Where he lives and what he does weren't so popular when he started. But Bob Glaser has grown big along with them.
By SHARON GINN, Times Staff Writer
Published October 28, 2005
OLD HYDE PARK - Bob Glaser lived in Hyde Park before it was cool and worked in real estate before it was hot.
He tooled around town in a gas-guzzling Ford Maverick that swallowed most of his commissions. He spent Sundays on his porch, playing guitar and having dinner with his hippie-ish neighborhood friends.
Nearly 30 years later, Glaser still lives in Hyde Park, still works in real estate, still has a lot of the same friends. He has a much better car, though, not to mention job.
As president and chief executive officer of Smith & Associates Realtors, he oversees a real estate business on track to generate $950-million in sales this year, up from $450-million in 2000.
The company also has a division that works directly with developers and owns title and mortgage companies, all ventures Glaser launched in the past several years.
By any measure, Glaser (pronounced GLASS-er) is a South Tampa bigwig. His company, 3801 W Bay to Bay Blvd., is well respected and growing. He supervises 110 agents, many of whom specialize in high-dollar properties. He is a board member and former chairman of the Tampa Theatre and is a member of Ye Mystic Krewe, the exclusive group that hosts the annual Gasparilla parade.
But Glaser, 51, has clear memories of when working in Tampa real estate was not a sought-after career. He entered the business during a downturn in 1977, two years after graduating from the University of South Florida, and stuck with it through two more dips in the 1980s and 1990s.
He joined Smith & Associates as an agent in 1982 and moved up the ranks not by building himself up but by bringing others together, friends say.
"The Realtors aren't his employees - they're independent agents," said longtime friend John Samaha, owner of Shooting Stars Post, a Tampa digital multimedia company. "He gets them to work together as a team. He tries to attract and nurture qualified people that do good work. He's very good at that: making people come out of their shell, in a sense, to believe in themselves."
Those qualities brought Glaser to the Tampa Theatre when board member Judy Quick - one of those friends who used to hang out on his porch - asked for his assistance.
The theater was built in 1926 and is well known in historic theater circles for its architecture. The Tampa Theatre Foundation had for years looked into buying the various real estate interests that owned the three-building property but made little progress until Glaser stepped in. The foundation closed on one of the buildings this year and has a contract to purchase another, said John Bell, the theater's president and chief executive officer.
"We had taken stabs at this over the years, and no one was able to get as far as Bob was," Bell said. "That's simply because Bob not only understands real estate inherently, he understands how important (the theater) is. He has taken it on as almost a personal mission."
Glaser has long mixed real estate deals with historic structures. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he transferred to USF as a junior, knowing no one, "strictly for the water and beach," he said. It wasn't long before he found Hyde Park. Since the late 1970s, he and his wife, Dada, have purchased, fixed up and sold a dozen old homes.
During the years, he has seen Hyde Park transform from an unpopular, somewhat raggedy, neighborhood into one of Tampa's jewels.
But "it was more than (loving) the old houses," Glaser said. "It was the community."
Glaser quickly became a big part of that community, hosting parties with "tons of people, music on the porch, food all over the place, even if there was no sink or half the family room had a floor," Dada Glaser said. "He didn't have a kitchen sink when I first met him, and all his dishes were in the bathtub."
Bell bottoms, guitars and tornup floors may no longer be the hallmarks of a Glaser party, but his friends still come over to hang out on the porch.
As for the market? Glaser thinks Tampa Bay real estate is fairly well priced by national standards and offers a wide range of house styles and prices to suit buyers' needs.
But if things turn sour again, his friends don't doubt he'll keep a sense of humor.
"He's serious when he needs to be serious, but if there's an opportunity to lighten the room, he will do so," Bell said. "He keeps everything friendly and positive, but he constantly moves things forward."
FAMILY: Wife, Dada (married in 1982), daughter Katie, 20, and sons Drew, 17, and Chad, 11.
HEIGHT: 6 feet 4 inches
WORK: Started in real estate in 1977; became president of Smith & Associates Realtors in 1989.
OUTSIDE INTERESTS: Board member of Tampa Theatre Foundation. Enjoys fishing and annual canoe trips with friends in the Florida Everglades.
HURRICANE HERO: Smith & Associates has made four trips to deliver supplies to hurricane victims since last summer. During the first of two Katrina trips, the group delivered three trailers of goods and cooked 300 hamburgers and 120 hot dogs for hurricane victims in Ocean Springs, Miss.
BIG BIRTHDAY: Glaser loves a good party, and for his 50th birthday, he threw a huge one for himself with casino games, fortune-tellers and a fireworks display off Bayshore Boulevard. He even hired two bands from New Orleans that were in town to play at Skipper's Smokehouse.