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Again, the key to their success was the work ethic their mother had instilled. “We were still open every day after most stores closed by five or six o’clock,” Stan remembers. They stayed open 365 days a year, with the Christian employees working the Jewish holidays and the Jewish employees working the Christian holidays. “We were the only place open on Christmas. We sold tons of bread and bacon.” During the next phase of Stan’s career he relied on what he’d learned from his grandfather, Abraham. “He was a Russian Jewish immigrant who came here with nothing. He invested in properties and became the godfather of our neighborhood,” says Stan. “People came to him for advice, he lent money and he helped people when they were in trouble. I sat on a footstool and watched. I learned the advantages of being a businessman. Most importantly, I learned the advantages of being a landlord.” In the late sixties, the Zukins purchased their first property at auction for $15,000. They moved the offices of the drugstore into the upstairs of the new building at 7 N Church Street, and downstairs a company sold packaged produce. Years later Zukin Realty purchased 9 N Walnut Street, combined the properties, and today it houses Limoncello. It was only two years before they purchased more real estate. “We bought from the corner of Walnut where our pharmacy was, down through what is now The Social Lounge,” said Stan. “The idea was for the rent from the apartments to one day cover the mortgage on the pharmacy.” It was this purchase that gave Stan the epiphany that led to his real estate empire. “I needed money for renovating the apartments, and I noticed banks were willing to lend you money if you had property. That’s when I learned that the more property you had, the more you could borrow.” Stan wasn’t interested in sitting on equity. “If you put your money under your mattress, you’ll never get anywhere. Money is to be played with – think of it like playing Monopoly.” Zukin is quick to compare his entire career to a game of Monopoly. “As a kid I was not good at baseball or football,” said Stan, “But I was really good at Monopoly.” The key, as it turns out, isn’t purchasing expensive properties like Park Place. It isn’t buying properties to be sold at a profit. Stan learned that you win by purchasing as many cheap properties as you can and building on them. This mantra applied perfectly to his actual real estate purchases, taking on properties in need of restoration and putting more into them than they were worth. Because, as Stan puts it, “We do it for the love of what we do.” After all, he was never interested in a quick return – Stan was in it for the long haul. “When I started, West Ches-

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the wc press | voice of the borough

ter was 60% vacant,” he remembers. “I wanted to mold this town, to help it grow. That way, the properties would one day be worth what I was putting into them.” Downtown West Chester now has dozens of beautiful buildings that were renovated by Zukin Realty. The beneficiaries of many of these renovations have been the students of West Chester University. Zukin believes it’s crucial to a student’s growth for them to be integrated into the borough. “People don’t innately know how to live in this world,” says Stan. “We give them the opportunity to become better citizens by letting them live, work and study amongst adults, preparing them for the adult world.” This practice has recently come under scrutiny. Strict measures are being taken to push students out of the downtown area. “I think, unfortunately, the leaders of West Chester don’t understand the importance of treating students just like everyone else,” says Stan. “It’s Managing the nearly 100 prejudiced, but students aren’t a properties maintained protected class – it’s legal but not by Zukin Realty takes a necessarily moral. If you use laws talented team to do immoral things, what are we teaching these students?” Student housing isn’t the only point where Zukin disagrees with local government. He contends they’re stunting development and making life harder for the town’s small businesses. He’d like to see an increase in population density to serve local business, but leadership disagrees. “They want to bring down the maximum height of a building from, I think, 90 feet to four stories,” says Stan. “That’s a step back in time that forces builders to erect wooden structures and rules out elevators.” The problem Stan forsees is that the older demographic that borough leadership hopes will move downtown wants elevators, while the young people they’re forcing out are fine with stairs. “They’re wise people,” Zukin says, “but wise people don’t always make the best business decisions.” But, in the end Stan feels it’s only a momentary setback. In his eyes, large apartment buildings are inevitable. “I think this town is going to continue to grow,” he says. Ask how he’s been so successful, and Stan modestly defers praise. He credits his brother, sons and daughter, labeling them “brilliant,” and “incredibly important to my success.” The highest praise goes to Elsa Zukin. “No one could have a better wife,” he says. But, if you really push him for answers about how he’s ended up owning nearly 100 properties in West Chester, how his company rents more than 350 units every year, he’ll eventually admit that some of it has to do with him. “I’m patient, and I’m incredibly perseverant. And, I don’t worry, because money’s really just Monopoly money, and everything you need to know about the real estate business can be learned on the Monopoly board.” WCP

Profile for The WC Press

The WC Press - Section 1 - September 2012  

Voice of the boroguh

The WC Press - Section 1 - September 2012  

Voice of the boroguh

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