Jack Halpern’s world was rocked when his 58-year-old father and founder of Halpern Enterprises, Bernard, died. A Harvard University and University of Georgia Law School graduate, Jack had worked for three years in a general law practice before joining his father’s real estate company as in-house counsel. Ready or not, Jack took over a legacy that he aggrandized both businesswise and at the top levels of primarily Jewish community leadership and service.
Atlanta magazine recently chose Halpern as one of the 500 most influential Atlantans, along with luminaries such as Arthur Blank, Sara Blakely, Bernie Marcus, Ted Turner and Hank Aaron. Halpern served as co-chair of the Marcus Jewish Community Center, chair of The Epstein School, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta campaign chair, and chairman of the Federation board. When asked about his motivation for giving, Halpern said, “Every day I say ‘thank you’ for my all my blessings. My parents were role models who stressed giving back.”
Halpern Enterprises, a privately held company, has 52 properties and 3.6 million square feet of commercial space in five states. It specializes in managing and developing shopping centers for the long term. This niche is right on target with the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s March 6 business headline, “Non-mall retailers defy industry gloom in era of Amazon.”
Read how Jack lays out his priorities and best practices.
Jaffe: So there you were as an attorney taking over after your father’s untimely death.
Halpern: Actually Mom took over. She didn’t have so much real estate business acumen, but she had the respect of, and knew how to manage, her five children.
Jaffe: What are the pros and cons of being in a family business?
Halpern: It is one of my top priorities to increase the chances that our business endures. We meet twice a year with consultants who assure that we have a cohesive ownership team as a family business. In addition to my sister Carolyn Oppenheimer, who serves as executive vice president, five of our next generation sons and nephews serve in the business. We have 25 other non-family members, including the president, who handles day-to-day issues so that I can have more time to think strategically.
Jaffe: We see traditional malls getting into trouble and chains paring down or closing. How does your business model fit into that?
Halpern: We prefer to be a big fish in a small pond. That means strip centers in towns like Carrolton, Covington, Griffin, Smyrna, Wilmington. … Most likely you won’t see us in Buckhead. As importantly, we select tenants who will do well. We like a grocery anchor like Publix or Kroger (recently an Aldi). Pinetree Plaza on Buford Highway is one of our notable local centers.
Jaffe: How do you assess what tenants will succeed?
Halpern: We have many “Mom and Pops” who may not have a great credit history. We look for work ethic. My father was an immigrant from Poland. I understand that perspective. I’m willing to take a chance on a family involved business which is able to pool resources. Often, they are willing to put in more hours than native born Americans. We have many tenants whose first language is not English, and their children explain the details of the lease. Of course, they interpret the dollar signs and know what the rent is!
Jaffe: How have the internet and current marketing trends affected you?
Halpern: Technology has changed shopping patterns. Tenant mix has changed. It’s very hard for soft good retailers to compete with online business. Baby boomers want to eat out, thus we are leasing to restaurants and service-related businesses: Nail and hair salons, dentists, … can’t do those things online. The bottom line is the fundamentals endure. We are on top of good locations, changing uses, and redevelopment.
Jaffe: Your building is warm yet sophisticated.
Halpern: For 50 years, up until 2 ½ years ago, our company headquarters was located on Buford Highway. Here in Sandy Springs, at the corner of Roswell Road and Mt. Paran, we developed our own new building – with an abundance of natural light, individual offices for every employee, state-of-the-art conference rooms, a fully-equipped fitness center, and a break room large enough to enable everyone to eat lunch together. Susan Bozeman was the interior designer.
Jaffe: What’s the best advice your dad gave you?
Halpern: Do business with more than one bank.
Jaffe: Then what advice do you give your children?
Halpern: Honor your word, your greatest asset.
Jaffe: What’s next?
Halpern: I’m taking my wife on a trip around the world. I have three grandchildren in Atlanta who call me “Poppa.” I am a very fortunate man.