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A Mississippi Business Journal Q&A

Commercial real estate demands knowledge, experience

GREENVILLE — Locals know that if it’s the commercial real estate market in Greenville you’re interested in, Mal Kretschmar, GRI, CRB, RIM, is the man to see. A 36-year Realtor, Kretschmar is a fourth-generation Greenvillian who is a broker, leasing agent, manager, developer and consultant operating from Kretschmar Realty Inc.

The Mississippi Business Journal recently gave Kretschmar a call and asked him about issues facing Realtors in general, specific issues facing Realtors in Greenville and the Delta and what makes for a good Realtor.

Mississippi Business Journal: What was it about real estate that led you into the field?

Mal Kretschmar: As a kid growing up, my parents owned the local Shell Oil distributorship. I was always fascinated by their analysis of traffic counts, which side of the highway was “the better side” and why such was the case. I returned to graduate school after serving in the U.S. Army, and became a partner in developing a neighborhood shopping center, and then I joined Esso (now Exxon), where I spent a lot of time in their real estate department. While at Esso, I relocated to New Orleans and became the real estate manager of a supermarket chain covering a three-state area. After serving another supermarket chain, I came back to Greenville and opened Kretschmar Realty in 1974.

MBJ: How has being a Realtor changed over your career?

MK: The changes have been sweeping and dynamic. There is little within the industry that has remained static. The rules have changed. There has been a complete “makeover” of the brokerage industry that we knew 50 years ago. The 1950s and 1960s featured mostly small, independent family-owned agencies. I think the first wave of such revolutionary change initially surfaced in a pronounced manner in the mid-1970s. It was then that ERA and Century 21 began organizing to form franchised agencies. Then in the later 1980s and 1990s, we saw “radical” schools of thought become part of the industry, such as the Environmental Protection Agency addressing old, failing and leaking underground gasoline tanks. Many other ramifications have arisen along those lines. Tomorrow will bring more changes.

MBJ: Are there aspects of being in real estate in Greenville/Delta that are unique to the area?

MK: With each decade’s passing, there are additional singularities. The Delta is a complicated personality — in ways, it remains the same, in other respects there is much change and “transference” taking place. In the Delta, expansionary lands are owned and controlled by a relatively few second- and third-generation property owners, and those property owners have a direct bearing on whether or not — or when — a given community is freed to further commercial and industrial growth. Sometimes a given community is freed to further commercial and industrial growth, and sometimes it is not entirely their call as the federal government does not always offer them favorable tax alternatives. Nonetheless, these are the circumstances that often impede and delay industrial and commercial growth in various Delta communities.

Yes, real estate — and business and life in general — remains unique in the Delta compared to the rest of the state at large. But, when it is all said and done, there is no place else on all of the nine planets where individuals can be such a positive asset.

MBJ: What makes for a good Realtor? What advice would you give to others who are contemplating making real estate their career?

MK: I have seen real estate transactions blown by agents who are not based in hands-on knowledge and experience in commercial real estate. Maybe their primary experience was in residential sales, or leisure property, and suddenly a seeming opportunity causes them to stumble into commercial real estate. They often continue to stumble along. The message is stick with your specialty.

What makes for a good Realtor also makes for a good everyone else — a good preacher, banker, mother. That is becoming a good communicator, not only orally, but in today’s litigious society the good Realtor must maintain a good and thorough paper trail — all communication must be thorough and reduced to writing. Communication is the key.

MBJ: What would you point to as your most significant professional accomplishments?

MK: Having been in commercial real estate for 36 years, pinpointing “the one” most significant accomplishment is difficult. Improving community image is a wonderful feeling. There is much gratification whenever I cause the conversion of vacant buildings in depressed downtown sections or high-exposure main traffic arteries.

I also enjoy the deal. It tool me three or four years to put together what ended up being a $35-million casino/hotel development for a riverboat casino company. It was a challenge to find one piece of privately-owned land. The result was the razing of the old Downtowner property, which had been vacant eight to 10 years, the construction of a new, 250-room Fairfield Inn, and the creation of both jobs and taxes generated for the city. The excitement and thrills created by “bid wars” in the sale of a given property are also fun.

Finally, helping someone in need. I have a significant feeling of accomplishment when I am able to help those in need. Often times, I have helped someone out of financial problems through consultation. I recall a family-owned store where the husband had developed a fast-advancing case of Alzheimer’s disease. Money was short. The wife was working long hours and nights trying to keep the business running. I was able to sell the business for the wife, and she returned to college, obtained a master’s degree, and went on to be very gainfully employed. That’s a great feeling.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1016.

About Wally Northway

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