A local real estate agent’s new Main Street Station-themed brokerage is gaining a foothold near its namesake with the help of a Shockoe Bottom developer.
Rhonda Howlett launched Clocktower Realty Group in January, setting up in a temporary space at 1561 E. Main St., on the corner of Main and South 17th Street near the landmark train station.
Come summer, she plans to move the office a block north to 1705-1709 E. Franklin St. – three adjoining buildings being converted into apartments and a commercial storefront by Louis Salomonsky and David White of Main Street Realty.
Clocktower Realty will fill about 3,500 square feet of the 12,000-square-foot building, which Howlett said would expand to 14,000 square feet after the rehab. The storefront space will extend the length of the three buildings and feature a glass front wall, similar to Main Street Realty’s new office under construction at 1817 E. Main St.
Howlett, who rents her current space from Main Street Realty and will do the same at her Franklin Street location, said she was introduced to Salomonsky by a contractor who made her aware of the Main Street space. That led to her learning about the Franklin Street project and signing on as its sole commercial tenant.
She said Salomonsky has become one of her clients; she has sold several single-family rental properties he owns. Howlett said her brokerage will help with property management for the Franklin Street apartments, which will be leased by Main Street Realty.
The apartments will range from 650 to 1,000 square feet and include a variety of one- and two-bedroom floor plans. Salomonsky said they will rent for $1,200 per month and be accessed by a rear courtyard.
Salomonsky said he aims to finish the project and have the apartments ready this summer. He put the project cost at $2.2 million, $1.75 million of which is being financed by Park Sterling Bank.
Salomonsky purchased the property through 1713 Ventures LLC. The deal closed in late April for $502,000, according to city property records.
The buildings once housed Crave Grille Bar & Lounge and Kave Bar and Grill. City records indicate the buildings were constructed in 1910. Howlett said the 1707 E. Franklin St. building was once a saloon, and was at one time owned by a grandson of U.S. President John Adams.
She likewise researched Main Street Station, looking for details she could use to name her brokerage.
“I wanted something that was very Richmond,” said Howlett, who grew up in Mathews County and would travel to Richmond with her family.
“Whenever we saw the clock tower, we knew we were in Richmond,” she said. “I knew the symbolism of that building and wanted to incorporate it into our company.”
Previously with Keller Williams, Howlett started the firm in late January with five agents who were part of her team with that brokerage. She now has 14 agents, who cover territory stretching from Greater Richmond to New Kent County and the Northern Neck area.
She said the team’s sales reached $26 million last year, and her current group is at $15 million five months into this year. She said the goal is to hit $50 million in sales this year, $75 million next year and $125 million by 2020.
Howlett said she has put $250,000 of her own capital into developing her brand over the past four years. She hired Chris Scardina of Open Sky Design to design her logo, which features a copper-colored outline of Main Street Station atop a black background.
Howlett said she also liked the “clock tower” brand for its potential to apply to markets beyond Richmond.
“Most every major city has some sort of building with a clock tower in it, so I figured it would work in other markets down the road, but definitely show where home was and where everything started.”