The Sit-Down: Cory Zelnik

Date Published: 
Jan 5, 2010

The biggest and most important trend we're going to see more of-because I think it started happening in the last quarter of '09-is transactions. The cliché is, there's money on the sidelines, but from a retail perspective, it's about transactions. I think you're going to start to see and hear about all sorts of deals: Big chains, the continuation of mom and pops getting deals done. I think there have been deals that have been on the fire that have been negotiated. Landlords are looking to position themselves, tenants are looking to position themselves. In the first quarter, you're going to see a bunch of things announced-nothing specific, but just deals getting done. For a long time, deals have been taking longer and longer, and that's been part of the problem. From a pure broker perspective, the good part is that they didn't die. You have to keep monitoring them, keep them alive, and people didn't walk away.

Do you expect early 2010 to be as strong as the fourth quarter?
The answer is yes. We're definitely on an upswing. I don't expect a 90-degree, straight-up line, but I think we're definitely on an uptick.

In the past, you've worked with the CVS Pharmacy chain and Duane Reade. What's happening with some of the big drug store chains right now?
From what I've been seeing just around the town, Duane Reade has been upgrading their stores. They look fabulous, so they'll probably continue to do that and they'll probably continue to reposition and grow. Walgreens has been on somewhat of a hiatus, and CVS continues to pick their spots. They're the hungriest of the lot.

Zelnik & Company is just two and a half years old. How's it been going?
That's my most redundant question: 'How's it going?' [laughs] We sort of had this business plan, but we didn't expect this [recession]. The answer is, things are starting to pick up nicely. I'm not going to tell you that my road was any bumpier than anybody else's over the past year and change. But we as a company are coming out of it nicely. I have a team of seven with me now and it's a group I'm proud of.

Did you have to change your strategy once the recession came, which, incidentally, happened very shortly after Zelnik & Company opened for business?
I hope to not put myself in a position to make those real quick decisions, but this thing hit like a ton of bricks, and we sort of felt it coming, so we positioned ourselves kind of nicely. We made a couple overhead adjustments with the company, but we adapted and sort of played through the storm.

What kind of expansion plans do you have over the next couple of years?
Short term, I'm going to continue talking to a lot of people. I'd say I'll probably meet or speak to prospective brokers or salespeople, maybe one or two a week. I want to grow the company a little bit. I want to bring on a few more people, but a little bit more on an as-needed basis. I'm not looking to bring on more bodies for the sake of just bringing on bodies because I pride myself on giving everybody in the organization-and my properties-a one-on-one relationship at all times.

Do you expect to maintain your focus on retail or make a shift?
It's hard not to after 23 and a half years. You know, look, you want to take that and you want to spin off. We've talked internally, and we've talked about some investment-sales type work, but that's all we've done. We've talked about it. I'm not looking to start an investment-sales department per se, but at the same time you keep your eyes wide open, you look for opportunities. I'm a sort of a slow-and-steady person, not knee-jerk. If an opportunity arises, we'll think it through and see what's there.

By Jotham Sederstrom

The Commercial Observer - January 5, 2010