THESE AGENTS HAVE ALOT ON THEIR PLATES
The New York Times put out an excellent piece last week titled Real Estate Agents With a Lot on Their Plates. The article focused on real estate agents who have had successful forays into the New York City restaurant industry. These agents have used their keen eye for value, an intimate knowledge of Manhattan’s neighborhoods, an understanding of market trends, and an ability to match properties perfectly with people to open up outstanding restaurants. Halstead Property is proud to have four agents who were profiled in this piece, Christine O’Neal, Lauren Cangiano, Ari Harkov and Warner Lewis.
The entire article is linked above, but here are some excerpts:
Many brokers find their way to the restaurant business through a family member. For Christine O’Neal, the route worked in reverse. With her husband, Michael, and his actor brother, Patrick, she helped create such signature New York institutions as the Ginger Man, the Landmark Tavern and O’Neal’s Balloon, opposite Lincoln Center. But over time her family’s needs changed. “We had two young children, and we were running out of ready cash,” said Ms. O’Neal, who is 74. “Basically, I needed a job.” The city’s real estate business was booming, and in 1985 she became a broker, joining Halstead two years later.
Still, her first love never faded. Thirteen years ago she and her husband opened the West 79th Street Boat Basin Cafe, in a waterfront structure topped with a soaring Guastavino vault. The cafe is very much Ms. O’Neal’s baby. She was the one who found the space; cards on every table announce: “I found this great home for the Boat Basin Cafe. Now let me find a great home for you.” She does everything from cut tableclothsto paint clouds on room dividers.
From the real estate side of her life Ms. O’Neal has learned useful skills. “Halstead taught us about self-promotion,” she said. So she makes sure that the cafe aggressively uses social media to advertise itself and encourages waiters to Twitter — “200 people eating lobster rolls on the terrace right now!” And like many brokers who run restaurants, Ms. O’Neal sees parallels between the occupations, especially in New York. “What else do New Yorkers talk about except real estate and restaurants?”
Lauren Cangiano, who has spent 26 years as a broker with Halstead, also came to the world of restaurants through her family. Her husband, Louis, had been in the food business for decades, notably helping run an Italian specialty food business on Staten Island that his grandparents had started. “But by 2008, business at the Staten Island store was winding down,” Ms. Cangiano said, “and we were looking for the next phase of the food chain.” That turned out to be Tre Otto, a 42-table Italian restaurant that opened in 2009 on upper Madison Avenue.
Although the Cangianos are the owners, Mr. Cangiano’s entire family is involved. His sister is the manager for weekday lunches. His brother does the accounts. His 83-year-old father can sometimes be found atop a stepladder fixing the air-conditioner.
When the place is busy, Ms. Cangiano has tasks every day — buying dishes, ordering menus, ferreting out new recipes. “It’s nice to be involved with both,” said Ms. Cangiano, who has sold many properties in the neighborhood and often recognizes clients stopping by for pasta and a glass of wine. “In real estate, you’re with strangers so much of the time, it’s good to see familiar faces. Plus, people are happy eating and drinking. Real estate isn’t always so happy. You don’t go out for dinner to celebrate being outbid on an apartment.”
Ari Harkov and Warner Lewis:
Some brokers become involved in restaurants as a way to become involved in their community. That desire helped prompt Ari Harkov and Warner Lewis, two 30-something Halstead brokers, to invest in Donna, a Brooklyn bar that opened in April under the Williamsburg Bridge.
Mr. Harkov, who lives on Ainslie Street, in the neighborhood’s Italian section, has a master’s degree in business administration and is the moneyman. He negotiated the lease and keeps the accounts. Mr. Lewis, who lives at the Edge and whose high school nickname was Super Host, thanks to the skill with which he organized events even at a tender age, handles the marketing and social-media end of things, “basically getting the word out and bringing in the bodies,” he said.
Both are passionate Williamsburg boosters. “We wanted a footprint in the neighborhood,” said Mr. Lewis, who shows off pictures of the bar with the same pride as when he shows pictures of his new baby. And listening to him wax eloquent about Donna’s hand-plastered cathedral ceiling, etched glass and hand-carved wooden touches, he sounds as proud as any first-time parent. “It’s not a retirement plan,” he said. “But we’re enjoying the journey.”