Back in 2005, after working for over twenty-two years at two large real estate corporations with thousands of people, I decided it was time to open my own Real Estate Boutique and build a new, quality brand. With no desire to use my last name in the title; I searched for a name that would capture the essence of being a ‘Home Town’ Expert.” My vision was to create something community focused, with like-minded professionals who shared my notion that working amongst experienced, ethical and hardworking professionals, would offer the best possible experience to assist buyers and sellers in our market area of towns within an hour commute of Manhattan.
My partner had an uncle who owned a business for many years called Towne Pharmacy, and we liked the sound of ‘Towne’, rather than a vanity name that was difficult to spell or pronounce. (Bigos & Cannizzo Real Estate did not roll off the tongue easily.)
We spent months working on names, logos, websites, and how we wanted to shape this fledgling company and Towne Realty Group, LLC was born. It would have been so much easier to purchase an established franchise, but we wanted to be independent and chart our own course. After so many years of red tape and rules that made no sense to us, we had the desire to be our own bosses, with more creativity and flexibility.
Little did I know how hard it would be to just invent a brand in a sea of huge, established real estate corporations surrounding our little office. My father and mother owned a retail clothing store (Martin Eastman LTD) in my home town of Millburn, NJ and my partner created a popular restaurant (Forty Main & Cafe Main) just a block away. My grandfather had owned small businesses and between my husband, my business partner and I, we had over 100 years of experience with start-up businesses in our families. I thought: “What could be so hard?”
Together my partner of four years, Daniel Cannizzo, agreed along with my husband, Mark Bigos, a commercial Real Estate Broker and Attorney, to jump in with a what we thought was a great business plan. We three hired our first agent, an office manager, a weekend receptionist and a licensed assistant, and off we went. We knew this was going to be an exciting and expensive venture, where for the first two years, we might be spending more money than we were earning. We had never heard of social media, video marketing, virtual floor plans, and facebook did not yet exist. We had a business plan that had no way of working after our first year of business, because our world was about to implode.
I had a toddler and two wild rescue dogs at home, but armed with this new idea for a company, lots of capital, energy, enthusiasm and most of all: determination, I believed we could make it. We would soon be confronted with an economic meltdown, foreclosures and short sales all around us, a fire (next door to us), floods, two freak October snow storms in 2011 and 2012, Hurricane Irene, and Super Storm Sandy, all of which wreaked havoc on our cable, phones, power and ability to conduct business for weeks at a time. We could not predict that prices would go down 40% and costs would rise so dramatically at the same time.
I have no regrets, even as nothing unfolded as planned; what ever does, right? Considering many of the businesses that opened right before or after we did, are already closed, we feel fortunate to have crossed the billion dollar sales mark in 2014, and to be a profitable company. Last year, our top-producing agent, Stephanie Mallios, sold the most expensive home closed in Short Hills, NJ at $5,400,000, along with another 48 transactions, and she won the Significant Sales Award at the Fall Conference for Luxury Real Estate in Boston.
For the last few years we have had dozens of Five Star Professional Agents and NJAR Circle of Excellence Winners. We have expanded to two floors in the same building where we began, converted to a paperless company with all of our files in the cloud, and we handle our business with electronic signatures. We have over 15,000 fans on our three facebook pages for Towne Realty, 365 Things to do Millburn & Short Hills as well as 365 Things to do in Summit & New Providence, with a loyal fan base bringing a huge referral stream.
We have won three coveted awards from Who’s Who in Luxury Real Estate and recently joined an exclusive international network of top boutiques called Leverage Global Partners. We continue to attract top quality agents and are off to a great start in 2015 with a new Broker of Record, Barbara Schillin Birkitt, who brings over twenty-five years of experience to the operations of a Boutique Real Estate company.
Next year at this time, as we celebrate our tenth anniversary, we will have undergone ever more changes and improvements as our new website launches. Innovation and execution are keeping us fresh and continually in the top three companies in our local market area of Short Hills, NJ. To all of those clients, customers, friends and colleagues who have supported us, we thank you for your encouragement and loyalty.
This quote, often attributed to Charles Darwin, following his ‘Survival of the Fittest’ theory, sums up how we have not only thrived, but survived. I have heard that the only people who like change are cashiers and babies with dirty diapers. Not true. We thrive on it.
For more information contact Towne at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Broker, Karen Eastman Bigos at 201-417-1600