BY SARAH TREFETHEN AND LIANA GREY
Jason Pruger, an executive managing director at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, represents big-name retailers like CVS, Aerosoles, Wendy’s, the Vitamin Shoppe, Fred Perry, and French fashion house Faconnable.
But some of his most memorable deals have involved smaller, niche stores just breaking into the Manhattan market.
“It’s always fun to bring new concepts into the city,” he said. “You get to learn about different businesses. You get a feel of what makes those businesses work.”
Last year, Pruger helped the landlord of 103 Fifth Avenue, Harlington Realty, lease space formerly occupied by Juicy Couture to New York’s first outpost of Sperry Topsider, a nautical-themed shoe and attire shop.
He brought Balducci’s, a gourmet food market with outposts in Greenwich, Scarsdale, and other upscale suburbs, back to Manhattan after a three-year hiatus, securing a 2,500 s/f storefront at the Hearst Building in midtown.
And in one of his favorite transactions, he secured 10,700 s/f of retail space at 57th Street and Madison Avenue for Destination Maternity, a clothing store and spa for pregnant women. “It was really three brands combined into one to create a true destination location, which includes a spa.”
Pruger’s uncanny ability to maneuver among household main street names and specialty, often emerging brands, is a direct result of his desire to see the city, as well as his career, evolve.
“Change is exciting,” said Pruger, a five times New York Retail Broker of the Year winner, noting the biggest change in recent months has been right on his doorstep.
When BGC acquired Newmark last fall, Pruger said he wasn’t fazed at all. In fact, he said, “It’s going to combine real estate and Wall Street and I think it’s only going to make it better.
“We now have the ability to offer clients financing capability across the capital structure, including equity and debt investment sales services via the relationship with our affiliate company, Cantor Commercial Real Estate.
“We will stand out as a full-service firm. The more services you can provide, the better,” he explained.
Pruger himself is something of a jack of all trades. Growing up in Westchester County, and spending summers on Fire Island, “I’ve always had jobs. I was the wagon guy at Fire Island. I was always hustling and moving.”
In addition to lugging beachgoers’ suitcases and groceries in red Radio Flyer wagons (cars are prohibited on Fire Island), he began renting out his dad’s summer house.
His adventurous spirit took him out of state for college, to the University of Wisconsin, where he studied history. “I grew up in New York, so I wanted a different experience,” he said. “It rounded me out, and taught me to take some things slower. There’s a genuine niceness of the Midwest that I think rubbed off on me in a positive way.”
The son of two public school principals — his mother worked in Harlem, his father in the Bronx – Pruger briefly considered becoming a teacher. “I definitely thought about it, but I’ve got that real estate bug,” he said.
Pruger spent five years at Winick before joining Newmark 11 years ago. Throughout his career, he’s been named Retail Broker of the Year five times. Pruger was recognized as Newmark’s Retail Broker of the Year for 2011, his fourth consecutive win and fifth honor in the last six years.
Though he finds time to unwind near his Chelsea apartment, playing tennis and biking in Hudson River Park, he also does business in the neighborhood, which is booming thanks to the High Line.
Two weeks ago, he closed a deal for CVS in far west Chelsea, at 23rd Street and 10th Avenue. “My job is to get market share and get into the Manhattan market,” he said. “We’ve done 10 deals so far.”