Francisco Antonio Herrera...my friend, my business partner, my mentor, and one of the original Carwash Partners.
We lost Tony yesterday morning, at age 95. He had a great life and a great family.
Few people in the real estate industry today knew me when I listed, sold, managed, and brokered real estate early in my professional career, after my naval service in 1978. Most of the first 20 years centers around my business relationship with Francisco (Tony).
I first met Tony when we were both hired as new real estate sales agents for the Condominium Owner's Display Center (later to be known as The Condominium Center) in Fashion Valley, CA, around 1977.
Tony and I were members of a newly hired group of agents, and we were assigned to the same "team." Prior to being put on the floor to sell, we went through "Common Interest Subdivision" training together at the headquarters office of the owner of the company on Mercury Street in Kearny Mesa.
The owner of CODC, Carroll Davis, also owned a property management company, American Real Estate Associates (AREA) that managed Condo Homeowner’s Associations, when condos were a brand-new way to subdivide real estate. It was there that Tony and I discovered that we shared a common bond, service in the US Military and love of country. Tony retired from the U.S. Army after 30 years of service, as a LtCol, and three wars. It was very unusual during this era, for a minority man to attain "Field Grade" rank, something Tony was very proud of.
After we completed our "Condo Training," we were assigned floor duty and one day on our break, we went to Sausage King, which was about 20 paces from CODC, for a snack. I had a soda, and some sausage and Tony had a beer (maybe 2). We decided to become partners, to share leads, duties, and commissions. We shook hands, and from that day forward, we split every real estate commission and fee, over 20 years of business, and with no written commission agreement.
During our 2 years at the CODC, Tony and I learned on our own, without any formal training, how to list and sell real estate. Neither of us had any sales training, but we figured out what to do and were able to eek out a meager income while learning the business.
Luckily, Tony had his retirement, and Janie and I had low living expenses and savings, so we were able to survive these lean times. We showed properties in Tony’s old Chrysler station wagon, and sometimes in my white, customized Dodge van.
While working for the CODC, we developed several interesting clients...from an investor from China (whom Tony will remember as W.L. who came to us through an ad in the Asian Wall Street Journal) to a women industrialist from Mexico who referred much business to us over the years, as well as purchasing a number of properties herself.
In 1979, I took a position as an instructor for the largest real estate sales school in California, Anthony Schools, and Tony and I left CODC and opened a real estate corporation with 4 other real estate licensees. Tony and I knew in our hearts that international sales were an opportunity for us and so we named the new company People International and Real Estate Too. The idea was that we were about people...and that real estate was just a part of people (“and real estate too”). Instead of "too" we used the numeric "2."
We incorporated as "People International and Real Estate 2," and decided to obtain a DBA (Doing Business As, a Fictitious Business Name) and became PI Realty (People International was PI which is the universal relationship between the circumference and the diameter of a circle...why stop at International?). Our phone number was 280-PiR2, Pi R Squared being the formula for the area of a circle, which we thought a certain segment of clients would see right away and admire our creativity.
At the same time that we created our real estate corporation, around October of 1979, we purchased the carwash on Adams Avenue with two of my high school buddies, Dwain Knapp and Doug Generoli. We needed to put together a $50,000 down payment and Dwain's dad (Fuzzy) would carry the balance of $130,000, wrapping two underlying Bank of America loans. Dwain and I picked up a stationary store Form for an AITD (All Inclusive Trust Deed) and filled it out ourselves. Each of us put up $12,500, which was a lot of money in those days, and the rest is history. Part of the deal was that if we were going to do this, Tony had to agree to manage the carwash, which he did successfully for many years.
We often referred to the car wash purchase as "rounding second" in our personal financial situations. The carwash has been a great investment for us. It also allowed us to get Eloisa the required quarters to be entitled to draw Social Security.
Next to the carwash was a one-bedroom house, which we re-stuccoed inside and out and it became the real estate office for PI Realty where we began to build a property management as well as a sales business. The economy was in bad shape in 1979, there was a Savings and Loan Crisis, and so to supplement our incomes, we collected aluminum cans and metals at the carwash and cashed in at a scrap yard down in National City. We also began to manage the Court House Racquetball Club which Dwain's dad also owned, and in doing so, released Dwain as an indentured servant of Fuzzy so Dwain could move to North County (Vista, where he lives to this day).
Our first piece of technology was an IBM Selectric Typewriter. What a fantastic piece of office equipment! Next came a Xerox Machine (A copier manufactured by Xerox :-)
In 1980, on the verge of the presidential election, Reagan vs Carter...when the press said the race was "too close to call," on the front steps of our PI Realty office on 33rd Street, I asked Tony..."Who is going to win this Tony?" I was concerned because the economy was in such bad shape. Without blinking an eye, Tony said that it would be a Reagan landslide. I was skeptical. How could he say that...the polls were calling it tight. Tony was right, the press was wrong.
There was a fuel shortage in 1980 and lots of people were purchasing diesel automobiles and driving to Tijuana to purchase diesel fuel for 19 cents per gallon. We decided that we needed new cars to take clients out and so we shopped and decided to lease Oldsmobile diesel automobiles. I got a Ninety-Eight coupe, gun metal gray with burgundy leather interior, a beautiful car. Tony got a blue station wagon. They were American refitted gasoline engine diesel automobiles. We added stainless steel second tanks and duplicate fuel filters as the diesel in Mexico was notoriously less pure than US diesel. It took about 100 gallons to fill up we could go about a month on a fill. We kept these cars for 4 years and turned them in by paying off the leases.
In 1981, Tony and I decided to create a new real estate company and after much consideration, decided to name it D.F. Anthony Group. The way we came up with the name was a combination of people's names. D was for David, my middle name. F was for Francisco (Tony). Anthony was the real estate school where I began teaching in 1979 and it was very well known in the real estate industry. We had a third partner in the new company for awhile and his middle name was Anthony. Tony is also a nick name for Anthony, and to get the financing to put this venture together, we needed funding of $40,000. Our first investor's last name was Antonio. We had 4 investors, each putting up $10,000...and in 4 years we paid them all off. They were our core customer base from Guadalajara and Mexico City.
We opened our office in Mission Valley on Camino Del Rio South and 2 years later we moved to Fairmount Avenue where we remained for 14 years. During this time we bought our second IBM Selectric typewriter, hired many agents, and purchased our first computers...Kay Pros. We also hired Tony's son, Fernando and while on Fairmount Avenue, we were one of the first real estate companies in San Diego to set up a computer network with terminals on everyone's desks. My wife Janie also worked with us in our businesses from the very beginning and was an indispensable part of everything we accomplished.
As a real estate team, we previewed and showed together, and I wrote all of the contracts and presented most of the offers. Back in those days the peso was about 28 to the dollar and many wealthy people from Mexico were taking money out of the country and purchasing dollar investments, including real estate.
The favorite location of many of them was Coronado Shores Condos next to the Hotel Del Coronado. Real estate was very closed back then and we could not get access to listed properties in Coronado, so we bought a copy of the La Jolla Light newspaper and looked for real estate in La Jolla. We found a very nice neighborhood at the top of Mount Soledad, Windemere, and sold 3 units in Windemere in 6 months. These were $325,000 properties, which were very upscale. Prior to the first showings we set our clients up for the summer in the Coronado Cays, found them furniture, and did everything we could to make their visit comfortable, including their first trip to the Price Club (Costco).
Each year Tony and I would plan for the next year. One of the things that kept us from growing was capital. We never had enough capital to be competitive, just enough to stay in business. It was always a struggle, and we did not get rich from the real estate business. Tony believed that each year we should affirm each of our personal goals to each other...explain why we were going to work hard that year. Tony's goal was always the same, and he wanted to make sure that I, his business partner, knew what was important to him.
Tony's life goal as expressed to me each year, was that each of his children own their own home, and that he was going to do all he could do to facilitate his dream. We owned a number of properties together over the years…not only the car wash and the Pi House, but the house next to that as well. We also owned a property on Cleveland Avenue, Maple Drive, a one bedroom house on Adams Avenue in Tallmadge, a condo in South Bay Townhomes, 25% of a 4 unit in Golden Hill on 29th Street and 20% of a mini-dorm on Vale Way, and a commercial lot on Bent Ave (which we rented to the San Marcos Water District for awhile). We may have owned bits and pieces of a few others as well.
While we did not have millions of dollars for the toil and effort we put forth each year, for the uncertainty of being in business for yourself, but what we did have was each other, each other's company, common goals, and a friendship that bordered on blood relationship, if any non-family relationships can, ours does. And speaking of family, I knew all of the family.
Tony and I were together in our own business for almost 20 years. There are lots of free hours in the real estate business, so we watched each other’s families grow older, and shared them with each other. Eloisa was the center of the family…and I remember Tony and Eloisa taking trips to the Los Angeles Area to visit with Eloisa’s family. I remember the day ‘young” Tony graduated from the Police Academy. I remember Liz living back east…Fernando and Eddie in high school, and Helen as the young college student and helping us manage apartments on 50th Street. Tony has always been very proud of all of you, individually and collectively.
My relationship with Tony is very special. We "grew up" together in the civilian world...and in the real estate world.
Saul Klein is widely recognized as the real estate industry’s first Internet Evangelist. He was selected by the National Association Of REALTORS® as one of the “25 Most Influential People in the Real Estate Industry” in 2003, and has been selected as one of the “100 Most Influential Real Estate People” by Inman News in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, 2012, 2013.