot of byproduct, success in that can be financial or other things. I will tell you this, what I really enjoy is I keep the book with me at all times. And when I valet my car, I always tip well. And then almost always I give my book to the valet and because most of the time valets are college students, and it’s a fun experience, when you look at somebody say, hey, but this book can really look like you to have it. I gave one copy to the guy that works at the smoothie place. And a few days later with back the same smoothie place. And he said, Why did you get this book to me? And he’s pre med. He’s a pre med kid and said, Look, I wrote this book for you. I wrote this for achievers. And you you really appear to be an achieving a man and I went, I want to give this to you. So that’s that’s been a real a real joy. And of course, what’s funny is, you know, I’m older than you that my peer group is now really having kids going off to college. And so that’s another angle, or Avenue, I should say is that when I have friends who have kids going to college, you know, sometimes sometimes you can be cool uncle, I’m sure you’ve already seen this that sometimes strangers or other families can say something to your kids that they listen more than to you. And that happens. And so I try to be the helpful uncle to a lot of people.
Awesome stuff. The what? You know, we get a lot of young folks listening to this. What are you seeing is the as and I’ll give you my perspective as an interviewer. What are you seeing as the some of the challenges that the college graduates today are having as they tried to enter the workforce?
The number one thing you’ll see from really talented college students today is fear. You know, when I lecture I’ll tell college seniors or graduate students, here’s my top advice and things you need to do. And I often find that like 4% of them do it. And none of them I’m saying are hard. But they’re I mean hard in the sense of their calculus, like academically hard, but they’re emotionally hard. And so I see that the most common thing is I’ll say, I’ll say to students like for example, it whatever university you went to, like, let’s just pick on, you know, North Carolina has a great real estate program versus North Carolina. And I’ll say, look, look at the board of advisors for the erschien, North Carolina, who are in real estate and why are in school on LinkedIn, reach out to them, right. And I mean, that could apply to Columbia, or MIT or Harvard, wherever you are in school, right? And I say do that, because that’s a step of building relationships, send a message, you know, you, you and again, it’s stupid. LinkedIn requests all the time from salespeople, right? But if Kashi takes the time, it’s like, Chris, I’m at the same school that you attended. And I was talking to John cross when He recommended I reach out to you, can we connect on LinkedIn, because I want to learn more about getting an industry? You’re gonna say, yes, you’re going to say yes to that most people would say yes to that. 100%. Right. And so I tell students that all the time, and I’ve never had a fellow board member come back and say, Oh, my gosh, John, I got, you know, 900 requests, like, so what I would say to you is like, you know, don’t be fear motivated, right? Like, you know, I always try to think about the love motivated, like, I, I love my future. I love my family when I help them. I love the industry, I love companies like, and so leaning in and taking some risks. And, you know, you and I didn’t become friends, because we met once. It’s because we’ve met over and over and over and over, over again. We saw sort of different cities in different contexts. And that’s, that’s how relationships fill. So if you’re college senior, it’s not like you’re gonna let connect to LinkedIn on you and me and then have a relationship. You gotta you gotta lean in, you know, when college students often reach out to me, I’ll respond back to them. And I’ll say, Blaine, Strickland, Beth Azar, Ross Sutton, so I always mispronounce his name, sir. But all three of them have written books on commercial real estate, you know, like my books about life, their books are on real estate. And so oftentimes, I’ll email students, I’ll copy all three of them. And I’ll say, buy their book, give their book a review, get a chance to meet them, ask them to sign in, follow them on social media, these three people a big part of their heart in their life is training known people in real estate. Right? And again, it’s a very small percentage that do, why is that I think that this younger generation, they’re better than us. And a lot of things. I mean, one of things we’re better at is emotional awareness, you know, mental health awareness to really good at that kind of stuff. But they get fearful, they get, they get concerned that oh, my gosh, I’m gonna post something on social media, and people are gonna laugh at me or mock me or whatever. You know, when it comes to social media, I’m pretty fearless. I mean, I think I take a lot of calculated risk. But I push into things. And I think a lot of this, that age group is so cautious. They, they don’t want to look dumb, right? And I’m gonna like yours college students. Okay, look dumb. I mean, you and I can’t play that card. We, you know, but, but they can. And it’s better that they take those risks now, because if a kid is at any is that, you know, University of Arizona and reaches out to you and says, Hey, what’s advice? You’re probably going to help them. But the day they come out and say, well, now they’re working for such and such company that competes with you? Yeah, you’re a little less likely, you know, like, if their title now is Associate at whatever read or something like, Yeah, I’m trying to buy and same property you are. The relationship changes, doesn’t it?
Yeah. I would say that the real challenge that I see, and, and maybe why there’s fear is, I think that the universities around the country need to somehow start focusing on some of the intangible skills, and you know, less on some of the, you know, Saturn and Pluto, the ability to communicate and connect with others, is something that no matter the role, I think every organization is looking for, right? The ability to connect with someone else to empathize with them. The ability to communicate, is vital. And I often asked this question that stumps you know, 95% of the college kids that I, I interact with, which is one of the first question is, tell me about you nothing to do with work? Nothing to do with school. Right. Right. Yeah. And I get those big guys that I just made. Yeah. And then they’ll say something like, you know, will after they fumbled around and they’ll say, Well, I, I like to, you know, this is what I like to do on the weekends and this is what some of my interests are. And some of my, you know what I’ve done. And I’m like, I don’t want to know what you like to do I want to know who you are. Tell me who is, you know, Bob Smith. And they really struggle with that question tremendously when someone can instantly as the self awareness, as a college student to know who they are, and then then have the ability to communicate that you build an instant connection with somebody. And so that’s an opportunity question, in my opinion that I give candidates often. And I get a lot of swings and misses there where I’ve spent 10 minutes on it, like saying, like, this isn’t a trick. I’m just trying, I’m asking. And I’m surprised how much how much volume it speaks of someone, when they actually, as a college graduate, when they actually can answer that question. I would have thought, five, seven years ago, but that would have been a no brainer, that’s an easy layup, and it is not.
So recently, last couple of weeks, I’ve had two different companies contact me great companies, and one needs 40,000 square feet of space and the needs 20,000 square feet of space. And the space they’re looking on is kind of the summer area. So they’ve asked me to help them figure that out. And you know, I’ve done some pretty quick basic things. And guess what, nothing’s there. There’s no space, I can’t find space. So what I’m gonna do today is when I leave here on go home, I’m gonna pick up one of my daughters, and we’re going to derive that market. And then we’re going to be like, okay, like, there’s no sign, nothing says anything’s available. We got to research and find out if somebody owns that property. And it can we call them and get them to sell and like, lean into that, right? And so to be good at our business, you have to have that, that part of your brain. That’s what you’re talking about when that college student gets that question they’re trying to think through, what’s the right answer. But so many times in our business, there’s a lot of answers and things that go go deeper. When my daughter is they’re 15, and 16. Now, when they were younger, and I would take them to public school grocery shopping, I would give them a part of the grocery list and say, Go find these items, and meet me back over here. And they get all freaked out. And then they’d come up to me and they say, Dad, I can’t find these items. I said, Well, you see that person right there? And that green shirt? Yeah. Go ask them to help you find it. And I mean, they would like, you know, like, Oh, my Yeah, like, you know, and now it’s a joke and that they’re over it like my one daughter at 16. She had a this week, I had to make a cake. And the cake had to be theme of a world event and US history. It was just like an extra credit assignment for our history class. So I had to go to the baker and ask for advice. You know, how can you make the cake, the frosting look certain ways to design it in this context. And that was really proud of her ability to iContact, things like that. I always say this to them, they know this, that I’m going to do it. When we go through and they’re checking out with a cashier. I always tried to make the cashier laugh. I always tried to see something ridiculous. Like usually I’ll talk to them and say, No, girls, I’m not buying you vape steaks and liquor anymore. Stop asking silly, but part of that is just teaching them exactly what you’re talking about, which is eye contact and connectivity. And I always tell students, like look so much in life, it’s just skill sets. You know, look, I my natural stray state. I’m an introvert. I’m dyslexic. And I suffer from the imposter syndrome. Like, all three of those make it hard for networking. But it’s just a skill set. And if you practice it and you work on it, you can get really good at it, even if it’s not natural to you.
sage advice. All right. So what I I’d like to do next, John is I’d like to take you back in time. And I’d like you to, you know, the the premise of the show is the story of how that story ended up in your neighborhood. I’d like you to give us a because you’ve been involved in a lot from phasing to, you know, selling properties at Trammell Crowe, to owning your own company, like give us a story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood and about a deal you were a part of in any capacity that, you know, ended up that had some interesting, interesting insights for everybody.
So I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you two, because they they both I think give different perspective. One of my clients one time, bought a shopping center, and they pay $27 million for it. And then they had me do some consulting when they were acquiring it. And then they hired me to lease and manage it. And so I had the first management I was doing the leasing did that. And then I switched investment sales. And so the time came for the property with the prop in the market. So they went through an internal evaluation five years later, and they came back and said, We think the assets worth $47 million. Right? So you go to market for seminars, clients extremely out everyone’s done. Well. Problem is I did my own research And I came back and I concluded I thought Sara was probably worth about $57 million. Wow, that’s what we sold it for. So when I call that client, we got them an additional $10 million. They have never forgotten that was a very good day. But I think that for me, you know, part of the lesson, there’s like, guys, you know, I, when I look at stuff, I want to break records, I want to do outstanding service, I want to, you know, just because somebody says they, they expect 47 million doesn’t mean you deliver 47 million, like going above and beyond and finding ways to like push the envelope. I’m very, very proud of that story, that situation and how we put an extra million dollars in our clients pocket that they weren’t expecting. Yeah, you don’t hear that often? No? Well, again, you know, I can’t tell times I’ve had people say, you know, well, let’s sell it for x. And I’m like, Well, I mean, if we can prove it out, that is x plus, and it makes sense, somebody wins. By the way, the buyer of an asset years later sold an asset for more than that, like, everybody wanted what that was all good. And part of I’ll tell you else about that deal was demographics. It’s in a tourist area. And when you pull the demographics and like 18 people living in a three mile radius, right, but it’s close the interest of Disney. And so I did my own math, I had a count of all the hotel rooms in the area walking distance, I said times, you know, on for all my new math was like times 3.5, which was African people per room, times 80% times five. And it turns people spend five more than times when regulars, I did this math equation that I created. And I felt really good about it. My number came back included that there was an effect 400,000 People in walking distance. And so because it did that math that helped express that, wow, if you if you were in New York City, looking at this property, it looks terrible. It actually does phenomenally well. And all the numbers proved out. So the second thing I want to say was, you know, we all remember where we were on 911. And where was I? I was in Disney’s headquarters in Central Florida. In a meeting about a deal, and all that crazy stuff, sad stuff went down. And the deal that was trying to get, they didn’t pick me they picked another group. And so the other group got it. They worked on the development for a long time. They totally messed it up. It was a disaster. And then this is years later, it went to bankruptcy. And so after it went into bankruptcy, I got a call from the guys at Disney saying Hey, John, that do all those years later.
And when eventually So Disney owned the development doesn’t own the land. They sold
it to this developer who built a project that just never kind of never kind of came together. Yeah. So the bank was the bank had taken over. And oddly enough, I knew the guys with the bank. And so I was able to step in, you know, work with Disney. Because obviously, it still had some restrictions. That animal work with the lender. And they were there a big fortune 500 company to and then the senator had a big vague to see and I worked to get Publix into the center. So in the negotiation, it was busy Publix, and then another huge banking entity. And so we redevelop the property. It was named development of the Year that year. And that center today. Outstanding center does great numbers. When I was talking about my mom, my mom’s doctor is right behind it. And so I’ve been oh my goodness, recently when taking my mom to get a little breakfast after a doctor’s appointment. And so I’m very proud of that story. One of the things I tell people is like, so much on stories about relationship, right, and so much stories like, hey, in that first meeting, I lost, I pitched really good. I thought I did a great job I lost. But I was very respectful to my friends at Disney. And then years later, when they actually came again, I got the call and I got the opportunity. And I was able to perform. And then a lot of that loaded a lot of trust involved like when calling Publix and telling them, Hey, this is complicated. And I want to issues and have them understand it. And I’d say Well, that’s funny thing. It’s it’s next to this big community. And I got a call from somebody, a leader in the community saying, hey, some of the residents want to know you’re taking the center, redeveloping it, you know, they feel like they don’t have access to you. And I said, Well, I’ll tell you what, here’s my cell phone number. And you can give it to anybody want. And they can call me whenever they want. And I’m happy to give them anything they need. And the guy was like, really? And I said Yeah, and what’s funny is no one ever called no one to call. But I think that oftentimes that just by knowing they could call it set up emotionally made him feel better. So those are just couple deals I’m really proud of I feel like we’re unique and fun. And I think the relationship
I have a lot of I have a lot of questions on this Disney lender public story. Yeah. So unpack Get a little bit. You go in Disney owns this piece of land, they’re going to sell the land to a developer to build. They have a vision of a shopping center. All right. So Disney goes to now they’re they’re hiring and were you going into just get the leasing? Imagine or were you going to buy this? Yeah, I was
going to buy it. I had a partner. And so we were competing with this other developer to buy the property. And we had a vision, and the other developer had a vision. And Disney bought off on the other guys vision. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but the vision didn’t work. You don’t execute? Yeah, well, it was, you know, honestly, a Disney I think got a little bit humbled and they were easier to work with, because we had to tell them like guys, like we want this property to be in the integrity of how you guys want it. That said, there’s some parking areas, we need to you know, we need to move some things around and make them a little bit more traditional. And so we were it listen, I really tried to be respectful of people of different people’s cultures and their values and what’s important to them. And again, trying to make things work out for everybody. And
okay, and so the so you lose, as you called it, and how long before you get a call back from Disney? Seven years. So seven years. So why was Disney still involved? Because they sold it to this developer where they, where they partner with the developer, did they want a
partner, they just owned all the land around it. Got it. So they had there was some there was some feel some level of connectivity. And so after again, after it had been foreclosed, and the bank was now in control. I think Disney was concerned about this property being in front of some other other projects, looking dilapidated, and they were taking the complaints. And so, you know, I really do try to do always do a good job by those folks. And
and so they, they call you did, and you you know, the bank, and you now are working on a new development is potentially easier than one that’s, for lack of a better word failed. So now you have that, that challenge where it’s kind of got a little bit of, I would say, a reputation now that kind of can’t work, which makes it challenging sometimes, right? I always say the only thing worse than a vacant space is a space that turns over and over and over and it kind of gets that bad, bad vibe to it. Right. And so did you have Publix in your back pocket? Did did you have to go and present to Publix? What after the Disney called you? What do you do next?
Well, I did not have Publix on my back pocket, you know, obviously had a real have had a long standing relationship with them. But if I present a site to Publix, I present exactly how any other developer presents it to them. And so I really tried to make sure I have all the details, all the information worked out, and then always tell the truth, exactly what’s going on with this situation. And so that’s that’s we did, you know, we brought it to them, we told him the story and what we’re looking to do, and the changes we need to make to make the property work. And, you know, they accepted it worked out. You know, I would tell you that, look, there’s different reasons why I want my phone to ring. And did you receive will be Michael Clayton. Here’s George Clooney. You know, I sometimes I’ve referenced that movie, because when he says, you know, I’m not a magic man or whatever. I’m a janitor. And the bigger the mess, the bigger the mom. And so I want people that if they have a really, really flawed real estate project, to know that they call me, they’re going to get an honest answer. They’re going to get a reliable answer. And then I can help them through that project. The same is true if their company you know, I’ve done consulting work for companies where I’ve helped them really reform their real estate departments. I’ve helped them staff help them figure out how to work together, communicate better, and communicate to the industry. I’m really proud of that work I’ve done over the years. And then it also then that comes back to the back the individual. So I think that you know, when there’s different people in our industry, they’re experts at different things. And I think there’s reasons why I come to tap list on some topics because of the skills I bring.
Totally, what would you say? I think time is always interesting. So you get the new project. You’re working with these three fortune 500 companies, right these three behemoths, right? You got Disney chirpin In one year you got the lender and you have to get Publix over the hump to I believe in your vision of what this site could be. How long did it take? public’s to go? You know what, this is an opportunity. We need to do this and and, and then pull and then say, Let’s go, John.
You know, I think that prior, it was faster than normal as I recall, but I would my guess would be is that that was about a year that took to get all that kind of put into place. But again, you know, some of that’s made easier by really understanding how Publix works. You got to study the culture of companies, and then you’ve got to match to their cultures, not put your culture onto theirs. And for years, I’ve just met really in a friendly way. I’ve tried to educate on how Publix works. And I’ll give you an example. Publix is very mano a mano, like who your contact is at Publix. That is who you work with. And so when someone comes blazing in and says, Oh, I know somebody on the on the board directors, oh, I know, I used to know the guy that whose two levels that was called that guy. No call to your contacts, call your contact at Publix the person responsible for that area, and then give them the information they need. You know, that sounds kind of simple. But it goes back to the advice for college students that a lot of times there’s simple advice that some people just choose not to take. And I have warned some people I knew a guy recently a couple of years ago, and he went around Publix to a site senior person, I told him not to do it. He did it. He ruffled some feathers. And I told him, I said, you know, you need to go to Lakeland and apologize, that’s what you need to do. And never did it. And then he still has a bit of there’s still some tension in that relationship. People don’t like that people don’t want you when you go around them to their boss, right? I mean, someplace that works, but not in that culture.
Yeah. I would say that. That happens because of the training over the years to people that has been instilled, especially in sales, have you got to get to the decision maker. Right. And so, you know, there’s a little spurt in someone’s head saying, Well, don’t accept a no from someone who doesn’t have the ability to give you a yes. Right. And that, you know, the reality, the big change, the big change that I think that has happened is, over the course of time, is that rarely, in today’s day and age does one person make a decision of that magnitude of $20 million investment into a store or something like that. It’s multiple people. And so the, the really the way to do it is to get you know, a corporate advocate your mano a mano, as you call it, contact, build a relationship for them so that they can help push the opportunity inside versus going around them to the quote unquote, decision maker. Yeah.
Well, again, in other complaint companies is different. Right? I mean, other companies, you know, but I just come back to it’s like the same thing with with Disney. You know, Disney has their own, obviously brand and reputation and things that are important to them. And so I think that Disney knew there was a 0% chance I would ever say anything negative about Disney in a public light. And of course, I want to I love Disney, I can’t wait for them to reopen. I actually was emailed with someone that for HR Department last night saying on behalf of the entire planet, please reopens. So, you know, I think that there’s that too, that sometimes you meet people and they’re like, they don’t care what other people think. And you think, okay, but you know what, that that doesn’t really build trust. And when someone else has got things that they’re trying to do, you’re in our industry so interesting, because you know, when I work with entrepreneurs and we work with corporate people and we work with mom and pops, we work with Fortune five hundreds, and you’ve got to be able to under connect people and different people cultures, right? You know, it’s funny, I remember when I was a young lease agent, really trying to make sure I understood when Ramadan was because I had so many tenants that I would be working with that are Muslim and and I would always feel like a jerk if I offered them something to eat or drink when they’re in my office when I knew that when I learned that that wasn’t part of their culture. Right. And so to me, it’s like that’s, that’s part of the beauty of our industry of like, all those different nuances and the better you get out respecting the other side of the table. I think that you have more longevity in our industry.
Totally. Well said and so the so this is obviously in Orlando Florida this Publix right so after you Disney brought you in and they you they called you back and you’re connecting with the lender and you go and get Publix did Disney come around and say, you know, and I don’t know, what was the project going to be? What was the previous vision? I’m assuming it was negotiating your center? I
think it sort of was, but I think it was, there was a lot of architectural features to the property that made it cool looking but made it not as functioning. There was, you know, space size is always an issue to me, you know, I like small spaces, 800 to 1500 square feet, or great 2000 square foot spaces are tough to lease, right. If it goes too deep, that’s an issue. Aesthetically, looking parking lot, but it doesn’t bring the customers close enough to the to the anchor space, or in the back, the back access for the trucks, the deliveries and things like that. So there was a lot of aspects in that first development, my guess is that the developer was negotiating with Disney and Disney said, Hey, we have these visionary restrictions and the developer price that you got it, instead of saying no like that, you know, we need to make some adjustments on that. So that’s more viable. And so you know, when when we came in, and had to have some of those conversations with Disney, they were they were awesome. They were wonderful to work with. And, you know, of course, they had some things that were really important to them. And we gave to them, there were some things that were lacking or broken that we fixed. But we had some other things were like, Hey, guys, this little architectural feature we need, we need to wipe that out and add some more parking there. Because it’s gonna be hard to ever get a retailer in this area if we don’t have proper parking. And so they were doing for they were delightful. So it came together well, but again, it comes back to trust, right? So when we said we’re going to do things they needed us to do, we did it. I mean, I think that moment of me giving the guy my cell phone number was a really crucial moment of knowing that if this is the conversations got hard or painful, I was gonna be faced front and I’d be able to have those with whoever needed to have them.
And and is the, the, the public’s. Is it today, does it serve Taurus or primarily?
Well, that’s what’s interesting. It’s both. And so when you when you think about,
because you admit, yeah, go ahead. Sorry.
What I was gonna say is, when you think about it, you are best retail experiences tend to be retailers, who are in areas where they see a lot of repeat customers, right. And so they know each other, that they’re in relationship with one another. I am. My earlier call today was a guy who does a lot of civil rights work. And he’s an African American leader in that area. And he said, You know, John, someone’s not going to call someone else, the N word when they know them, like their friends, right? Like people use language that’s really inappropriate. When it’s, it’s distant. And so he was really advocating for relationships to help work on those things. So in retail world, you know, when you have a retailer, you go to all the time, and they know you, your kids, or whatever, like my Sameer story that creates an experience, often where you have the worst retail experiences as tourist areas, because the retail worker is never going to see these customers again. I used to have a running joke with a buddy of mine that we would have our worst Atlanta airport retail experience stories. I once I went to a little takeout place in Atlanta airport asked for a Diet Coke. And they said, No, we don’t have that. Diet Coke and Atlanta. Ran out, you know, and so when you have a tourist and, and a community shopping center, ooh, that’s, that’s a different dynamic. So you have to know that the retailer is going to match well with the community connect the relational, and viola to app to the person coming in and out. Tour centers, as a whole are much more profitable. As again, people on my vacation, spend more money, I’m a whole presentation, I can do on that. But you don’t want to lose the customer service aspect. And if you think about it, what’s the what’s the number one retail on the planet that trust to get that nailed down perfectly? That would be Publix. There’s nobody better at that at having corporate processes systems and then the ability to be flexible and adjust in a specific area to the to the community. And so yeah, so it is both if you focus hard on one you’re going to alienate the other and working with both is a challenge but it can be done and it’s been done there. It’s been very successful
ton of insights for the audience. They are on that story from you know, really doing the right thing being respectful keeping the relationship even though you might lose and there’s that they’re sticking to your guns on what you know would be right and not pandering to what they might think is the right solution. You know, there’s working you know, knowing exactly on the retailer side or the client side How to really talk to them so that they are engaged on the project. There’s a lot of insights there. So really appreciate that. We are running short on time. And I know you’re a busy guy. And I want to bring us to the last part of the show retail wisdom. So it’s three rapid fire questions. Let me know when you’re ready. All right, hit me. That’s piece of commercial real estate advice out there.
best recourse real estate advice out there, that it’s beyond Location, location, location, it’s about ownership. And that if you have the right ownership, you can do all kinds of things. Even if it’s another great area. You can be profitable if you really understand what you have. And you can have a phenomenal location and it could be terrible. If you don’t run it right.
That’s the story there. Right. The first story right? That was a great location right? Around Disney right. Second, extinct retailer, you wish would come back from the dead.
It’s a local I don’t know if that counts, but it’d be Ronnie’s Ronnie’s was a Jewish restaurant. In on colonial drive in Orlando. You go in there, the guy that was the host guy was really grumpy and pushing to different lines. But you go to the counter there and have a lunch for like $1.95 and I used to have lunch there. My old buddy David Marks all the time. It was it was an institution. I wish it was still around it just it had such a culture. It’s I mean, it was a very specific experience. And I just thought that was cool.
That’s great. Last one, you mentioned Publix a lot today and I am on deli menus.com Publix sells about 57 million pounds of their their fried chicken their crispy chicken in a year and on their eight piece fried chicken in their deli section according to deli menus.com goes for what price John? Say $15 779 Oh,
man, that’s a bargain.
All right. Well, listen, John, really appreciate it. Thanks so much. If there’s ever anything you need, let me know. Let’s stay connected. Always pleasure. Thank you. Thank you for listening to retail tools. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you were 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’re 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