Pollack's Real Estate Roots are Deep, Solid and on Target!
Newspaper: Our Real Estate Community
Michael A. Pollack's family history in the real estate business helps explain how he rose so quickly to become one of Arizona's most successful and popular commercial developers. When you've built or renovated more than 10,000 apartments, and built or renovated more than a hundred major industrial and retail developments in four states, totaling more than 10,000,000 square feet, there isn't much you haven't seen.
But even Michael A. Pollack was rocked on his heels by what he found working on a project called The Orchard Apartments in a particularly tough area of Houston back in the early 80s. The night before he arrived at the job site - which was located in a notorious, low-income, crime infested neighborhood - two security guards had been handcuffed, shot execution style, and tossed in a dumpster.
The next surprise hit even closer to home. He was attacked on the street of the project by three knife-wielding men, but escaped. "Fortunately," he says at the memory, "they weren't very talented and I held my own and escaped unharmed."
So Pollack doubled the guards and built a new guard booth, which thieves promptly dragged down the street using a pickup truck and heavy chain. Unfortunately, the guard was still inside. When Pollack decided to purchase a gun, he told the salesman he was working on the nearby apartment project. "Son, you don't need a gun," the salesman said, "you need a cannon." And he proceeded to show Pollack an old Civil War cannon he had in the back room of his store.
"It was a very tough time for me," Pollack says now. "but at the time I was 25 and thought I was immortal. I wouldn't recommend working on projects as tough as the Orchard to anyone else."
Fortunately, the violence he encountered early in his astonishing career ended when he completed his last Texas apartment complex in 1984. But there were plenty of other lessons along the way, and Pollack began learning his craft at a very young age.
DOING IT YOURSELF
The son and grandson of builders and developers, Michael A. Pollack was partially raised at job sites with tools and blueprints for playthings. In the fourth grade, during show and tell, he explained to classmates what the symbols on working drawings meant, and how the drawings are used to build houses.
In the sixth grade, he started working at his father's job sites after school and learning the skills inherrent in each craft. He experienced firsthand how a building comes to life. By the time he graduated from high school, Pollack had gained firsthand experience with framing, insulation, sheet metal, electrical, painting, concrete, landscaping and virtually every other proficiency necessary to build a structure from the ground up.
"I always knew I was going to be in real estate," he says. "Lots of kids dream about what they want to be when they grow up, but that was never an option for me. I always knew I was going to build things."
Pollack's grandfather was Sidney Gambord, a man with prodigious work habits who first tried advertising sales and then the meatpacking industry. Then in 1937, he found his true calling - building apartments and small industrial buildings.
Pollack remembers many things about his grandfather, but his first recollection is how much drive he brought to his vocation. "He absolutely loved work," says Pollack. "That was his whole life."
Even after Gambord grew too old to be directly involved on a daily basis, his interest in the business never flagged and he enjoyed being around his grandson's growing business. For the final six years of his life, until he died at 94, Sidney Gambord lived across the street from his grandson in Arizona.
"Everyday, he came to work and wanted to watch," Pollack says. "Most of my phone calls were made on a speaker phone so he could hear both sides of the conversation. He always wanted to be around the action."
LEARNING RULE NUMBER ONE
The family's second generation, Pollack's father Robert, began by developing industrial and multi-family residential projects of his own. In 1964, Robert and Sidney merged their efforts and formed Pollack and Gambord Development which over the next several decades grew to be one of the premier development companies in the San Francisco Bay area.
From his grandfather, Michael Pollack learned the value of hard work and the art of negotiating and both are hallmarks of Michael A. Pollack Investments today. But from his father he learned many important things about business and many lessons that have kept him out of trouble all his business life.
"From my Dad I learned to be conservative, to not get over-leveraged," he says. "That's how you get in trouble in this business, and that's been by saving grace over the years."
Unlike other developers who seem to relish walking the tightrope between great wealth and bankruptcy, Pollack accumulates properties, manages them carefully, and holds them for the long term. He is not of the Donald Trump mold, freewheeling and willing to roll the dice and risk everything on one huge project.
"I've never bet the farm on any one deal," Pollack says. "I've watched too many developers go broke from getting involved in projects that were too large and too risky for them. "The key to my longevity is that no one deal will make me, no one deal will hurt me."
The lesson from his father is reflected in the unique way Pollack looks at a potential project.
"Most people buy a property thinking about what they can make on it," Pollack says. "I buy a property thinking about what my downside is. I always plan for what can go wrong."
"I've been through the 70s, the 80s, and 90s and now into the new millennium and I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in real estate and financial markets," he says. "I always want to consider and prepare for the worst case not the best."
While Pollack inherited his grandfather's and father's desire to work hard and stay deeply involved in all aspects of the business, people meeting Michael Pollack for the first time are often surprised to learn that despite his amazing success in the real estate business, that's only one of his many areas of interest.
Here's an example. Everyone has heard slot machines referred to as "one-armed bandits," but probably few know the origin of the expression. It derives from a particular style of slot machine created by the renowned designer, Frank Polk.
The machine itself is a full-sized wooden carving of an unsmiling cowboy, complete with holster, black hat, and black boots. In his left hand he holds a pistol pointed skyward, which when pulled down and pointed at your chest becomes the handle. Created in 1950, the wooden figure has no right hand, hence the term "one-armed bandit."
Why am I telling you this? Because inside Pollack's 31,000-square foot headquarters in Mesa is one of the most unusual and fascinating collections of other antique slot machines in the world, including one of the original One-Armed Bandits. In addition, Pollack's private advertising museum contains more than 6,000 rare and unusual examples of antique, three-dimensional advertising and cultural items, the largest collection of its kind in the world.
There's a Bob's Big Boy, a Jolly Green Giant and 6-foot Hamm's Beer Bears which dance, twist and twirl exactly as they did decades ago. Pollack's private collection contains the largest known statuette display (more than seven feet tall) for Old Crow Bourbon. He also owns an extensive collection of Paul Stanley & Company pieces, Baranger Jewelry Store window displays from the 1930s, and an extremely rare Bosch battery statute recovered from a coffin in post-World War II Germany.
And Pollack doesn't just collect the items either. After 30 years of deep involvement in the business of collecting, he's one of the world's legitimate authorities on the subject of antique three-dimensional advertising memorabilia. He's shared his knowledge of the field with officials from the Louvre Museum in Paris, who had many questions about his collection, and he's co-authored a book on the subject.
As he steers visitors around his 6,000 square-foot museum, Pollack's excitement is obvious. "I love the history here," he says, stopping to admire a 200-year-old Buddha built to advertise tea.
The museum itself is not open to the public, although he generously allows some tours of the facility. Fortunately, visitors to Pollack's website www.pollackmuseum.com can see many of the pieces he owns in video clips. The site even allows you to select certain spots within the museum and the camera rotates 360 degrees so you can see what's there.
BEATING THE DRUM
There are other facets of the multi-dimensional Pollack as well, including his lifelong love of music. As a young percussionist, Pollack briefly toyed with making music a career but concluded that real estate was the right path to take. Still, he always knew that music must play a part in his life, and that someday he would return to it when conditions were right.
"I promised myself that I'd come back to music someday, and that time is now. I do it because I love it."
With his success in real estate development continuing to grow, Pollack decided the best way to satisfy his musical cravings was to form his own band, which he did in 2003 with his good friend and co-founder, Dr. Don Boles. Named Pollack's Corporate Affair, the 10-piece group plays classic rock and motown, with a nod to jazz.
With Pollack on drums, the band features a distinguished lineup of musical talent including famed trumpeter Jesse McGuire, whose legendary talents have been displayed as a soloist at Carnegie Hall, and performances before three presidents - Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. McGuire has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Sammy Hagar, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and many others.
The group also features Dr. Don Boles on keyboard, Joey Trujillo who played lead guitar for Sister Sledge and Freddie Fender, Chuck Fenigstein on percussion, Seamus Marrion vocals, Bryne Donaldson on sax, Shaun Johnson on Bass Guitar, and Deandra Downing vocals.
People hearing Corporate Affair for the first time are startled at how good the band is and how professional it sounds. They quickly see this isn't an informal, pick-up band formed in Pollack's garage.
Michael's band has brightened up thousands of faces by showcasing their musical talents on numerous parade floats for Gilbert Days, The Parada del Sol and the Ostrich Festival. Three years running from 2003-2005, Pollack Investments floats featuring "Corporate Affair" won The Founders Award in the APS Phoenix Lights Parade and merited the Best Use of Lights Commercial Float Award in 2004 at the Tempe Fantasy of Lights Parade. Michael's band float was also the only musical float to participate in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl Parade.
The developer has received numerous suggestions that he take the group into a studio and record a CD. As the group's inventory of original songs continues to grow, Pollack concedes that might be in the near future. But for now, Corporate Affair has gained much recognition throughout the valley as the "charitable fund raising band" by donating its time and talent for many charitable and fund raising organizations.
SOME DEDICATION TO EVERYTHING
He certainly brings the same dedication and drive to his drums he brings to everything else. On a recent trip to Asia, Pollack packed his practice drum pads and sticks so he could maintain his professional musical edge.
For now, he's happy just performing at non-profit fund raisers. "People should use their talents anyway they can to help others," he says. "I get to do what I enjoy while helping others at the same time."
Corporate Affair has played for many non-profit organizations including Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley, Banner Children's Hospital, March of Dimes, Fiesta Bowl Parade, East Valley Jewish Community Center, Chandler Education Foundation, City of Hope, and Goodwill of Arizona, to name a few.
In addition to that, Pollack has been a financial supporter of many worthwhile causes like Junior Achievement, Chandler Regional Hospital, Boy Scouts, Special Olympics, Phoenix Rescue Mission, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, American Cancer Society, Mesa Arts Center Foundation, Chabad of Arizona, Chandler Historical Society, Chandler Jaycee's, Cystic Fibrosis, Chandler City for the Arts, Mesa Public Schools, Friends for Life Animal Sanctuary, Future for Kids, Muscular Dystrophy, Rotary International, YMCA, United Way, Tempe Historical Preservation Foundation, Mesa Food Bank, Assistant League of the East Valley, Save the Family, Childs Crisis Center, Child Help USA, Childsplay, Desert Cancer Foundation, St. Mary's Food Bank and many others.
Pollack has also received over 100 commendations, resolutions and proclamations from senators, congressional representatives, governors, mayors, city councils, county supervisors and commercial industry leaders for his achievements in renovation and community revitalization. He was named 2001 Developer of the Year of Glendale, 2003 Developer of the Year of Mesa and 2005 Developer of the Year in Chandler. Among his notable accolades are special recognitions from U.S. Congressman J.D. Hayworth and President George W. Bush.
Honors continued upon Pollack with the recent recognition by the Phoenix Business Journal as one of the East Valley's most influential people and was again voted the Valley's top retail owner operator in Arizona Business Magazine's 2001, 2005, and 2006 Ranking Arizona poll.
Giving back to the community has always been an important part of Michael Pollack's personality and life, and he'll tell you that's also a reason he loves the development business. As Pollack's business shifted emphasis into buying neglected retail centers and refurbishing them, he knows the impact on the neighboring community can be substantial.
"Of course I love playing with the band to help organizations to raise money, and I am pleased to be able to donate to so many worthwhile causes," says Pollack, "but I'm also able to help my community by improving its retail and industrial areas, which also brings revitalization to the neighborhoods where people live."
A FOURTH GENERATION
As proud as Michael Pollack is of being a fourth-generation builder, he's even prouder that the forth generation is coming along right behind him. His eldest son Daniel, now 26, is vice president of Michael A. Pollack Real Estate Investments, and is learning from his father.
A graduate of Arizona State University with degrees in both real estate and business, Daniel is involved with all aspects of his father's company. "He has a tremendous amount of talent," Michael Pollack says of his son. "He is progressing everyday and he's learning every facet of the business. I believe he will definitely be a superstar of real estate one day."
In the meantime, Pollack's hands remain firmly on the wheel. He controls all major decisions involving the business, and that's exactly the way he likes it. In 1985, after completing several third-party projects for others, he decided he would never again work on a project that he did not control, and he's stuck to that promise.
"I never again want to put myself in the position where I would have to do less than I thought was right," he says. "I always do what is necessary to do a first class job. I truly believe that if you're going to do something, do it right the first time."
And doing it right the first time is exactly what the Pollack tradition for over 33 years of "hands on" commercial development and renovation has been all about. Pollack has brought this tradition to over 10 million square feet of multiple family, retail and industrial properties throughout California, Texas Nevada and Arizona.
Today, Pollack and his affiliated companies own and operate over 4 million square feet of retail and industrial properties throughout Arizona and California.
Nearly two years ago, Pollack predicted the current economic downturn that has slowed the current housing and construction markets. With more reasonable prices now coming into view, he's convinced the coming years will be a great opportunity to make valuable acquisitions to add to his already incredible collection of real estate and development projects.
The current developing market conditions prove once again the importance of the lesson that he learned from his father a long, long time ago-never be over-leveraged. "My father also taught me to remember that opportunity is nothing more than preparation" stated Pollack.
With over 33 years of commercial real estate experience, Pollack views today's marketplace as precarious for the near future. With that in mind, Pollack says, "I'm more prepared now than I have ever been, and I am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that will allow me to continue in the revitalization of our communities through redevelopment.