Over the last four decades, as the town of Irondequoit grew and shrank, Walther Realty was there.
For 42 years, the family-owned real estate business has been a fixture in Irondequoit, working almost exclusively in the town and gaining a reputation for looking out for its residents, says co-owner Erica Walther Schlaefer.
"We actually have some business across the northern part of Monroe County, but we're really known for the niche we have in Irondequoit," says Schlaefer, 35.
The company's founder, Schlaefer's father, Steven Walther, got his broker's license in the early 1970s and decided he wanted to focus his energy on his hometown, Irondequoit. In 1971 he started Walther Realty, working out of his home on St. Paul Boulevard.
Within a few years the company had grown and he moved its headquarters to Titus Avenue in the town center, where the company remains to this day.
"When my father got his marketing degree in Virginia, he knew he wanted to be his own boss and grow his own business," Schlaefer says. "When he got the chance to do that and stay in his home of Irondequoit, he jumped at it."
The focus on Irondequoit has stuck, as has Walther Realty's independence. Many of the smaller real estate agencies have joined with larger agencies over the years, leaving few truly independent real estate companies.
"Many of the smaller real estate agencies are no longer on their own," Schlaefer says. "Through the years, as our business changes and gets more competitive, most of those small brokerages either completely retired or absorbed into a bigger office."
Schlaefer attributes her company's continued success to its strong reputation in the community. The company relies heavily on word of mouth. Because real estate deals can be stressful for those buying or selling homes, it is vitally important that a company has the trust of its clients, Schlaefer says.
"We are constantly told from people who maybe aren't longtime residents that they were referred to us by people who knew our name," she says. "My dad is still receiving referrals from people he worked with 30 years ago.
"They know that we are advocates for our clients and really want to make the transactions go as smoothly as possible for them."
The company now has 11 employees, many of them from within the Walther family. Besides Schlaefer and her father, her brother and mother also have worked for the company.
Though Steven Walther is now 64, Schlaefer says he has no plans to retire.
"My father will never not be a real estate agent," she says.
She adds that the company is still growing and looking to recruit a few new agents.
As Walther Realty changes and grows, one thing will remain the same, Schlaefer says-its commitment to Irondequoit. Though the town has always had a solid reputation as a good place to buy a first home, in recent years it has lost residents to neighboring towns, she says. The population, now about 51,000, has fallen from more than 63,000 in 1970.
Walther Realty can be part of turning that trend around, Schlaefer says.
"We hope to see a revitalization of Irondequoit and support the community," she says. "We will be around the big I-Square development and want to be part of setting a new one for the town."
Small Business is a weekly feature focusing on entrepreneurs. Send suggestions for future Small Business stories to Associate Editor Smriti Jacob at firstname.lastname@example.org/22/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email email@example.com.