Founders Message: Women in Commercial Real Estate - By Roland Hopkins
Believe it or not, the first subscription I ever sold at the New England Real Estate Journal was in early 1963 to Minerva Gordon just off Boston’s Beacon Hill. She didn’t invite me into her office on Charles St., but stood on the sidewalk and handed me $12 in cash. Hey, ten of those paid my week’s salary, so I was quite pleased. One of the questions I’m constantly asked about commercial real estate 50 years ago is how many women did I run into in the business? The answer is simple. Very few. And since 1963, found only one industrial park, one shopping mall, no nursing homes, no condominiums, and just the beginning of urban renewal, the commercial real estate industry itself was lean, but just beginning. As a matter of fact, the number one investment property (mostly apartment buildings) salesman was Lennie Abramson, Minerva’s brother. Small world, isn’t it? Just up the street from my $2 per s/f Copley Sq. office, ground was being broken on old rail yards into what was going to be called The Prudential Center (50 stories) - only the second skyscraper to be built in the city in the past 50 years. The other was John Hancock tower (25 stories). Interesting that they were both owned by insurance companies. What does that tell you? Getting back to women in commercial real estate, my travels took me all over New England. Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine - no women commercial real estate offices. No women construction companies. No appraisers, no mortgage brokers. So as I got to know more of the organizations I would attend many of their functions. One more memorable one was held during the summer of 1966 in a New Hampshire hotel. Saturday evening they held a dinner dance, and while again the majority of the attendees were residential, if I could meet just two or three active commercial real estate owners, developers or brokers, my visit was well worth it. Attendees knew why I was there and someone was kind and thoughtful enough to introduce me to a very attractive lady, Angie Kopka, who they said owned a commercial real estate office in Nashua. Eureka! (whatever the hell that means) So I very nervously, but politely introduced myself and asked her to dance. We danced, talked, and she invited me to visit her real estate board and be a speaker. I nervously accepted, and two weeks later drove to Nashua to address the Board of Realtors about a subject I knew nothing about. Real estate. At the time, my small office, now employing six people, had moved to downtown Boston in a building on Temple Place owned by successful owners and developers Z. Wasserman and Wally Yaffe. Their 24/7 broker was a recent college grad youngster named Stephen Karp, who was just working on developing a new shopping center. I asked him if he would like a free dinner in New Hampshire, and luckily for me, he accepted. That evening after dinner Angie introduced me as the speaker and I stuttered for about five minutes, saying nothing that interested anyone – so I smartly introduced Steve who then talked for about a half hour about developing shopping centers, answering lots of questions, and saving my butt. Thanks Steve. Meanwhile, Angie went onto become my best New Hampshire customer - President of the NH Assn. Of Realtors in 1975, and a member of the N.H. House of Reps. from 2002 – 2010. And ran again in 2012, won and served until 2014 becoming the oldest lawmaker in the USA. On April 18, 2016 Angie will celebrate her 100th birthday. Happy birthday to Angie from Rolly and the Journal, and thanks accepting that dance invitation.
Roland Hopkins is founder of the New York Real Estate Journal, Norwell, Mass.