By Sarah Trefethen
When Jeff Winick founded Winick Realty 25 years ago, he recalls, “nobody cared about doing retail. It was the tail wagging the dog of real estate.” Founding a retail-specialized brokerage was “the path of lease resistance.”
These days, Manhattan retail space can rent for thousands of dollars per square foot, and Winick’s venture has grown from a one-man shop to include approximately 35 brokers and salespeople.
“I’m proud of the brand we’ve built,” he said.
A Queens native who “didn’t really” finish college, Winick got into real estate after having some success in the fashion industry.
“There’s something about sales people in the fashion business, they relate very well to retail,” he said.
The company represents retail landlords and tenants in the New York Metro region, with a client list that includes Chipotle, Starbucks, Duane Reade, New York Sports Club and Kay Jewelers.
On the landlord side, the company represents large blocks of space from Columbus Circle to Fifth Avenue to Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue.
“Every day is a new experience. What I really love is being involved in development… when landlords call me in at the beginning to meet with their architects,” he said.
That developers now consult with Winick on column widths is also a sign of how far retail has come in the hierarchy of New York real estate.
The company is also doing its part in grooming the city’s next generation of brokers, with a training program in which newcomers learn to cold call, canvas and read a lease. Attrition, Winick said, is about fifty percent.
“To be successful in this business, one thing you cannot be is shy, and you can’t take no for an answer,” he said. “And you’ve got to put time in.”
Some new brokers do well in their first month and then burn out, while others take two years to get successful careers off the ground.
These days, recruits are usually college educated, with a good head for numbers, Winick said — but there’s still a lot to learn.
“When I went into this business, I didn’t know much, but I learn quick. I spent time at closings and learning what goes in a lease… eventually, you know what both sides need,” he said.
“Sooner or later, there will come a time in a broker’s career when he has to make a statement to save deals… I teach my brokers when they should speak up and help a deal and when they should say nothing.”
Winick is known in some circles as one of New York real estate’s tough guys, but his softer side is clearly on display when he brings up the topic of his daughter, 19-year-old Danielle Winick, a freshman at New York University.
As a high school student, Danielle ran a number of very successful fundraisers for Project Smile, and organization that provides free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities for children around the globe, and traveled to visit hospitals in Vietnam and Bolivia.
Danielle is also eyeing a career in real estate, and will be working at the Winick Realty booth at the International Council of Shopping Center’s upcoming RECon conference in Las Vegas next week.
“She’s coming,” Winick said, when asked about succession in the family business. Danielle confirmed in an email: “It is my plan and I hope that one day I will continue in the family business and work for my father and ,hopefully, one day take over the family business.”
But the elder Winick, a self-described “deal junkie,” doesn’t seem like someone who is retiring any time soon.
“I’m hands-on. I’m here all the time; I work all the time,” he said. “It’s not about the dollar to me. It’s just about doing deals.”