Newsday Interview: Steve Greenberg

3083272048by EMI ENDO

Steven Greenberg once built indoor tennis clubs. Then he launched an athletic footwear chain.

And 23 years ago, he started a Hewlett-based firm that advises major national retailers — with a client roster that has included Barnes & Noble, Gucci and Lacoste.

A frequent business traveler logging more than 100,000 miles a year, Greenberg, 63, runs marathons to raise money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and other causes.

He has three sons and three grandchildren.

Besides data and numbers, are there other, more nebulous, factors that determine [what makes a good retail] site?

“As much as there’s a scientific part of it, and an analytical part of it, there’s also the physical intuition part of it. There are different cultures here within America.

“People in Green Bay, Wis., are different from in Dallas, Texas. Their buying habits are different, the kinds of cars that they drive, what’s important to them is different. Those subtleties, those art forms, are all part of what we do.

“No piece of real estate ever gets endorsed until somebody from our company has gone out and visited, spent time in the community, talked to the community.”

You told Newsday in 1996 that Long Island was “not overstored.” What about now?

“In 1996, it wasn’t. From ’96 to 2006, it seems like Long Island went to the all-you-can-eat buffet and stuffed themselves. What’s happened is we’ve had a big flush-out. Retailers have gone bankrupt — more than I would like — which means that in order to keep space leased, rents have fallen considerably, somewhere between 20 and 30 percent.”

Are you hiring now?

“We’re actually in the middle of a recruitment process . . . we must have gotten 50 applications. Our primary candidate is an MBA grad who’s been out in the market for maybe three years. One of the unique features about us is, we don’t hire people who come out of the real estate business. We would rather hire a very bright individual with a type-A personality and train them ourselves.

“It’s essential that they have strong financial skills and that they have an analytical way of thinking and problem-solving. I’d rather have those components — and they come out of maybe accounting or consulting, even a marketing background — and then they go through a 14-month training program with us before they actually start working with a client.”

What would you change about Long Island?

“Like any major metropolitan area, it’s become congested, but since I came from Brooklyn, that doesn’t bother me. If you could lower my taxes, that might be nice — but you know what, I wouldn’t want to lower my taxes at the risk of lowering services.”

Are there [retail] clients that you frequent yourself?

“Oh, sure, I shop at all of our clients,” he says with a laugh, quickly adding, “equally.”

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