Founders Message: Real estate is still the best investment by Hopkins

Roland Hopkins, NYREJ Founder Roland Hopkins, NYREJ

Way  back 54 years ago when the Journal was born I admit I knew nothing about newspapers or real estate, but what I did learn from Earl Nightingale was to ask a lot of questions, then shut up and listen to the answers. I had attended grade school, high school and college, but made the horrible mistake of majoring in liberal arts. As I recall, by the third or fourth grade we all had learned to read, write, add, subtract, multiply and divide. That’s liberal arts. I learned the hard way that if you are going to extend your schooling after high school, make sure you study and learn a subject that you enjoy. That way, when you graduate and step out into the cruel world, you’ll be ready to learn the ugly rules on how to survive in this very interesting world dealing, with its many many types of people. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

So what did a disc jockey who knew how to spin Frank Sinatra, Doris Day and Frankie Avalon records do? I learned that Rock and Roll was nothing like the music I was used to and I no way could spend four hours a day playing Fats Domino, Elvis, the rest of the screamers. I had been an archery instructor at a summer camp and a gym instructor in college. What the heck was I going to do to feed and clothe a small family including one wife and two youngsters?

Enter a young unsuccessful commercial real estate broker, Herb Siegel. “Every business has a trade newspaper or magazine,” he said. “But there isn’t one in commercial real estate.” Sounds interesting to me, I thought. My disc jockey industry had weekly Variety and Cashbox, both very successful in the show biz industry.

“How much do we need to start a weekly newspaper like that?” I asked. He knew as much as I did, so he threw out a figure. “Ten grand.” I had no savings and neither did he. So we were starting with nothing. Plus, did commercial real estate really need a weekly trade paper?

In Greater Boston only one skyscraper (25 stories) that had been built in the last 25 years. Only one shopping mall had been built on the outskirts, in Framingham. And only one industrial park, in the outskirts of Newton, had been developed. Someone was just beginning to rehab apartments and refered to it as, “Bermanize.” No nursing homes yet, and no condos.

I visited three well respected leaders and asked them what they thought. Ray Hoffard, the president of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board agreed to give me a few minutes of his time and answered with, “Timing is most important in any new business. Your timing now is terrible. Wait at least five years.” Next, I bothered Frank Perry of the A.W. Perry Co., who at the time was running for governor. I met him in an elevator and he duplicated Hoffard’s answer. “No need for that type of newspaper yet,” he said. Finally, I asked young lawyer /real estate owner, Marty Berman. He assured me that the timing was not correct. To this day I sincerely believe that all three were right. But, when you are young and stupid, with a stupid idea, why not try it? Coincidentily, by the way, that phrase became one of my greatest closing sales approaches. It worked more often that not–“Why not just try it?”

So I phoned my college roommate in Minnesota. He had inherited some money from his late aunt who had owned a copper mine. I asked  him if he would like to be the editor of a new weekly newspaper. He’d lend Herb and I each $3,300.33, and be a third owner. I tacked on, “Why don’t you just try it?” He said yes, and  the New England Real Estate Journal was launched January 17th 1963 (Coincidentally my birthday)..

Continued next month

Roland Hopkins is founder of the NYREJ, Norwell, Mass.