The Retailer Turned Retail Broker

In search of a new line of work, she wound up in real estate after a friend suggested that Ms. Podell’s own experience scouting space for Brazil Contempo had armed her with the basics needed to become a broker.

Ms. Podell got her start as a broker in 1993 at Garrick-Aug Associates, the retail-driven real estate firm that gave many of the industry’s most successful salespeople their start. Think RKF chairman and CEO Robert Futterman, Prudential Douglas Elliman star Faith Hope Consolo and CB Richard Ellis top broker David LaPierre, among others.

Shortly after being hired, and under the tutelage of the late real estate legend Charles Aug, Ms. Podell inked a transaction on the Upper East Side for Duane Reade that she describes now as a more complicated task than she was ready to take on. The deal, on Second Avenue near 64th Street, required Ms. Podell to buy out one tenant and move another one who demanded compensation from the building’s landlord. In the end, however, everything worked out in the young broker’s favor.

“It was actually the first residential neighborhood that Duane Reade ever leased,” recalled Ms. Podell, who later worked briefly at Grubb & Ellis before joining the firm New Spectrum, where she worked until 2003. “After I finished the deal, I sat down and cried. It was so pleasurable for me. Most people start out with a pizza deal, or something simple. After I did that job, I said to myself, ‘I can do this.’”

But perhaps even more thrilling than inking that first deal, said Ms. Podell, is her favorable relationship with her colleagues in the retail brokerage world, a smaller subsector of the real estate universe that experts have estimated numbers about 500-strong. Ms. Podell described the group as an entirely different real estate breed.

“It is a very unique group in that we ultimately need to work together,” Ms. Podell said. “Many of us are smart enough to recognize that this is not a zero-sum game. We know that if we share information and coordinate our efforts, we all do much better.”

jsederstrom@observer.com