It was 1962. JFK was commander-in-chief, gas was 28 cents per gallon and “Beatlemania” had yet to reach the US. It was also the year Sheldon Gross Realty first opened its doors to the public.
A remarkable 55 years later, the firm continues to be a leader in providing commercial and industrial real estate services to clients throughout the tri-state area. Originally based in Newark, before a move to East Orange, the company is now located at 80 Main Street in West Orange. According to founder Sheldon Gross – who is also the company’s president and CEO – multiple factors have accounted for this remarkable, long-term success.
“There’s no magic formula for success – we’ve always worked hard, put our clients first, and adapted to changing times,” he says. “If there’s one thing that sets us apart, I’d say it’s our focus on connecting people and helping clients’ businesses grow. I’ve never viewed what we do as being primarily about properties as a commodity. The human element is far more important.”
Another hallmark of Gross’ company is incorporating the latest technology into real estate sales. In this regard, he was a pioneer.
“We got our first computer back in the early ‘80s – it was about the size of a desk,” Gross recalls. “Since then, we’ve consistently upgraded to best serve our clients and stay ahead of competitors. We also were among the very first commercial real estate companies to utilize video in marketing properties.”
Another forward-looking focus for Sheldon Gross Realty is precise, exhaustive research. The company’s brokers and consultants – many of whom have been with the firm for more than a decade – emphasize consistent research to help maintain a professional advantage.
“There’s much more to our business than just bricks and mortar; to be effective, we need to really understand what makes a particular client and a particular market unique,” Gross explains. “We were doing market research before almost any other commercial real estate agency, and we’ve continued expanding this approach. Obviously, it’s essential to be intimately familiar with every market where we do business. But, it’s every bit as important to understand each client, what their professional needs are, and what they hope to achieve. Once we know all that, we’re ideally positioned to achieve favorable outcomes.”
Gross also is a strong proponent of a team approach to commercial real estate, with his various brokers sharing information and ideas. He believes this model, almost as much as any other single factor, has helped Sheldon Gross Realty thrive for so long.
“When we started, everyone had their own separate office – which meant that we were all working within our own, personal silos,” he recalls. “That was definitely the wrong approach, because we weren’t benefitting for each other’s perspective and experience. We became one of the first real estate companies to restructure our office environment to focus on open space, and it worked well. Today, I believe the Sheldon Gross Realty team is as collaborative or more so than any other agency in our industry.”
When it comes to Gross’ team, now members are more important than his two daughters – Barbara Gross and Marcy Gross. They’re an integral part of his business, with both holding senior executive positions.
“For me, one of the greatest single rewards of being president and CEO of Sheldon Gross Realty is being able to spend so much time with Barbara and Marcy,” he says. “I thoroughly enjoy their company, but there’s even more to it than that. As a father, it’s remarkably rewarding to know that these two women I raised have become such immensely skilled real estate professionals. When I’m dealing with a challenge, it’s the two of them I turn to first – and that’s not only because they’re family.“
Another key component of Gross’ story hinges on geography. He’s sold commercial real estate in New Jersey for parts of eight decades – since 1949 – and he considers the Garden State a prime contributor to everything he’s accomplished.
“There’s no better place to do business than right here in New Jersey,” he says. “From port facilities, to highways, to airports, to rail lines, our transport infrastructure is superb – and the state’s sandwiched right between two exceptional cities, New York and Philadelphia. I’ve seen business owners relocate down to the Sun Belt because they think they’ll save some money. But for the most part, they very quickly realize how much they’ve given up by leaving New Jersey. For myself, I’d never try doing business anywhere else.”
In the 55 years since he opened his own agency, Gross’ influence has been felt all across the state he’s so proud to call home.
“The impact Sheldon has had on the New Jersey commercial real estate sector is immeasurable,” says [Industry leader, not affiliated with SGR]. “I can’t even imagine how different things would be if he’d taken some other path in life.”
Gross is currently a member of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors, the Executives Association of New Jersey, the National Association of REALTORS, the New Jersey Association of Real Estate Boards, the Institute of Real Estate Management, the Industrial and Office Real Estate Brokers Association, and the REALTORS National Marketing Institute. He is past-president of multiple groups, including the Society of Industrial Realtors, the American Society of Appraisers, and the Northeast Region of the Society of Industrial of Industrial and Office Realtors.
Overall, Gross never loses sight of what constitutes success for a commercial real estate firm – exceeding clients’ expectations on a consistent, ongoing basis.
“When someone approaches us related to a property, it’s the beginning of a business partnership,” he says. “They need us to acquire or sell a property, and we need them so we can remain profitable. It should be a mutually beneficial relationship – which is why I avoid thinking in terms of just ‘transactions.’ Our business is about much more than that, and I think that’s why I’ve been working with some clients for decades.”