LIHU’E — It was a much simpler time, 1974, when one could count the number of real-estate professionals on a few hands, and Jim Blackwell founded Sleeping Giant Realty essentially to market the Sleeping Giant Half Acres subdivision he was developing in Wailua Homesteads.
Shortly thereafter, Blackwell sold the business to Chet Hunt, who also served as principal broker of the company for nearly 20 years.
When it was time for Hunt to retire, he sought someone to take over the business.
Debra Blachowiak, whose husband Ernie Blachowiak was tennis buddies with Hunt, had joined Sleeping Giant in 1979, and was approached by Hunt to take over the company.
The year was 1992, Hunt was stepping down, but Debra Blachowiak, with an educational background in biology, not much experience in business, and a new baby, wasn’t sure company ownership was right for her, she recalled.
The good idea to see if there were other agents interested in becoming partners was investigated, and, soon, Diane Treskon and Monica “Micki” Evslin came forward to join Blachowiak.
A verbal agreement was made that they would buy the company from Hunt, three weeks before Hurricane ‘Iniki struck, Blachowiak said.
Hunt offered the trio the chance to reconsider their decision after the storm, but they decided to go for it, at a time when getting their homes and office back together after the storm was much more pressing business than operating a real-estate agency.
There were fewer homes, but lots of vacant land, after the hurricane, and it took a few months before everyone was back on their feet, in their offices, and could get paperwork together to resume their business, Blachowiak said.
Walking through the firm’s Ahukini Road offices, inside a 1920s-built building that used to house a Lihue Plantation dispensary, Blachowiak says that, over the 27 years she has been involved in real estate on the island, she and other Sleeping Giant agents have sold some of the same homes four or five times.
A Wyoming native, she lived on O’ahu for a year, holds a degree in biology, and came to Kaua’i, where she met the man who became her husband.
Ernie Blachowiak is the tennis professional at the Kiahuna Tennis Club in Po’ipu, and tennis coach for Island School.
While working at Sleeping Giant, she listed “quite a bit” of the former Lihue Plantation lands for Amfac officials, specifically at ‘Aliomanu and Kealia, she said.
Currently, through the efforts of Paul Kyno, an associate with the firm, Sleeping Giant officials are marketing The Pinnacle, a high-rise, residential apartment complex at the corner of Beretania and Bishop streets in down-town Honolulu (which is nearly sold out), another project at Waikoloa on the Big Island, and a soon-to-be-announced project on Kaua’i, she said.
Over the years, she has prided herself in working as hard as she could to satisfy clients, and to make them happy, she said.
That won’t change, and neither will her commitment to public service, a passion shared by others in the firm, she said.
It was not without some thought, then, that Blachowiak and her partners decided to accept an offer to become fully affiliated with leaders of Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates, Inc., a decision that was finalized and announced only recently.
“Literally, I took two years to think about it,” she said. “The more I looked at it, the more it looked like a good thing, not a bad thing,” she said of the affiliation with the firm that also is part of the two-century-old Sotheby’s auction house.
“I don’t jump into things. I think about it,” she said, finally deciding that the competitive advantage the affiliation offers to her agents and clients out-weighed any potential negative impacts.
“This will be a good thing for our marketing and our company. It suits us.”
She added that she likes the fact that there are only around 300 such Sotheby’s International Realty affiliations in the world, and the marketing strength that comes with the name.
“For the luxury level of the market, that’s a good source.”
The affiliation will allow Sleeping Giant agents to sell select properties all over the world, should a Kaua’i seller decide he or she wants to look internationally for his or her next home, she explained.
For the most part, though, for agricultural parcels, and smaller residential properties on Kaua’i, nothing will change, she stressed.
“We have broadened our marketing base,” which offers “greater potential to bring them (sellers) a buyer,” she said.
Another thing that won’t change is their love of the Kaua’i community. “We’re real community-oriented. That won’t change.”
Blachowiak is on the board of the Kauai United Way, Island School and Hawaii Children’s Theatre, and is active with Kaua’i Hospice.
Treskon is a part-time real-estate professional who has been splitting her time between Kaua’i and Los Angeles, caring for her grandson and continuing to guide daughter Jessica, who is trying to make a name for her-self in the music business there.
Evslin is now in the Philippines on a medical mission with her husband, Dr. Lee A. “Bill” Evslin, retired president and chief executive officer of Wilcox Health (Wilcox Memorial Hospital and Kauai Medical Clinic), “really giving back to the world,” Blachowiak said.
Sleeping Giant Sotheby’s International Realty has 29 agents, and four support staff, including two employees who tend exclusively to the Web site, www.sleepinggiant.com.
Officials at Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates, Inc. in a press release announced that agents at Sleeping Giant Realty, Inc., a leading luxury real-estate firm with offices in Lihu’e and Kilauea, have joined the Sotheby’s International Realty luxury-real-estate network.
The firm’s agents previously marketed only select properties with the Sotheby’s International Realty, name and will now market all properties under their new business name, Sleeping Giant Sotheby’s International Realty.
“We are extremely pleased to continue our global expansion with such an extraordinary Hawaiian firm like Sleeping Giant Realty,” said Michael R. Good, president and chief executive officer of Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates, Inc.
“In addition to marketing all of its properties with our prestigious branding, the firm will now have access to our extensive marketing resources and wide array of business-develop-ment tools,” said Good.
“We look forward to helping this fabulous firm become an even stronger provider of luxu-ry-real-estate services.”
“This affiliation greatly en-hances the high level of service we provide to our clients,” said Blachowiak.
“The Sotheby’s International Realty name is synonymous with luxury real estate, and will help us attract the finest clientele to our property listings,” she said.
“The networking and marketing offered through the prestigious Sotheby’s International Realty network is a huge competitive advantage for our firm and our sales associates,” Blachowiak said.
“Our firm has proudly served the real-estate needs of Hawai’i for more than 30 years. We are excited to begin our next chapter as Sleeping Giant Sotheby’s International Realty.
For additional information, visit www.sleepinggiant.com, or call 245-8831.
Founded in 1976 to provide independent brokerages with a powerful marketing and referral program for luxury listings, the Sotheby’s International Realty network was designed to connect agents of the finest independent real-estate companies to the most prestigious clientele in the world.
In February 2004, Cendant Corporation (NYSE: CD), the world’s leading real-estate-bro-kerage franchisor, entered into a long-term strategic alliance with Sotheby’s Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: BID; LSE: STBA).
The agreement provided for the licensing of the Sotheby’s International Realty name and the development of a full-franchise system by officials with Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates, Inc., a Cendant subsidiary.
The agreement also included the acquisition of the company-owned, real-estate-brokerage offices by NRT Incorporated, a Cendant subsidiary whose leaders own and operate those offices today as Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc.
Affiliations in the system are granted only to leaders of brokerages and individuals meeting strict qualifications.
Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates, Inc. leaders support affiliate with a host of operational, marketing, recruiting, educational and business-development resources.
Franchise affiliates also benefit from an association with the venerable, 260-year-old Sotheby’s auction house. For more information, visit www.sothebysrealty.com.
- Paul C. Curtis, associate editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or firstname.lastname@example.org.