Walk down any of Palo Alto's main commercial corridors, and one will likely pass by a building managed by Premier Properties. Since 1985, the Palo Alto commercial real estate brokerage firm has steadily expanded its footprint throughout the city and along the Midpeninsula, where it now manages about 100 properties.
Jon Goldman and Brad Ehikian, co-presidents who took over Premier Properties in 2011, say operating the company like a family business has been key to its success.
"Most of our clients are local families," Goldman said. "We don't work for big-time, out-of-state Fortune 500 companies. Our clients are local families who depend on us."
This close-knit connection between the company and its clients became apparent during the pandemic.
Facing the worst crisis for commercial real estate in Palo Alto since the dot-com bust and the 2008 recession, Goldman and Ehikian worked to ensure that no evictions occurred during the pandemic. Instead, the company turned to a variety of creative arrangements to keep tenants in place.
Goldman said Premier Properties emphasized working with their tenants, trying to renegotiate leases based on their unique circumstances, whether that be restructuring a lease that charges rent based on a percentage of sales or providing a business looking to extend its lease with a good rate.
Goldman emphasized early in the pandemic that Premier Properties wouldn't threaten its tenants to pay rent.
"We don't do that," Goldman said, "Especially in COVID."
The two co-presidents said that by guiding negotiations between landlords and tenants, large amounts of rent — ranging in the millions of dollars — were waived, and the company was able to avert collection activities and lawsuits.
The company also took a firm stance early on to keep all of its employees, without implementing pay cuts, even if that meant losing money or seeking loans. Premier eventually handed out "Hero Bonuses," worth about a month's pay, to all of its employees. "Well, we thought it was the right thing to do," Goldman said. "We love our employees, and we care about them."
In recognition of the company's efforts, the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and the Palo Alto Weekly are recognizing Premier Properties as the 2020 outstanding business at the Tall Tree awards ceremony on Thursday, April 21. (The ceremony recognizing 2020 winners had to be postponed due to the pandemic.)
Ehikian said the pandemic has been painful for any property-management firm that depends on commission fees. The goal of Premier Properties has been to move forward and figure out how to help businesses get back on track, going far beyond lease issues.
Premier Properties did everything from helping business owners complete the arduous process of securing federal Paycheck Protection Plan loans to connecting restaurants with contractors who could build outdoor dining parklets at a fixed price to sharing their real estate and business knowledge with small businesses to help them develop strategies to survival.
Read more stories on the 2020 and 2022 Tall Tree Award honorees:
• Dr. Sara Cody: Making the tough decisions
• Dr. Yvonne "Bonnie" Maldonado: 'Constantly adapting'
• Cammie Vail: Paying it forward
• Pastor Paul Bains: 'Hope' for the unhoused
• Hal Mickelson: Steering the future of Palo Alto's past
• Roger Smith: Finding justice for murder victims' families
• Palo Alto Players: The art of lifting a community's spirit
• Peninsula Open Space Trust: Committed to conservation
• Homewood Suites: Opening it doors to nonprofits, people in need