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Lou Nimkoff, Brio Companies

“Underwater” isn’t a term real estate professionals generally like to hear, but it’s precisely where Lou Nimkoff enjoys spending much of his free time, exploring the deep blue as a scuba diver. He and wife Lee – married 29 years – have been enjoying the pastime since before they tied the knot. And now their sons, Zack, 22, and Nick, 18, are certified as well.

That said, these days Nimkoff doesn’t have much free time.

 As the owner and broker of Winter Park’s Brio Real Estate, along with affiliate firms for property management and investment, Nimkoff is a 30-year veteran of Florida’s commercial real estate industry. Active in the Orlando Regional REALTOR Association since 2004, this year he’ll serve as its new president.

Commercial real estate is in Nimkoff’s blood. The Connecticut native’s grandmother and father ran a family business, but he wasn’t interested at first, opting for a quite different major while an undergrad in upstate New York in the early 1980s.

“People say I have a face for radio,” Nimkoff joked during his chat with GrowthSpotter. “And when I first went to college, I wanted to get into both radio and TV.”

As a child, Nimkoff had done some voice acting for radio commercials. He believes that’s when the broadcasting bug bit, but when his father was diagnosed with cancer in 1982, “the stars began to align for me to get into real estate.”

He switched to a business major and began working at the family firm. First Republic was all commercial and mostly retail – which prompted a move to midtown Manhattan and a transfer to New York University, where he eventually graduated via night school while working full time.

Meanwhile, the business had expanded to include ownership and management of multifamily properties.

“We were based in New York, but we had properties up and down the mid-Atlantic and some here in Florida,” he explains. It was the ‘80s and the Sunshine State was exploding with growth. “We made a strategic move to focus on Florida a little bit more than we had – and that’s when I moved down.”

Along for the ride was then-fiancée Lee, whom Nimkoff met when his best friend was dating her sister. The pair got engaged underwater, when Nimkoff popped the question by writing it on a dive slate as they hovered above a Bahamian reef.

The couple returned home for a Connecticut wedding, but have been enjoying winter-free Orlando since 1988.

“We love the Florida lifestyle,” he says. “And now that both our boys are certified, we like to be able to get away if we can and do some family diving and enjoy the beach and ocean. We’re big fans of the Caribbean.

“We’ve done what they call the ABC Islands – Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao – great diving places. We’ve done the Bahamas and Hawaii….”

But Nimkoff’s best dive-trip to date was in the Cayman Islands.

“It was on a wreck called the Kittiwake, a ship that was purposefully sunk to become an artificial reef … and they made a number of strategic cut-outs in the ship, so you could swim from area to area and floor to floor – and there’s just an amazing amount of sea life down there and it was just really cool to be there, seeing it with the whole family diving. The water down there is so clear and it’s not a really deep dive, so you can spend a lot of bottom time. It was a really great experience.”

Still on his bucket list: the Great Barrier Reef. With Nimkoff’s youngest just about ready to leave for college it’s a trip ripe for the taking, if he can handle 24 hours on a plane.

“I used to travel for business a lot, and I’m not excited about all that flight time, but it’s something we’d really like to do,” he chuckles.  “Maybe next year.”

A.D. Thompson
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