“For me to be back on Main Street is a thrill,” said one of Branford’s best-known realtors. From the front door of his new office space at 15 Park Place, Branford’s Greg Robbins can see the slice of Main Street where his grandfather George Robbins owned several businesses over the years including Robbins’ Package Store and Robbins’ Department Store. The building his grandfather owned for more than 50 years is now gone – demolished by the 1998 Castellon’s Bakery fire – but his family legacy and his grandfather’s work ethic is something he has carried on as he grows his real-estate business in his first-ever standalone office space alongside a team of nine other agents.
As his new William Raveis realty sign was being hung on the visage of 15 Park Place last week – the former home of Levesh Cleaners now owned by Branford’s Joe Lomartra – Robbins shared his excitement for his growing business and the ties his future has to his family’s past.
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Beneath his name on every one of his realty signs that hangs about town and throughout the shoreline is the tagline, “Three generations of real estate excellence.” Robbins details that his grandfather and his dad, Robert Robbins, owned Robbins Realty on the corner of Montowese Street and Averill Place back in the 1970s. As a child, Robbins said it was his job on Saturday mornings to change out the new real estate listings for the sold ones from a Rolodex. Long before there was an online MLS system, the listings were kept on three by five index cards, he said.
After purchasing his grandfather’s package store with the tagline, “The Home of Fine Spirits,” and running the business for several years, Robbins left the world of being an entrepreneur and earned a living in telecommunications and technology. He rode out the wave for 18 years, he said, leaving when the bubble burst in the early 2000s. In 2004, Robbins said he found real estate again.
Although it wasn’t exactly what he was looking for – he toyed with the idea of opening a pretzel shop and an ice cream parlor – Greg Robbins & Associates became the evolution of Robbins Realty.
“After three generations, when someone calls me and says, ‘I knew your grandfather,’… I can appreciate that. My value system is from my grandfather,” said Robbins of his business.
If you’ve ever worked with Robbins and his team* whether it was to sell your home, buy a house or rent an apartment, you’d understand that their way of doing business is just a little different than the rest. There’s a mom and pop feel to the way they treat clients and perhaps it’s intentional but mostly it’s just part of the legacy, said Robbins.
“Many of us had the advantage of working with our parents and our grandparents and they were cut from a different cloth,” commented Robbins of his team. “Service and dependability and reputation – I got that from my grandfather… I just kind of emulate that.”
In an industry where economic uncertainty shadows every home sale and purchase, Robbins said he and his team have managed to grow their business by being competitive but not necessarily with each other.
“When you go into a regular real estate office, it’s a group of independent contractors who want to be friendly with each other but they are really in competition with each other,” said Robbins. “If you can imagine putting a bunch of independent contractors into the same room and telling them that they are going to sell into the same marketplace to the same group of people, the same product… it’s a cutthroat business and we just don’t feel that on this team.”
Instead, Robbins said his team often rolls up to home showings two and three agents deep and the goal is to help each other. Tina Loftis, an agent with Robbins, calls him and inspiration and said of their approach: “We find it better just to work together.”
“What’s helped us grow,” explained Robbins, “is the layer of services that we provide.”
From agents scrubbing kitchens themselves to get a home ready for showing to calling up a contractor to assess a job at moments’ notice, Robbins said his team is willing to go above and beyond for their clients.
“People are nervous,” said Robbins. “You have a piece of real estate that you thought is going to be an asset and outside of getting married and having children it is the most stressful situation you can be in and now you compound it with the economy being in the dumps… you turn to a resource that is five, six, seven people deep, that’s comforting… the extended team that we have is really what has made us successful.”
Robbins said he has hopes to continue to grow his business by adding more realtors and continuing to diversify the group in the marketplace through home sales, property management and rentals. He and his team are also working on increased marketing initiatives, which may include a show on BCTV.
Of his new office at 15 Park Place, Robbins said it’s just the tangible evidence that Robbins & Associates is expanding. “I could not do that without the makings of this team,” he said.
*Full disclosure: This Patch editor has used Robbins & Associates service in the past.