“Own Dirt, It Doesn’t Talk Back”

    A bunch of my friends and colleagues have been telling me for years that I should write down the stuff that happens to me…that these kind of things don’t happen to anyone else…that I could even write a blog or a book. “Who would read that s*!?” I always wondered. Well I guess my curiosity got the best of me and here I sit today writing about why I got into real estate (or more of how I chased the money that got me into real estate).

    I was born in Baltimore City and lived there through high school. I’d been coming down to Ocean City during the summers for as long as I can remember with my family and knew I wanted to move there as quickly as I could after school. In order to please my mom though, I enrolled in Catonsville Community College (that’s the best I could do with straight C’s to my name). Two weeks into college I took my first test and I knew college wasn’t for me. I threw all my belongings into two green trash bags and asked my mom to drive me to the Trailways station so I could hitch a bus ride to Ocean City immediately. She didn’t want me to go but she also knew she couldn’t stop me so she took me to the bus station, gave me a big hug and told me to stay out of trouble. What she didn’t do was give me money. I had $5 in my pocket and nowhere to stay in Ocean City when I arrived. I did know of a few guys that lived on Jamestown Road but they were exactly what my mom was telling me to avoid – and this was before cell phones so I had no way of letting them know I was even coming. I didn’t really have any other choice though so I showed up on their doorstep and told them that whoever had the most money come time for the rent to be due, I would match that. I got a job the next day making donuts at the Dunkin Donuts on 120th street. I would make donuts all night from 11pm-7am and then a local contractor named Tommy would come and pick me up from there and take me to a jobsite where I would jackhammer concrete, sidewalks and driveways all morning. Less than two weeks later, I got a third job washing dishes at Waterview Restaurant on Wicomico Street. I was hustling – working 130 hours in a week – sleeping a couple hours here and there when I could and riding my bike all over town, even in the freezing cold. I made good on my bet with my “roommates” and brought in the most money for the month like I knew I would.

    I always had multiple jobs – the thought of having one job didn’t seem like it could ever be enough for me. Too much downtime, not enough money, not enough hustle. I loved Ocean City and knew I wanted to be there full-time but I still had roots in Baltimore and found myself back and forth between the two trying to earn more money, especially in the winter months. One day, a few years after dealing with all the back and forth, I was driving down Coastal Highway on my way to bartend at Fishtales when I passed my buddy Erik driving a brand new Land Rover. When we got up to the stoplight, I rolled down my window and asked him how he could afford a car like that! He said, “funny you should ask, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about real estate, I think you would really like it.” The next day I signed up to take the real estate course.

    I went to work as a real estate agent practically before I had my license in hand. I was still bartending at night but I was thinking I might actually have a career in real estate in my future. Erik worked for a Broker named Mark Fritschle and after I met Mark, I knew immediately that I wanted to work for him. To this day, I’ve never worked for anyone else. Mark introduced me to a lot of important people in town and I appreciated it more than he ever knew. I would go into the office on Sundays because there were hardly any agents in there other than Mark himself and he was always generous enough to give me advice and his leftovers (and I don’t mean the food kind). He had Erik and I sit in all the new developments around town – I would even shovel snow on the days when nobody else had their doors open – and take office duty on weekends and holidays when no other agent wanted it. At one of those first developments we sat in, Waters Edge, I met the local developer of the units, Jack. I would sit and pick his brain any chance I got (much in the same way that I would Mark) and he would always be willing to entertain me and my crazy ideas. I told him about my dream of owning a bar in Ocean City and he would just laugh and say “No Kevin, own dirt because it doesn’t talk back.” I knew what he meant but I thought that was just the developer in him talking so I didn’t exactly listen to his advice.

    I was sitting at my desk one day doing office duty after selling out all 42 units of the Waters Edge project when Su Casa popped up for sale on the hot sheet for $30,000. Erik was across from me and we both saw it at the same time – “are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Erik asked me. If you’re not as old as I am to remember, Su Casa was the original name of Mother’s Cantina on 33rd street. I could hear Jack in my head saying, “own dirt because it doesn’t talk back” but a dream is a dream and how could I go wrong when I already spent enough time there? Neither of us had any experience owning a bar/restaurant, but we did have plenty of experience working in and patronizing one, this one in particular. We shut down for a few days before Memorial Day weekend, changed the name, updated the bar, hired a few buddies to run the kitchen and pissed off more than a few people at the County. I’d like to say we had a great run at Mothers and made a lot of money but the truth is we sold it not long after we renovated it. We really had no business being in the restaurant business. Mothers wasn’t a failure though – it really became the launching pad for my career in real estate – I represented so many clients that were customers at Mothers and I was driven from that day forward to focus 100% on my real estate career. I also learned the hard way that Jack’s words of owning “dirt” literally meant the dirt and not the buildings, structures and headaches that came along with it.

    These days I approach my business much in the same manner as I did those early hustling days when I was working three jobs. I go to battle for my clients everyday and I’m more than happy to do so. The job that I made into a career has given me more than my fair share of gray hairs but I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to live where I live and work where I work.

    Kevin Decker has been in the real estate business for 15 years. He works for the Mark Fritschle Group of Condominium Realty, LTD and represents both buyers and sellers commercially and residentially. He resides in Ocean City, MD. When he’s not hustling, he enjoys spending time with his daughters and friends.

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