'The Industry Is Losing An Icon': Restaurant Broker Harold Shumacher Dies At 72
Harold Shumacher parlayed a passion for unique cuisines into a career as one of Atlanta's most prominent retail real estate brokers.
Shumacher, 72, who founded The Shumacher Group, died Saturday of an unidentified blood disease after a nine-day stay in the hospital, his family confirmed to Bisnow.
Shumacher focused on helping restaurants and retailers find storefronts in the Atlanta area since founding his company in 1987. His regular clients included Verizon, Bojangles, Bad Daddy's Burger Bar, Golden Corral and King of Pops.
He also was a mentor to many younger brokers during his career, including his son-in-law, Peter Kruskamp, who also works at The Shumacher Group. In 2011, when Kruskamp approached his father-in-law about leaving his teacher's job to become a full-time broker, Shumacher's response wasn't exactly enthusiastic.
"His response was, 'Oh really,'" Kruskamp said.
After all, Kruskamp was wanting to enter an industry where a paycheck was never guaranteed. And he was married to Shumacher's daughter. Nonetheless, Shumacher took his son-in-law under his wing, having him join his brokerage shop full time.
“He made sure his daughter was fed because I certainly didn't make any money,” Kruskamp said. “I think he had reservations about teaching me the business, but also welcomed the challenge.”
Shumacher came from a different background than most other commercial real estate brokers: Between 1977 and 1982, he was the restaurant critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Before his career in journalism, he was a public school teacher.
Born in Muskegon, Michigan, Shumacher was a first-generation American whose father was from Israel and whose mother immigrated from Germany. After graduating from Michigan State University, Shumacher made his way to Atlanta, earning a graduate degree from Georgia State University.
As a broker, Shumacher was known for being direct and honest with others, fostering respect from peers and competitors alike, The Cheroff Group founder Penelope Cheroff said. Cheroff is one of the city's most prolific restaurant brokers and was friends with Shumacher for more than 30 years.
“You know, a lot of people don't look at brokers [as] the most honorable people in the world, but Harold just represented his company and his industry so professionally,” Cheroff said. "He was a good guy."
For some in the industry, he became more than just another broker. He was a friend, a go-to person for restaurant suggestions and a mentor.
“I met Harold very early in my brokerage career, and we were immediate friends,” CBRE First Vice President Amy Fingerhut said. “We shared this mad love for food coupled with the fact that we had a background in restaurants.”
The two would regularly go out to eat together to try new restaurants and then critique them together.
“He not only understood the business of restaurants, he was [also] a wonderful person for the fact that he was a mediator in this industry. He was compassionate, he was caring, he was intelligent. He was fun to be around and he had such a love for international travel like I do,” Fingerhut said.
“In a nutshell, I just feel lucky that I spent 15 years having him in our business," she added. "The industry is losing an icon."
Shumacher was a far less adept driver than he was a broker and critic, Kruskamp said, but Schumacher wore his distracted driving as a badge of honor in the competitive retail brokerage industry. His daughter was kept informed in case of emergencies.
“God, he was a horrible driver. I would always text [my wife] Steph from the back seat, saying, 'I don't think I'll be making it home tonight,'” Kruskamp said. “He was always very busy talking to whatever client we had in the car. Always looking at real estate. Both were way more important than any other vehicle that may be driving near us. He told me once that if I didn’t get a few tickets and at least one fender bender per year, then I wasn’t working hard enough.”
The Shopping Center Group partner Alan Shaw said during his 17-year career, he had done numerous deals with Shumacher clients. Never once did Shumacher put the idea of making more money on a deal by placing his client in a location that may have been subpar to another, Shaw said.
“He was a mensch. He's very good people,” Shaw said. “He put his clients before the money. And when you do that, you end up doing what's best for your client.”
Kruskamp and others said Shumacher's still-undiagnosed illness began gradually earlier this year. He said physicians were never able to pinpoint what exactly was causing the illness, and after some ups and downs over the past few weeks, his health deteriorated.
Even while in the hospital, Shumacher was still fielding phone calls, speaking with friends and family, they said. Shumacher is survived by his wife of 45 years, Nancy Nolan; his daughter, Stephanie; two sisters; and three grandchildren.
Kruskamp said he will continue operating The Shumacher Group with the handful of other brokers who work there, keeping the name.
“Harold and I talked for years about who would take over the business when he retires, and it was always going to be me,” Kruskamp said. "I just didn't expect it to be this way."