Eight years ago, the Nassau Square shopping center on Lake Worth Road had fallen on hard times and was valued at about $6 million.
Today, it’s worth three times as much, says Bill Reichel, president of Reichel Realty & Investments, a jump in value he attributes to savvy management and dogged deal-making.
Reichel, who represents the center’s owner, worked with Publix Super Markets to renew its lease and filled a long-vacant anchor spot with National Lumber & Hardware. Perhaps the biggest coup was persuading tenants and the property’s lender to approve a McDonald’s on an outparcel.
“A McDonald’s ground lease is very valuable, but you talk about a challenge,” Reichel said. “People told me, ‘You will never get that approved.’ It took me three years, but I did it. When someone says, ‘You can’t do it,’ I’ll figure out a way.”
Name: Bill Reichel, President, Reichel Realty & Investments
Hometown: I live in Palm Beach Gardens, but I’m originally from Baltimore.
About your company: We have 16 people. We’re a boutique real estate firm that offers a tremendous amount of services. We do retail, office, industrial, tenant representation, property management and construction management. We also do tax appeal work, and we just started a new group that does business brokerage. We have people who’ve been with our company 15 years. That’s really telling. We’re like a family, because we care for each other. I share the wealth in the company through a 401(k), profit sharing and a bonus program. That’s why people never leave — but I don’t want them to leave. I feel like without them, how do I make all this work?
First job: I’ve worked as long as I can remember. When I was 15, I used to do carpentry work, building decks and working in people’s houses. Through college, I waited tables. After I graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in law enforcement, I came to visit a friend who was down here. When I saw Palm Beach for the first time — this amazing place with great wealth — I said, “Whoa, I can probably make a go of it down here.” I waited tables while I did real estate for about 21/2 years, until I could sustain myself in real estate. I used to wait tables at the Bennigan’s on Palm Beach Lakes. It’s now a Chik-fil-A, and I’m part of the group that owns that property.
Biggest challenge: Dealing with the municipalities and the county for approvals and permits. There are some cities that get it, and some that used to get it and don’t get it any more. I don’t want to mention any names, because then you’re really on that blacklist. We have centers where tenants come in and the city says, “No, you need a special exception.” You have to be creative and try to help them say yes. Because if you can’t get there, then you lose time, you lose money, and you may lose the tenant. We try to show municipalities, “Look, this tenant is important to the value of the center, which is important to the tax assessment, which means money for the municipality.” So unless I’m putting a strip club in there or something horrible, why not try to figure out how to work with us? One of the best cities to work with right now is Riviera Beach. They want business. We just did a big transaction in the city with Pet Paradise. They needed to open their store by Thanksgiving, and they spent $1 million on renovations. Riviera Beach approved it in four months. I can’t do anything in the county in four months. I’m building a building on Okeechobee, and it took one year to get a permit.
Biggest business mistake: I don’t know if you call it a mistake, but if I’d started investing in real estate earlier, I’d have a lot more wealth. Or maybe not — timing is everything in this business. When I first started out, I was always worried about buying something. I felt like it would be a conflict with my clients. About 20 years ago, I sold a shopping center for the third time, and everybody made a lot of money. I finally just said, “I’ve got to buy something. I’ve got to get in the game.” I decided as long as I tell people what I own, and I’m totally honest with them, it’s not a conflict. Buying properties not only made me a lot of wealth, but it also made me a better broker, because I can understand the owner’s perspective.
The most important trait you look for when hiring: I’m looking for a certain energy level. As a broker, you eat what you kill. A lot of brokers get comfortable making $75,000 to $80,000 a year, when they could make three times that if they worked. You’ve got to get out there and make contacts.
Your outlook for Palm Beach County: It’s certainly one of the best places in the world. We have a phenomenal Business Development Board. Kelly Smallridge has done a remarkable job. The biomedical stuff hasn’t lived up to the expectation, but it takes time. When you have Scripps and Max Planck, that’s very promising for our area. And you’ve got a billionaire like Jeff Greene who puts down $300 million to buy properties. We have a lot of great things happening here.