One might glean from Bob Owens with a sense of optimism – and that's not just because he chose to found a real estate company in 1990, when the bubble was in full-blown burst. He's a pretty upbeat guy.
Owens Realty Services has evolved from its starting place in the CEO's native Connecticut, expanding into New York and Florida (where Owens moved in 2005), then North Carolina, but despite having a prominent real estate pedigree, this "founding father" believes success comes not by chance.
"I definitely come from a family of entrepreneurs," Owens told GrowthSpotter. His grandfather founded a land development and real estate brokerage company in 1917. His dad was a practicing attorney "with lofty goals," Owens notes. He became one of the youngest judges ever appointed in the Constitution state.
"I had very good mentors and role models and came from a work-ethic environment," says Owens. "We all believed in the American Dream … but it's not luck. Success comes by putting the effort in."
His New England youth saw said effort being put forth in spades on Long Island Sound. A boater since the age of 9, some of Owens' fondest memories were formed while fishing, crabbing and lobstering on the coast.
His eventual transition to a Florida climate, however, wasn't an acute one. Owens' family had a vacation home in Fort Lauderdale, which in the '60s and '70s helped solidify his bond with the Atlantic coast – if in a different sort of way. Winter Park – beautiful as it is – was not precisely where he expected he'd end up.
"I was surprised I landed inland, but then discovered the area around Ponce Inlet, ended up getting a boat and now do a lot of offshore fishing for sailfish and mahi and so forth."
The whole family participates, he notes, but hasn't forgotten its Yankee roots. Come Florida's "cold" season, the Owens like it even colder, often heading north to a wintry vacation home.
"We do a lot of skiing and snowmobiling and other things in Southern Vermont, where there are a number of folks from the greater Orlando area who have family homes."
Despite his fondness for these other places, Winter Park still makes Owens light up, in particular Hannibal Square; its New England feel had him smitten enough to take action.
"We've since purchased most of the commercial area there – retail and apartments … and Winter Park has this beautiful water element to it, as well, and the city's environment and community are really what brought us here.
Owens and wife Laura have three daughters. Emmaline is 27 and does public relations for the family firm; Isabelle, 25, heads up global marketing and Lila, 21, is a five-time champion equestrian (mom grew up riding horses; all three girls rode competitively and trained at their gentleman's farm back in Connecticut). The youngest Owens is a member of the University of Georgia's two-time SEC Championship team.
Proud dad Owens says his daughters have a bit of that entrepreneurial spirit, as well, though he may look to keep them from jumping ship for a while. Things are quite busy for the firm.
"We've been blessed with double-digit growth," he says, as they took their investment property experience into the public sector. The newly minted Orlandoans now do facilities management for the Amway Center, Orlando City Hall and the Camping World Stadium.
Nice clients? Sure. But there are other benefits.
"Living in Connecticut, we really never had any major hometown team. So, it was either two hours to Boston or an hour-and-a-half to New York. But living in Winter Park, and being so close to the Magic and Orlando City Soccer – now we're major fans of both those teams!"
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