The Closing with Jeff Winick

Jeff Winick on shedding 55 pounds, his collection of Rolexes and being a deal junkie

Jeff Winick (photo by STUDIO SCRIVO)
Jeff Winick (photo by STUDIO SCRIVO)

Jeff Winick is the founder and CEO of retail brokerage Winick Realty Group. He has personally leased more than 1 million square feet of retail space in New York and represents retailer clients like Duane Reade, AT&T and Starbucks as well as major landlords like the Durst Organization. His 50-agent firm has leased more than 15 million square feet over the past 30 years, among the most of any retail firm in the city.

Name: Jeffrey Winick
Born: Aug. 2, 1950
Hometown: Kew Gardens Hills, Queens
Marital status: Divorced
Children: Danielle

What can you say about growing up in Queens?

My junior high school and my high school faced the cemetery. You get out of high school, you go to college and then you get buried in the cemetery. But that cemetery has been filled up for a long time, so [thankfully] I don’t have to worry about going there.

What were you like as a kid?

Athletic. I played baseball, basketball and football.

Where did you go to college?

I didn’t. After high school, I went straight into fashion, designing ladies accessories. My family was in the accessories and trimming business. If you bought a dress, they made the trimmings. Belts, lace and ruffles — all that stuff. I did that from 1968 until 1976. In 1973, I won a design award from the leather industry for my belts.

So how did you end up going into real estate?

Someone knocked on my door one day and wanted to buy my apartment. I told her my apartment [which was in Manhattan] was a rental, but she said it was going co-op. I started buying tenants’ rights in buildings that were going co-op. I would buy the apartments or flip them to third parties. That was my beginning in real estate. At one point, I had 168 furnished apartments in New York.

But then you moved into retail …

Residential wasn’t fashionable enough for me. I sold off my residential portfolio and went into retail in the ’80s. I opened up a company with about 15 brokers and here we are today. My first deal was for a 2,000-square-foot store on 97th and Broadway. The tenant was probably a Subway or a Blimpie’s.

Where do you live?

In a very modern apartment on 54th Street and First Avenue. That’s why our office is on 42nd and Third.

Do you have any other homes?

Yes. In Southampton. I go out there on weekends in the summer. I love boating. I love the ocean and the beach.

Are you married?

I was married for a couple of years a long time ago. My ex-wife [Lizette Winick] is a residential broker at Corcoran. My daughter, Danielle, is 20.

Are you single and looking?

Are you married? Let’s go out tonight…

What would you put in your personal ad?

I pull no punches, and you better have a lot of energy to stay up with me. I love the sun and I love fast cars.

Do you have a collection of cars?

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I have three cars. I love my Mercedes convertible. When I was growing up, someone pulled up next to me in a Corvette and wanted to drag race. I said “this is not for me.” I’ve been in a Mercedes ever since.

You recently lost a lot of weight.

I lost 55 pounds. I wanted to get rid of the diabetes, which I was diagnosed with 10 years ago. I’m self-cured. Three months ago, I went off all medication. I went to see some really good doctors and watched what I ate. I quit smoking, too.

What inspired the change?

Certain people come along and they change your life. Plus, my daughter kept on beating me up saying, “Dad, I want you around for my wedding.”

Is there a special lady in your life you’re talking about?

There was a lady. I’m not sure what status it’s in right now. She’s a photographer.

Tell me about your daughter, Danielle.

She interned at Vornado last year. She was the only intern there with a sales license. She’s going to come here this summer and work for us. She’s my whole life.

Did you ever want to have more kids?

I wouldn’t rule out having another child. They keep you young. Maybe someday, if someone will put up with my personality.

Who are your closest industry friends? 

Joe Moinian, Larry Gluck, Meyer Chetrit, Richard Wagman, Joey Jacobson and David Berley.

Are you a tough boss?

If you can survive me, you can become a very successful broker. I don’t hold peoples’ hands.

Do you live extravagantly?

I collect Rolexes. My favorite is the one I’m wearing, which is the cheapest one they make.

You’re renowned for your wild parties at ICSC. What are they really like?

We have a pool party and a couple of tables at the club at night, that’s all. It’s just a bunch of people having a good time. You wrote that I fill my pool in the Hamptons up with Cristal every weekend. I’d have to be a billionaire to do that. They wouldn’t have enough Cristal in the country to fill up my pool.

People say you’re an aggressive deal-maker.

I don’t think being a passive broker makes you successful. I’m not afraid to tell a tenant when he’s wrong or a landlord when he’s wrong.

Are you a workaholic?

I’m a deal junkie. It’s not just about money. It keeps me young. I get a big rush from it, whether it’s a $5,000 commission or a $100,000 commission.