By Russ Colchamiro

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By Russ Colchamiro

Tall, genial and full of life, Scott Handler burst into the office of his partner, who is also named Scott.

“So,” Handler asked. “How’s it looking? The meeting. With the guy.”

“We have a call at 5 p.m.,” said Scott Galin, a tireless executive with a work ethic and commitment to excellence second to none. “I’m prepping for it now.”

Such is the relationship between the two Scotts, who own and run Handler Real Estate, a boutique real estate company that has quietly and systematically become a more prominent player in the industry than either of them foresaw when they joined forces nearly a decade ago.

Handler Real Estate (which has a third ownership partner, a private investor) consists of three core divisions: the oversight of several hundred thousand square feet of office properties it owns, manages and leases in and around the Garment District; a boutique brokerage that arranges third-party office leases on behalf of tenants and landlords throughout Manhattan and the New York metropolitan area; and significant co-general partner and limited investments in real estate properties and funds.

The success did not happen overnight.

Biz Brothers

Rewind to 2005 when Galin, now 60, exited his family’s retail apparel business, G&G, which had previously partnered with a private equity firm.

“My dad and I had taken G&G as far as we believed it could go,” recalls Galin, who grew up in G&G, rose to CEO, and expanded the business to more than 650 stores throughout 44 states, and the Caribbean and the Virgin Islands.

While overseeing G&G’s real estate, Galin was personally involved with the negotiation of leases exceeding $1 billion in total. “But the apparel industry changed,” Galin said. “It was time for me to try something else.”

The Handler family owned 229 West 36th Street, where G&G leased its headquarters space and co-owned 520 Eighth Avenue, which G&G later occupied.

“We became best friends,” said Scott Handler, 65, of their early meetings nearly 40 years ago. “Scott [Galin] is like my brother.” Knowing Galin was looking for his next challenge after he left G+G and started a retail consultancy, Scott Handler turned to his father, Jerry Handler, who was always fond of Galin. But Jerry told his son, “Scott will never come here.”

“I declined several times,” Galin conceded with a laugh. “I knew what I needed to make a move like that and what I would do at the company but wasn’t sure the Handler family would go for it.

But Scott and Jerry, a giant in the industry who since passed away, bought into my vision.”

“We were thrilled to have him join as a partner,” said Scott Handler, who oversees Handler’s building operations. “He’s exactly what we needed.”

Exclusive Engagements

Coming in as a principal and president, in 2009, Galin spent his first five years intensely focused on running Handler’s day-to-day business operations.

But he wasn’t interested in just running a three-property portfolio and an in-house brokerage that serviced these buildings — 263 West 38th Street, 315 West 39th Street, and its headquarters building at 561 7th Avenue. He wanted to expand deeper into the market.

“We’re never going to be a global brokerage, nor do we aspire to be. But I was adamant we do business and conduct ourselves at an elite level,” Galin said. He studied and emulated processes and

client interactions of leading brokerages, including the contracts, offer letters, templates and payment schedules they utilized. Galin also pointed out that the Handler team made significant upgrades to its core office properties, including lobbies, elevators and mechanical systems, while providing high-end buildouts and tenant improvement packages.

Whereas garment tenants traditionally made up the lion’s share of leases, the Handler portfolio now includes those in technology, media, marketing, legal, professional services, not-for-profit, garment, and other business sectors.

Yet as the Handler business and demands on his time grew, Galin needed someone to help him further elevate the brokerage division. Enter Darell Handler, son of Scott Handler, who worked side-by-side with Galin and the other brokers, making his way up from intern to associate and finally to executive vice president.

In the nine years that the younger Handler, 30, has been with the firm, he has arranged or assisted with some of its most significant core-property leases and executed on third party transactions for

“ Whatever we do, it’s in a thoughtful way. We know our place in the market ”

- Scott Galin

high-profile tenants in Class A and trophy properties throughout Manhattan and the boroughs.

Some of those deals include: Davler Media’s 18,000-square foot lease at 1412 Broadway, Wachtel Missry’s 17,000-square foot lease at One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, Baycrest Advisors’ 15,000-square-foot lease at 40 Wall Street and Waterkeeper Alliance’s 10,000-square-foot lease at 180 Maiden Lane.

“We do very significant mid-size transactions,” said Galin, who continues to recruit high-caliber talent who see opportunity in a sophisticated, boutique brokerage. “If we’re making these deals in these buildings, it means we have quality clients and a buttoned-up process. Otherwise, the deals wouldn’t get done.”

“I’ve done several deals with Handler,” said Brian Feil, executive vice president and president of leasing at The Feil Organization. “They conduct themselves at a level of professionalism and sophistication we see at the global level.”

Galin noted that over 75% of all leases arranged by Handler are third-party deals since there’s a little vacancy within its portfolio. “It’s a high-class problem,” he said, adding the vast majority of Handler’s third-party assignments are exclusive engagements — the brokerage business gold standard.

“We have a relationship with the two Scotts and [Handler] that dates back decades,” said Brian Steinwurtzel, co-CEO, and principal at Gural Family Partners. “They are partners with us in several projects, and their brokerage team has represented many high-quality tenants in deals in the GFP portfolio. They are a class act.”

Investment Strategy

While it started out as only thought in Galin’s early days, he later created Essh LLC — a separate unit within the overall Handler business structure — through which he’s made more than 100 unique investments as a limited and co-general partner.

The investments include those in multi-family, hospitality, retail, industrial, commercial and storage properties — in markets coast to coast throughout the United States — as well as many real estate funds, including those run by Carlyle, Brookfi eld, KKR, and others.

“We have a significant portfolio of investments,” Galin said. “We like to get to know the sponsors. It’s important we understand their integrity, process, and mindset, and that it’s in line with ours.”

“Scott Galin is a savvy investor with a great eye for deals and changes in the market,” said Michael Betancourt, founding partner at Aion Partners. “He and Essh are investors in many of our properties and funds. They are very thoughtful and considerate about nurturing the relationship.”

Looking back over the last decade, the two Scotts can’t help but smile. “When Scott and I first met, I knew I’d made a friend for life,” Handler said. “But I didn’t know then just how remarkably the friendship would change my life.”

“Whatever we do, it’s in a thoughtful way,” Galin added. “We know our place in the market. We’re very happy with where we are.”