Home is Where the Community Is
With a population around 100,000, Richardson is known for its small-town, close-enough-to-the-big-city-feel. From border to border, residents fiercely love their neighborhoods, which are like mini villages that provide friendship, safety, security and helpful hands, where you’re bound to run into someone you know at the store, post office or a stoplight. All of that is what drew Nathan Grace Real Estate to open a store near Coit and Campbell Roads where always-open doors, inviting lights and a comfortable space welcomes the community.
For the past decade, NGRE has kept up the pace with the strong housing market by selecting the right locations in which it can not only grow as a company and be one of the best places to work in DFW, according to the Dallas Business Journal in 2013 and 2014, but also be a partner to people who are looking to build their lives and create strong communities. Starting in East Dallas, NGRE now has four stores, including the Richardson space opened in 2013.
While the Dallas area has fared better in real estate than most parts of the country, the company believed it was important to stand out among the rest. When NGRE began, they focused on creating an experience by studying brands and organizations that held the same values and principles.
“We’ve developed a real niche. We didn’t just look at competition, we looked outside at other industries 10 years ago,” said Vicky Parker, president of NGRE. “We looked at who was on the block such as Life Time Fitness, Toms Shoes for social responsibility, Buffalo Wild Wings and Zappos because they know how to target the consumer audience.”
“We developed a unique business model that focuses on making each of our agents a small business owner,” Parker said. “We look at what we can do to help them run their business better. We provide a marketing and branding component to set ourselves apart from others in the community.”
“We call our offices stores. We built these stores to feel like home, to host community events and support our agents. We host Bible studies, book clubs, client appreciation events and even sewing groups,” she said.
“We want our lights on all of the time. We want our stores to be a beacon in the communities,” Parker described. “All of our stores are always on a corner and always have a living room. When people walk in, they say ‘I could live here.’ It feels different than a typical real estate office. It’s an experience that you didn’t know you were looking for.”
“We want our agents entrenched in their neighborhoods and communities,” said Nancy Rabhan, NGRE agent. “As part of the branding, every agent has their own logo which is on their sale signs. Nathan Grace is an advocate for where the agents work.”
Parker is emphatic when she talks about the importance of creating a legacy. They look for hyper-local partnerships. In fact, all of the nonprofits the company is involved with are connections from their agents. They take company-wide votes to help prioritize efforts.
Aligning nicely with Richardson’s cultural arts, NGRE has its own artistic portfolio that has become a mainstay in the community—The Art of Nathan Grace, a six-piece collection created by Nathan Grace’s graphic designer Tiffany Eubanks. Each piece stands for the company’s values.
“We have a limited edition of pieces. Every office has an installation,” said Parker. “We’ve donated it to various charities such as the Cattle Baron’s Ball and Dwell with Dignity. About nine months ago, we were contacted by the University of Texas at Dallas. They wanted to purchase the art for a new building. Nathan Grace gave it to them because this was the perfect example of how the business gives back.”
Since NGRE opened two years ago in Richardson, the company has donated to many silent auctions for local schools and even secured logo placement on all of the general and reserved high school football game tickets.
“When I interview prospective buyers, we talk about what‘s important to them, and what stands out about Richardson are the schools,” Rabhan said. “People who do their homework always look at the schools. I’ve been working in this area for five years, and whether the economy has been good or bad, Richardson does well because of the schools. Nine to 10 of the schools are on the greatschools.org site. Other reasons are location and economic development. People also love the trees, older homes, parks and great recreation centers. It’s easy for me to sell Richardson because of those things. The diversity of age, cultures and young adults to young families … this is a place where people can grow.”
Corporate culture and community are so important to NGRE that it created a people services director position for Barbara Novotny who is also a NGRE agent. When Parker met her, she knew she had to hire her.
“Barbara is like the jewel box of our company,” boasted Parker. “She’s always out forming relationships and creating awareness. When the store was being built in Richardson, Barbara even took over as the general contractor. She pulled in everyone at the City of Richardson.”
"At the end of the day, good people attract good companies. They create a storm of stuff that’s always positive. The citizens of Richardson have really embraced us,” Parker said.
Homegrown Agent Aimee Bloom
"I was born and raised here. While my family now lives technically in North Dallas on the border of Richardson, we feel like we are very much a part of the Richardson community,” Bloom said. “My three brothers went to J.J. Pearce High School, and I attended Trinity Christian Academy in Addison.”
So many people from here who move away return, Bloom said. That’s exactly what she and her husband did.
“My husband and I bought our first home in the Reservation, which is where we brought our babies home. My siblings have all returned to the area and now live in Richardson Heights and Canyon Creek.”
“When I started down the real estate path, I aspired to be with some of the larger, older companies. But, when I met the people at Nathan Grace, and when I walked into their offices, it literally felt like home,” Bloom proudly described. “It’s modern and unique, and the energy and culture are all what make my job so great.”
Susan Yost is a marketing strategist and writer who is passionate about inspiring creativity that helps communities and families grow stronger.