S2 | E3 | Dave Maundrell

Dave Maundrell:              
Hey BK with Ofer Cohen: The crazy part about it was it didn't stop. It just kept on going and getting bigger and better. It's very similar to like today in Brooklyn, people are like is Brooklyn tapped out? And I'm like nope. I get a little upset when people kind of knock what's happened over the past 20 something years because folks, I don't think you really understand what it was like.

Ofer Cohen:                      
On today's episode, I spoke to a good friend, a hipster before there were even hipsters in Williamsburg and a true visionary, Dave Maundrell.

Dave Maundrell:              
How are you?

Ofer Cohen:                      
Doing amazing.

Dave Maundrell:              
Thanks for having me.

Ofer Cohen:                      
Absolutely. Dave and I talked in our TerraCRG studio in prospect heights on what happened to be the third anniversary of the sale of his real estate firm apartments and lofts. That's kind of a big deal. We didn't really plan it.

Dave Maundrell:              
No.

Ofer Cohen:                      
Happy Anniversary.

Dave Maundrell:              
Thank you.

Ofer Cohen:                      
I remember how emotional that moment was for you.

Dave Maundrell:              
When you have a vision and you really truly have a dream and you're able to make it happen, you know, to see over those 13 years the company growing. And I really didn't, you know, when you're so immersed in this, in your business or with anything you do, sometimes you really don't know how well you're doing in terms of like, you know, touching people and your impact on, on an industry or in our case, our marketplace. And then, I would say maybe like 2012 ish, some really big players started saying, wow, you're killing it. I was like, where have you been, man, I've been killing it for a long time. But um, and that was just like kind of like mind blowing a little bit for me.

Ofer Cohen:                      
Right.

Dave Maundrell:              
And some of the people who have been on your, on the podcast, I've said this to me

Ofer Cohen:                      
After the sale, Dave took a new role at Citi Habitats as executive vice president of Brooklyn and Queens, Dave launched Apartments and Lofts back in 2002. It was the early days of Williamsburg transformation. Apartments and Lofts quickly grew, becoming one of the most successful privately owned brokerage firms throughout New York City. Dave was early in using the web and social media to compliment what is really a face to face business. Eventually he made his mark designing and building new developments.

Dave Maundrell:              
My mission was to buck the trend of the shady real estate broker and people really, really kind of started to attract to the brand I was building.

Ofer Cohen:                      
When Dave started the company, he was working for his uncle selling insurance in Queens. He became a real estate broker on the side in his home turf in Williamsburg.

Dave Maundrell:              
I would cold call people from the Village Voice and for apartments that had apartments for rent by owner, and then I would meet them after work, like at 6:00 - 7:00, get the listing and just persistence kept going, going, going.

Ofer Cohen:                      
Before the Williamsburg rezoning, this was a mostly loft conversion and somewhat illegal.

Dave Maundrell:              
I don't think Apple, I don't think iPhone was out yet. I don't think there was any podcasts at that time, you know, but yeah, it was a different world. I mean, Williamsburg at that time the waterfront was still undeveloped. And there was still the devil worshipers and the graffiti artists and the prostitutes and all that trash down in the waterfront that's now the edge where Smorgasburg is and 184 Kent is and all those projects are. So it was a different time. We had to, you know, watch your back going to your car at night, you know, at times, and you know, it was a different world, but I was used to it. I was accustomed to it because that's where I grew up so it really didn't phase me much.

Ofer Cohen:                      
Dave first noticed a change in the late nineties, artists and hipsters ventured across the river to Bedford Avenue on the L train from Manhattan. They started moving in, renting lofts and old factory buildings.

Dave Maundrell:              
Yeah I'd come home from work, go to school, come home, head to the city and go to work, get there 2:00 or 3:00, work till 9:00 at night and then take the L train back home and you know, back then, you know, everyone stayed at the back of the L train. I lived on the second stop on the L at the Lorimer stop. And the reason why everyone congregated in the last car was because that's where the 24-hour entrances were in the last car. One and two, everyone stayed together because it was dangerous. But so what would happen is I'd be on the train at 9:00, 9:30, 10:00 at night coming back home from work and I started seeing people from the East village out in Williamsburg. Started seeing people with purple hair and pink hair and leather jackets coming out of the city into Brooklyn at that time. And I'm like, what the heck is going on? So eventually what started happening was, places started opening up in Williamsburg. There was Planet Thailand, those, the original Galapagos that was veracruise. Which is a Mexican place. You know, Planet Thai used to be this small little storefront on Bedford and north seventh. I think it's Uniqlo now. That's crazy. And they made the best spicy basil chicken. Oh, it was like fire, you know, and it was like my introduction to Thai food at that time. And I started just hanging out in Williamsburg and seeing change, then what would happen is many times we'd go out and hang out in the East Village. And then we'd finish the night in Williamsburg because I still lived there at the time. And then we'd be, you know, at a punk band dive bar. It was called a sweet water on North Sixth Street, you know, at three in the morning, drinking shots of Jameson with have a bunch of people who look like the Ramones from the seventies, and I was like, this is really happening here man. And the crazy part about it was it didn't stop. It just kept on going and getting bigger and better, it's very, it's very similar to like today in Brooklyn, like people like is, you know, is Brooklyn tapped out? And I'm like, nope, just keeps growing and pushing deeper in and you know, it's, you know, there's all different opinions on happened to Brooklyn, but you know, I get a little upset when when people kind of knock what's happened over the past 20 something years because folks, I don't think you really understand what it was like in Brooklyn, in the eighties. And, and you know, even in the nineties, but like, you know, when I was growing up here at 85, 86, I mean no one, first of all, no one knew where Williamsburg was and the only time people in high school knew where Williamsburg was when I told them, You ever hear of Peter Luger? And they be like yes, and I'd go, you ever hear of the Williamsburg Bridge and they'd go, yeah and I'd go, right there. Everyone figured, everyone thought that Brooklyn was Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst. And that went through its own transformation, you know, turning the demographics as well. I feel like, you know, I'm glad I was able to see the neighborhood I grew up in, which I promise you no one knew what the Heck Williamsburg was in, you know, if you knew Williamsburg you thought about burning cars on the streets and gangs and heavy drugs and I'm serious about the burning cars on the street on Bedford Avenue and south side and such, and I was able to kind of live through that and as a kid and then participate in the transformation of the neighborhood while finding a career somehow. So kind of like, you know, I look back at all right now and I'm like, how did I get to where I am today as a person and as a businessman? It's like everything. Everything has made me who I am today so I'm, proud of, you know, being able to kind of make it through all that. Finding my niche in an industry that I love that I just stumbled across it just because of living.

Ofer Cohen:                      
What are the things that you miss the most in Williamsburg of the old days?

Dave Maundrell:              
Oh man...I just love seeing my grandfather on the corner with his quote-unquote boys hanging out, you know, in front of the pizzeria and these guys are 90, they're not getting pizza, these old guys, they were getting coffee, espresso and then little do you know, these pizzerias, they have a little secret sauce lets say, you know, for the people in the know that they put into those coffees. But you know, when your kid, you have no idea. And then when you get little older and it gets offered to you go woah!

Ofer Cohen:                      
Just give us the geographic.

Dave Maundrell:              
So I grew up on Conselyea or you know, in today's world to Con-sileyea, but we all called it Conselyea and Lorimer street. So Lorimer and Metro was a hub because the L train was there. Second stop Lorimer, you know, remember. No one ever got off at Bedford. Bedford was a ghost town. I miss a really good, authentic Brooklyn Slice of pizza. None of this thin crust.

Ofer Cohen:                      
Right there's no more slice, I was just talking about it with someone.

Dave Maundrell:              
Come on know, like, you know, I, I miss it all.

Ofer Cohen:                      
It's all thin crust with arugula on it, at best.

Dave Maundrell:              
Listen it's good. But it's, you know, if you told me if you put that fancy $46 pizza with truffle on the right side and you put a plain, regular slice, from San Marco pizzeria in Williamsburg. I'll take the San Marcos slice all day every day. I miss that. I miss graffiti on the trains.

Ofer Cohen:                      
While he's proud of his work converting lofts. Dave describes the emotions in the early days. It was the end of an era. Mom and pop factories were becoming obsolete.

Dave Maundrell:              
Can't tell you how many of those folks I met with and you saw the tears they were holding back talking to me because what a lot of them were doing was keeping, whatever's left of their business on the ground floor. And then slowly moving people in above. It was quote-unquote work live, you know, in, AIR was that you know, with some buildings, but not a lot. And it was just really kind of like, I remember those, remember one folks, that guy was on themes and having seen his eyes welling up because it's businesses, his family business, all he knew is as a person is dying and he has to make this move. And it's also extremely risky because one, the financial investment. They were using whatever they had to do it. That's how it started. I mean these people were doing it for survival at the end it became a real business.

Ofer Cohen:                      
Dave Maundrell soon took his knack for marketing and began developing and designing new buildings in Brooklyn. He was introduced to Louis Sillerman who bought the waterfront for his family's truck leasing company.

Dave Maundrell:              
Not just a piece of the waterfront, all of the waterfront.

Ofer Cohen:                      
Before the rezoning.

Dave Maundrell:              

Before the rezoning than selling a piece back to the state. I mean a masterful deal. And Louis eventually became, you know, he, he's one of my mentors, personally and professionally and I love that guy. And he called me up one day. He goes, listen, I'm thinking about developing one of my properties on Broadway. It was 20 Broadway, he saw I was a hustler and worker, I had no experience doing this. He goes okay, send me a proposal. Then I was like, oh man. I don't have a proposal. So I actually took weeks and looked at other firms proposals and I came up with my own spin to it at the time, my wife was a graphic designer and I said, I'm going to go now I'm going a wow this guy. So I go into the ultimate pitch after he's meeting with other companies and I go to me a favor, can you type into your computer Broadwayriverview.com and he looks at me and he does it and his jaw drops, he turns around and goes, what is this? I go, that's what I'm going to do for you. So basically I went, bought the domain, created a website with a logo and everything for him, which eventually that logo actually was the one that was chosen.

Ofer Cohen:                      
Right. So, but this was the first time you did it and then you developed some kind of, kind of a model around it.

Dave Maundrell:              
Yeah, kind of, you know, people were because we were so entrenched in that marketplace, we really learned what people wanted. I was still very young in my career. I had to learn a lot. I learned from all different sources, from architects, from listening at meetings and not pretending to know something, learning and I was lucky to be around some really, really smart people and I absorbed it all and then you know, and you just keep building and building upon it and, but at the end of the day I always knew who the demographic was and then I became hell bent on not being known as just a Williamsburg broker after that. And, and branching out to other marketplaces which, we've been able to do.

Ofer Cohen:                      
Dave has since worked in new development projects from Mott Haven to Staten Island as the so-called Brooklyn brand expands, Dave says he's tried to respect the history and the people in the neighborhoods.

Dave Maundrell:              
I think one thing that I'm very proud of is being able to respect the folks who are there, who were there and conveyed at messaging when we're in the design process regarding facades and, and some of these buildings are very loud and kind of really like, you know, people's, you know, trophies to themselves, developers or architects and such like that. And I've learned that you need to be a little more contextual and kind of respectful. In a lot of places, not everywhere, like across the street here in this neighborhood. It was an open, it was a blank canvas and you have a lot of marketplaces that, a white canvas and as much conflict. But what happens is, it starts out as a blank canvas and a bunch of developers are doing their own thing and then when you go back and look at it 20 years later, this is ugly, a building is green, this building's orange. Like, what the heck is going on here? You know, so it's not as cool anymore. I think the Brooklyn, you know, it's everywhere, like, you know, it's done and so to speak, it's like what's, but we've been and it's been done for a long time and we've been trying to do different spins to that and kind of use that as a base, but it comes down to style. People will pay for style, people will pay for amenities that are practical, but style sells and we've taken that philosophy, I've applied it to Long Island City and where we've done it we've done off the charts, what do people want? And then there's that balancing act between what the people want and what we can afford because we have to make it has to make money or we're not going anywhere. I want, what we can build. Let's put something there that makes sense. And I also tell clients, I'm going to guide you not to make decisions where you tell me I have to raise the rents higher than I think I can achieve.

Ofer Cohen:                      
One last question is, tell me something nobody knows about a Dave Maundrell?

Dave Maundrell:              
Personally or professionally or either?

Ofer Cohen:                      
Personally.

Dave Maundrell:              
I'm super loyal, super loyal, loyal to a fault.

Ofer Cohen:                      
Really?

Dave Maundrell:              
You know, there's been too many times that I've said to myself over the past five years, oh man, I'm in the wrong business. This business you know, real estate, it's not just brokerage. Brokerage is another beast. Real estate businesses really cutthroat and tough and people are really out for themselves and when you have a good heart and a good soul, you have to protect yourself from this. Because I've been, I guess I'm going through my fifth market swing, six market swing potentially since being in this business. I've seen the good, the bad, the ugly, the downright wrong that people do.

Ofer Cohen:                      
You know, I can completely relate to that notion. I mean, I've been struggling myself with this idea of you know, how to continue to be kind with so much hostility around me because the real estate business can bring a lot of raw behaviors from people because there's a lot of money.

Dave Maundrell:              
You know you just gotta keep true to your own ideals and family helps. Us having kids changes your perspective on things. You have a great girlfriend who was also in the business, understands kind of how works and who's very supportive and surrounding yourself with people who are supportive of you know, who you are and your core values is the only way to really do anything.

Ofer Cohen:                      
Dave Maundrell, thank you so much.

Dave Maundrell:              
Thank you. You've gotten good at this dude.

Ofer Cohen:                      
You're listening to Hey BK a podcast about the people behind Brooklyn's transformation. You can find us at heybk.nyc or wherever you get your podcasts. Please download and subscribe to all our episodes. I'm Ofer Cohen. Thanks for listening.