Press

April 30 , 2004

Not so much a challenge as an opportunity

Not so much a challenge as an opportunity

April 30th, 2004 - Christine Perez Staff Writer Things are off to a solid start at The Retail Connection, launched late last year by Steve Lieberman, former president of The Weitzman Group, and Alan Shor, former president of Zale Corp. Over the past month, the firm moved into new headquarters space in Uptown, opened a branch office in San Antonio and launched a development division. It also won high-profile leasing assignments from clients such as Reef and Equity One. "Several of the clients we're working with had historically handled their properties in-house," Lieberman said. "The fact they picked us when listing their properties for the first time shows confidence in the platform we're building." On the tenant-rep side, The Retail Connection's client roster includes Bed Bath & Beyond, The Gap, Office Max, Famous Footwear and Houston's restaurants. Lieberman had worked at The Weitzman Group since it was founded by retailing guru Herb Weitzman in 1989. Most of the brokers now on board at The Retail Connection also came over from Weitzman. David Wilson, who runs TRC's new development group, Connected Development, previously worked for Cencor Realty Services, Weitzman's development and property management affiliate. Lieberman said associating established industry names with a new brand "hasn't been a challenge as much as it has been an opportunity. "We're proud of our association with The Weitzman Group and had a very positive experience there," he said. "At the same time, all of the brokers had our own individual identities. Now we have the chance to establish a culture that is absolutely what we want versus partially what we want." The fledgling company has received widespread support, Shor said. "I look at our three constituencies," he said. "First, the people who have joined us -- largely people who had worked with Steve, understood what we were trying to do, believed in it, and came over in droves. Then there are all of the clients, a huge volume of business that put their trust in us. Thirdly, all of the partners who have expressed interest in us. We have been literally overwhelmed with big institutional players, publicly held companies, who have said, 'We want in.' To me, that's the greatest evidence that the business plan we put together is successful." The Retail Connection recently moved to its new home at 2525 McKinnon Street in Uptown. It leased a full floor in the building but has subleased a portion to a law firm and a national real estate advisory firm. The company opened a San Antonio office in March, and plans to open a third location, in Houston, sometime this quarter. "We could have opened multiple offices months ago but we want to make sure the right infrastructure is in place," Lieberman said. "There's no rush. We plan to be doing this for a long time." Shor said he didn't want to get back into the bureaucracy of corporate America after leaving Zale. "I wanted to be able to make decisions and see the results of those decisions instantaneously," he said. "At The Retail Connection, we've planned something unique. Now we have to execute it, and I'm confident we'll do that. "We're not there yet, but we're on our way toward creating what will be a very dominant force in the industry."