Robert C. Greenstone
Chairman, CEO and Founder
Born and raised in Brooklyn when it wasn’t so hip, you either learned how to get along or you moved. Everyone is a product of their times and their upbringing. In Robert’s case, he had the distinct privilege of growing up during a time of great creativity, prosperity and security. The Allies had won the war years before, and the USA was experiencing a growth in business – and the great middle class was giving people what we today call the American Dream. There was no such thing as credit cards, let alone the internet. If you had money, it was in a savings bank or you had a wad of cash in your pocket.
Robert’s grandparents emigrated from Poland and Russia decades earlier. They escaped the horrors of the Holocaust by arriving in the USA in the early 1900’s… and it’s likely Samuel Greenstone, Robert’s grandfather had his name Americanized at Ellis Island. He met his wife in the States and their common language was Yiddish – and eventually English. He was a tailor. She was a hard worker. And boy, could she sell. The stories are rich in nuance – and they portray a love of family and a work ethic that’s hard to imagine. She could cook up a storm, and her apple strudel, chicken soup and “kreplach” were the stuff of legends.
During the Depression, Sam went into the garment center and bought “seconds” – merchandise that was imperfect. Being a talented tailor, he fixed and recreated them. His wife, Bessie, sold them from a suitcase on the street until she took it upon herself to rent a store. He was furious. She persisted! Greenstone’s Childrenswear grew. Their reputation grew and they expanded several times. And they raised three children, Jaqueline, Margarette and Bertram.
After WWII, Margarette met Bernard Cohen at “Laurel’s in the Pines,” a well-known hotel in the Catskill Mountains while on holiday. He was a handsome guy and she had cheekbones to die for. Bernie had a sandwich shop in the hotel with his younger brother and shortly thereafter Bernie and Marge married. First came Caren and seven years later came Robert. Three years before Robert was born they moved from the Catskills back to Brooklyn. Bernie needed to make a living for his family and with Marge’s prompting, he found a small retail space on Nostrand Avenue near Kings Highway in Brooklyn. As it would happen, Robert’s grandparents had retired several years before, but Bernie and Marge decided to open their own Greenstone’s. For 37 years they made a name for themselves in the most unlikely location, in the most remarkable ways.
Robert was a skinny kid. How skinny? Nothing they could find in the market was made for a skinny kid in the 1950’s and 60’s. There were just “regulars’ and huskies.” Greenstone’s started making their own “slims.” 5,000+ pair every season and selling them all out. Their business grew and their reputation with it. Their customers included Sammie Davis Jr., Buddy Hackett, Steve Lawrence and Eddie Gourmet – and the rest of the Rat Pack. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones brought with it a wave of creativity. Europe beckoned, and soon Greenstone was importing and distributing more European childrenswear than anyone in the United States.
During this very formative time, Robert started learning the retail business. First at the dinner table listening to his parents and grandparents. Then while working in his Uncle Bert’s men’s clothing store which coincidently was located next to Greenstone’s.
In high school, Robert was known as “the merchant prince” because of his family’s success as prominent retailers and just as much because Robert sold his teachers suits in between classes. Chutzpa is the sign of a great salesman. He learned it from his parents and grandparents, and from his many years in retail afterwards.
At about that same time Robert worked as an apprentice to famed pop artists Peter Max. Inspired by Marvel Comics, he always loved drawing and graphic design. What the Beatles were to music, Peter Max was to pop art. Even today this turn of events remains a lifelong influence on Robert’s creativity; and it was the reason he went to Boston University to learn advertising and marketing. There he combined his creative, artistic side with his more-practical business upbringing. He thrived there. He learned. He grew. And while a student at BU, he also worked at some of the finest menswear stores in and around Boston – not merely for the extra money, but because it was in his DNA. Ermenegildo Zegna, Oxxford, Brioni!
Returning to New York, Robert went into advertising, and a few years later joined his parents at Greenstone’s. As an engagement present, his parents gave him his accumulated “Bar Mitzvah Money,” a precise sum of $50,000. He rented a store on Columbus Avenue and opened Greenstones et Cie (Greenstones & Co.). That same store can be found today on Columbus Avenue and West 82nd Street.
After roughly a decade, Robert sold his stores and turned his experience towards a second carrier: retail real estate. That was over 25 years ago.
So far, Robert Greenstone has closed some of New York City’s most memorable deals, including what was, at the time, the most valuable retail transaction in NYC history. He’s leased spaces for some of the world’s biggest (and smallest) names in retail, and on behalf of some of America’s most prominent landlords throughout the greater New York City metropolitan area.
Most importantly, Robert has an amazing son whose own story is just as rich and rewarding.
For Robert Greenstone, the dots all connect. He has a love and natural instinct for retail. He has the experience operating stores, paying the bills, buying and merchandising his own stores. He has the artistic ability to visualize and present information and the creative salesmanship that helps others visualize important opportunities. He has a methodical approach – using analytics to meld both qualitative and quantitative data into a coherent, powerful rationale to lease (or walk away). He knows how to market; talk the talk; walk the walk – and do it ethically.
Robert possesses a unique ability that other retail brokers can only approximate. Each and every day, Robert Greenstone gets out of bed and does this thing called “deal-making” because he loves to. It’s not a job. It’s a passion. Robert’s ability to bring to bear his personal strengths and make a meaningful contribution – which in turn allows him to work through the challenges common to commercial real estate (especially retail leasing and development) with professionals who become lasting business relationships and friends.