By Dan Orlando
Mitch Marrow literally tackled several other challenges before making an impact on New York City’s real estate landscape.
Marrow was the first Ivy League player ever to take the field in the Senior Bowl National College All-Star football game. He turned that exposure into a third round selection in the 1997 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers, where he would play defensive end before retiring in 2000 due to a string of back injuries.
“I actually worked in finance,” Marrow said when detailing his next career endeavor following life on the gridiron. “I went to UPenn undergrad at the Wharton School.”
“Never a guarantee that you’re going to play in the NFL so I certainly didn’t plan on it,” he added.
After making a name for himself in the hedge fund space, starting with a career at UBS and ending with a five-year stint as managing director/head of global trading for Brahman Capital, it was time for Marrow to move on to a passion project.
“I had always been involved with pets and animals, mostly through the non-profit and rescue side of things,” said Marrow, who describes himself as a “lover and supporter of animals.”
Marrow, who currently owns two dogs himself, noticed that residents in upper tier buildings were being supplied with amenities to make certain aspects of their lives easier, but were not necessarily being provided with access to pet friendly features such as daycare.
“I didn’t see a really great option in terms of caring for them aside from having a dog walker coming to take them for walks once or twice a day,” Marrow said.
Seeing an opening in the market that needed to be filled, Marrow launched Spot Group LLC which “fills a void in major cities nationwide where luxury residential buildings are prevalent.”
The facilities provide clients with daycare, training services and other pet-friendly offerings.
Spot Group benefits more than just residents as it offers a “major competitive advantage” for leasing agents and property owners who are looking for amenities to set them apart from the competition.
“I was just amazed that it didn’t exist. There was no real dominant brand out there that really operated for the confines of a large urban area. If you live in the suburbs you don’t need daycare. You can let the dog out in the backyard,” Marrow said. “It’s not as dire as a need.”
Marrow’s venture currently has storefronts in five Manhattan buildings, including in the luxury hotspots of Chelsea and Tribeca. The Spot Experience has also opened up a shop in Stamford Connecticut and is currently in the midst of a cross-country expansion.
While quality pet daycare is a service that certainly fills a need for many New Yorkers, it was Marrow’s connections in the world of real estate that helped the venture gain steam.
“I had some really great real estate relationships I had built over the years,” said Marrow, who noticed that after the industry’s dip in ’07 and ’08, property owners began to loosen their regulations and thus residences that allowed pets started to rise.
“Why don’t I try to marry up the real estate side of my network and figure out how to deliver a much better option for service?” Marrow thought.
“They want it in their buildings because it’s a great amenity and it draws residents,” he said.
“We get access to space that is in part funded by owners of the building and access to real estate that someone in this industry would never be able to make work economically without the partnership of a landlord.”
“In terms of actual facilities themselves, a recent example is we partnered with Silverstein properties,” said Marrow referencing the location inside Silver Towers at 620 West 42nd Street . “Larry Silverstein has some new developments and a large residential rental property at Silver Towers. It’s like 2,200 units of luxury residential encompassed in these two large towers on the West Side.”
“He had a 10,000 s/f retail space that if I was just a guy off the street that wanted to rent a space, the economics would never work,” Marrow said, noting that he has been offered below market rents because Spot is seen as a moneymaker by landlords.
“We believe that the ability to offer the very best in services and amenities is essential to cultivating and maintaining a strong and happy residential community,” said executive vice president of Silverstein Properties, Roger Silverstein.
“Our partnership with The Spot Experience is a perfect example of our commitment to our residents,” Silverstein told Real Estate Weekly.
“The retail space is small potatoes,” Marrow continued. “It should really drive the capacity of the rental (residential) space. They want a full building.”
“As they open new buildings we’ll continue to take space and be a fixture in their buildings,” he continued. “It’s a great model that sort of allows us to leverage our partners to really grow alongside of them.”
Now nearly six years into the Spot Experience, Marrow says that real estate arena commands the same level of dedication and focus that life in the NFL did.
He described his new career as “the most challenging” task he’s ever taken on “in terms of being mentally strong, taking a lot of risk and just being disciplined.”
“All of those things (were required) to make it to a certain level in the NFL.”
“There were ups and downs and you had to have a certain degree of toughness and emotional stability,” said Marrow about life in the NFL.
“I don’t know if I would prescribe what I do to somebody who didn’t have a certain level of ability to deal with a tough day-to-day,” he continued.
“Physical toughness is easy, that a lot of guys have. Mental toughness separates the men from the boys.”