Fred Rufrano and James Dario Jr. have logged 55 years working at Kalmon Dolgin Affiliates. They bring wide-ranging experience to our clients. We recently interviewed them.
KDA: When did you join Kalmon Dolgin Affiliates?
James: I started in 1995 …. 25 years; it went by pretty fast. It feels like it passed by in a few months. It’s been very good. It’s a friendly atmosphere. We’re always busy. We got to see Brooklyn change in a short amount of time and the transformation has been absolutely stunning, from an industrial base to now – residential, entertainment, offices – the waterfront has changed from maritime to recreational. It’s been a transformation; I never thought this would ever take place in Brooklyn. Working here has afforded me the opportunity to see value in certain areas. I’ve also had the opportunity to purchase properties myself.
Fred: I’ve been here close to 30 years. I started in 1990. We did a lot of sales and leases over the past 30 years and became good friends with a lot of customers and clients. And I’ve also had the opportunity to acquire a few properties myself. So we’re both brokers and owners.
What value do you bring to your clients?
Fred: We bring a different perspective and advantages to building owners and tenants. As owners, we understand where owners are coming from and we also see the tenant’s point of view because James and I work with our own tenants. So we bring a different perspective and insight on how to work with people on both sides of a deal. We try to see and understand all points of view.
James: Our experience as brokers, investors and owners adds value to our relationships with clients. Some owners are new to commercial real estate. They may know business, but they have never renovated an office space before, they never installed a new roof or a boiler. We’ve done it. We give them guidance on that and more.
Fred: It makes us much more well-rounded than the normal broker, and more able to help the client with our deep insights on the NY metro area marketplace over the years.
Where did you grow up and how’d you get started in commercial real estate?
Fred: I grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As a kid I saw real estate ads on TV and I knew I wanted to be a real estate broker. Eventually I spoke to someone who knew (co-president) Neil Dolgin; he hired me in September 1990 and I’ve been here ever since. Growing up in Williamsburg gave me an edge in my career because owners and tenants knew me and my family, and it made people more comfortable in working with me. Living here also gave me an edge in seeing how the area was changing and where it would probably go; at that time it was only a guess.
James: I was born and raised in Park Slope, Brooklyn in the mid 60’s through the early 70’s then moved over to Windsor Terrace. I went into the Service after High School. When I got out of the Service, I got into contracting and worked on the piers for a short time, Federal Express, then I got into real estate. I was working downtown with a developer after the market collapsed in the 80’s. I was working with homeless housing, placing homeless families in housing in Harlem, the Bronx and Brooklyn. In the early 90’s the program was cancelled and I was looking for new opportunities. Someone suggested industrial real estate, and a friend knew Kalmon Dolgin. I made a phone, came in and interviewed with Neil, we liked each other and I started my career in 1995 working with Neil. I thought I would be here a year or two because I always did my own thing, but it was so comfortable, here I am today. I guess my one or two year plan did not work out as expected. It turned into a profession I really enjoy.
Fred: It is a very comfortable office to work in, very friendly and everyone gets along.
James: Any time you have an issue for a client, you mention it in the office and it’s amazing and there’s a good chance someone here has encountered that issue and may have a remedy. Let’s say I have a problem with an HVAC issue. Fred will say, “hey James, this might be your answer.” We’re always bouncing ideas off each other. And that affects clients. Sometimes a client has an issue with a building. And I respond, “you know what, let me make a phone call, let me call a friend.”
KDA: Is there a motto you live by?
Fred: When we represent a building, that means we’ll find a customer for that client. There’s someone who is going to find that particular building attractive. I’m also recalling Neil’s father, Mr. (Israel) Izzy Dolgin, and we do use his old saying a lot: “Show them what they don’t want,” he emphasized, and he was very right. Mr. Dolgin trained me right when I first started working here. I was young, he took a liking to me. He was very good to me, he was a very good man. He told me, “show them what they don’t want,” and what he meant was sometimes the customers don’t know exactly what they need when they come to you. As seasoned brokers, we know based on a business type the ceiling height they’ll likely need, we know if they need a wide street, we know if they need a loading dock or drive-in, just by telling us their type of business. Sometimes they say they need 5,000 sq. ft, and we know they probably need 4,000 sq. ft. So you can save the customer money by showing the ‘right’ buildings. Mr. Dolgin was a big believer in show them what they don’t want. Every different business has different requirements and we try to know them better than the customers.
James: The business guys we meet know the business side of a deal inside out, and we know the real estate side of a deal inside out. We had a client one time, a Rabbi in Brooklyn. We were trying to do a development deal together. He had a quote that he kept referring to for almost a year. His son kept saying, “we’re going to do it, it’s going to be easy, everyone’s participating, everyone wants the deal to move forward,” and the Rabbi kept telling his son, “Ron, it’s not so easy.” And this went on for a year. To make a long story short, the deal did not go through, the deal fell apart. And the father sat there in the corner and he said to the son, “You see, Ron, it’s not so easy.” Every time I’m working on a deal and if it looks easy, I always think of this Rabbi in the back of my head saying, “Ron, it’s not so easy!” Things can change at a moment’s notice.
KDA: For you guys knowledge is power?
Fred: From doing this all the time, you start to know the value of a building. We’re always honest with the seller or landlord. So we can always tell the owner which way to go — is he better off selling or better off renting, depending on his specific situation.
James: Sometimes the deal is about the use of the property. If you’re leasing a property you may be paying a premium for it, but it’s the perfect property for your type of use: ceiling heights, loading dock, access to public transportation, access to highways, all advantage your company. You might pay a premium on acquisition or lease of the property, but the way the building is situation and the location, might produce value and efficiencies in the way your company does business, that justify the cost. A product distributor could save potentially lots of money if they moved their operation to Ohio but it would take them three years to get their product to New York and that helps no one. So pay a little premium and we’ll get you set up in the heart of New York’s metro area distribution and manufacturing base, and that creates a lot of value for your customers and your business.
KDA: What are your favorite sports teams?
Fred: The New York Mets.
James: In baseball, the New York Mets and in football the New York Giants. I do enjoy watching a game at the bar even though I don’t know all the people on a team.
KDA: What are your favorite foods?
Fred: I may have to go with Peter Luger Steakhouse. A nice steak from Peter Luger with some German fried potatoes and bacon.
James: My favorites are steak and Italian food. I have to say steak at Peter Luger Steakhouse with bacon, cream spinach and shrimp. They also have great ice cold mugs of beer at the bar. I also like the baked clams at Bamonte’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
KDA: What kinds of music do you enjoy?
Fred: I don’t have any favorite bands, but I really enjoy listening to country music.
James: My taste in music is very eclectic. I like classic rock, alternative rock, classical, fief and drum music, and military music, very eclectic. On my car playlist is all alternative rock — Tesla, Nirvana, things like that.