The Importance of Integrity and Empathy – Lessons from our Mother and Business Partner
The following a a guest post by Allyson Lewis and Tommy Lewis of Coldwell Banker Commercial Lewis Realty Group
This Mother’s Day, we celebrated our mother, Carol Lewis, who isn’t just our mom, but our business partner at Coldwell Banker Commercial Lewis Realty Group. To honor her, we want to share the story of our business and invaluable lessons she taught us about integrity and dedication.
Our Mom’s Story
The story begins long before we opened a commercial real estate business. Carol’s father moved from Russia to El Paso and opened a clothing store with his brothers, Aaronson Brothers’ Department Store. They developed a great reputation for treating employees like family. The store chain eventually had 52 stores along the US / Mexico border. Growing up in the family business, Carol learned the importance of hard work, trust and integrity. Today, we carry on everything the Aaronson name stands for, under the Lewis name.
We’ve never seen our mom slack or lower her expectations for herself or anyone. Carol’s first job was as a secretary for a commercial real estate company. When she got married and became a mom, she was juggling career responsibilities, raising children and going to school at night to get her real estate license. She started working at a commercial real estate company as an independent contractor at a time when there were very few women in the business. Carol developed a reputation for being the go-to broker on industrial real estate in the area, managing and leasing over 1 million square feet of industrial buildings. It earned her the title “the warehouse queen.”
In 1989, Carol began working with Allyson. When the owner of the firm they worked for decided to relocate to Austin, Carol closed a $10 million industrial sale and thought, “Why not open my own company with my daughter? We have all the experience needed for success.”
With confidence and determination, Carol and Allyson opened Lewis Realty Group, Inc. in 1998. They retained many former clients and cultivated many new relationships. In 2000, Tommy joined and pushed the family business to expand. In 2005, we affiliated with Coldwell Banker Commercial, and today we have a reputation in the El Paso area as a hard-working, honest family-owned business.
El Paso – A Unique and Growing City
We’re inspired by our mother’s dedication to the El Paso community. As fourth-generation El Pasoans, it is great to see our city flourish. In recent years, national retailers have moved in, recognizing the bi-national commerce opportunities given the city’s shared border with Mexico. The completion of a new medical school and new children’s hospital paved the path for formation of The Medical Center of the Americas, which is becoming the leading biomedical research campus on the US / Mexico border. Fort Bliss army base has tripled in size since around 2005, making it the largest military base in the country in land mass and it has expanded to employ over 75,000 people. Downtown El Paso’s revitalization is in full swing with construction of a triple a baseball stadium for the Padre’s farm team, called the El Paso Chihuahuas, and helped spur the development of several new hotels, restaurants and a new $85 million office tower.
Carol taught us the importance of community and legacy and that’s why we’ve been able to find success in this city as it grows.
Our Proudest Transaction as a Family-Run Business
Working as a family, we know the importance of putting other people first. As real estate brokers and property managers, we know the importance of empathy when facing our clients’ needs and challenges.
One example stands out to demonstrate what our mom taught us about problem solving. A few years ago, our new clients were a couple who put their life savings into an office investment. When the husband became sick with cancer and passed, the property fell into disrepair. The wife took over but was behind on bills, many tenants moved out, and the property was losing money. Our team created a plan to ensure she kept the property in the short term, then we worked to help her reposition and sell it. We worked out payment plans for vendors that were owed money, implemented an energy savings program with the local utility company, found a creative financing source for upgrading the mechanical system, renegotiated the property taxes, and implemented an aggressive leasing program. Within two years the building was at 85% occupancy. We found an investor to purchase the property, enabling our client to monetize the asset.
We’ll never forget how the client was in tears at the closing table. She was thankful for our hard work and team approach which allowed her to recoup most of her life savings. This was a transaction that we couldn’t have imagined completing without the important lessons from our mom – always face down a challenge and remember that commercial real estate is about helping people, families and communities, one challenge at a time.