Brick by Brick

When long-time real estate broker/owner Bob Brick bought out his partners at RE/MAX Bayshore Properties Ltd. last year after 28 years, he didn’t need to look farther than his family tree for a new business partner.

His son BJ, who was working for the country’s second largest wine supplier at the time, inquired about the job. By July, he was digging into office operations with his wife Kecia, and in August they officially joined RE/MAX after getting licensed.

“I’m so thrilled to have them join our company,” said Brick. “It’s been very refreshing and rejuvenating. They bring a new perspective to our company and have already had a positive impact on our company.”

As area sales manager for The Wine Group’s Midwest region, BJ Brick said he figured out quickly how to “run a large business with a small-business, customer-first attitude.

“The Wine Group had only about 100 salespeople across the country and our direct competitor had about 100 in Chicago alone,” he said. “I learned it doesn’t matter how many people you have; what matters is the value you bring.”

At RE/MAX, he leads operations management and company growth initiatives. His first few weeks on the job were spent interviewing agents to find out what was working and what could be improved. Since then, he’s been exploring ways to cut expenses and recruit new blood at the brokerage, which produces an average of $147 million in sales volume per year.

“We’re strategically investing in our back office support systems while we hire more of the right people,” BJ Brick said. “We’ve done a lot in the last nine months and I believe it’s creating a really great buzz in and around our office.”

Expansion, while not imminent, is not out of the question.

“We like a few areas that could use more of a RE/MAX Bayshore Properties office presence,” he added. “However, we still have some work to do to make sure our current locations are running at full steam.”

With the addition of eight agents this year, including BJ and Kecia, the company employs 26 agents at four offices (in TC, Frankfort and Kalkaska).

A Florida native, Kecia Brick brings nearly 10 years of medical device sales experience to RE/MAX, having managed a five-state territory for Sensus Healthcare.

“She’s a real dynamo,” Brick said of his daughter-in-law, who concentrates on real estate sales and database management. “She’s very, very good and a great addition to the office.”

All In The Family

BJ said the transition to working with family has been seamless.

“I’ve always heard horror stories about working with family, but in this case I just can’t see it being an issue,” he said. “My dad has been a true mentor my entire life and still is … He’s always thinking about how to get a project accomplished, while never betraying his integrity. He’s one of the few people I know who has been truly successful in all aspects of his life: faith, family, service and work. How can you not want to emulate that?”

As to whether BJ will take over the brokerage some day, the elder Brick said they’re “still in the honeymoon stage, but the door is wide open.

“We both have to get down the road a ways,” Brick said, noting BJ is still in the apprentice stage and learning the ropes of the industry and franchise. “We’ve had periphery conversations and it makes sense step-wise, but it has to be right for them.”

Bob Brick – who’s sold approximately 4,000 homes during his 42 years in real estate – is not planning to exit the building anytime soon.

“I don’t think about retirement; I think it’s somewhat overrated,” he said. “I think people who are actively engaged in their communities have the happiest lives. I don’t plan on being invisible.”

Brick has long been a visible face in the community. Former chair of the Northwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees, he’s also served on the board for 25 years and gives his time to the Economic Club of Traverse City, the Brickways Foundation, YMCA and more.

Professionally, he’s one of the top 1,500 realtors in the nation (his sales represent more than $400 million in sales volume) and he’s earned the RE/MAX International Lifetime Achievement Award.

A Brick Foundation

A passion for work in real estate seems to be an inherent trait for the Brick family. In addition to BJ, two of Brick’s daughters and sons-in-law work in real estate in the Indianapolis and Boston markets.

Even Brick’s grandmother, Clarabelle “Lovey” Duester Walters, was an early pioneer in the field a century ago in Suttons Bay and Traverse City.

“She managed a couple of stores and people would come off the train and say, ‘If you hear of anyone who wants to sell their home …’ So she became a matchmaker of sorts,” Brick said.

She later sold the businesses and moved to Traverse City to help Brick’s grandfather start his plumbing business, Walters and Hemming, 1926, Brick said, noting many of the bathrooms in Traverse City homes were installed by his grandfather.

BJ and Kecia recently moved with their one-year-old daughter and newborn into one of those historic Traverse City homes. It happens to be in the very neighborhood (Boardman) where Bob grew up.

The day they bought the house, it wasn’t even on the market.

“It was a pretty serendipitous experience,” BJ described. “We were looking at another home across the street and my dad was giving us the history of the neighborhood, pointing to the house where he was raised and to the house next door where my great-grandparents gave birth to all six of their kids, including my grandmother. Directly next door, an older gentleman in his socks and pajamas came running out waving his arms saying he was listing his house the next day and wondered if we wanted to take a look. The moment I walked in, it felt like home. We made an offer that day.”

The house had been carved up during the 1950s to create short-term housing for tourists, so during the last nine months – “with the help of many aunts, uncles, cousins and my Godfather acting as the general contractor,” BJ said – the house was returned “as much as possible” to its 1890s charm.

Bob Brick said older neighbors have pointed out the full circle feel to BJ returning to Traverse City, joining Bob in real estate and living in his old neighborhood with his grandkids.

“Life is a circle,” Brick acknowledged. “There aren’t any corners to it.”