Up Close with Larry Leon
Venture Commercial partner Larry Leon and his team stealthily compiled 433 acres in about 18 months while wooing Berkshire Hathaway execs. Winning the deal meant landing the 1.9M SF Nebraska Furniture Mart along SH 121 in The Colony. Now, the team is helping landowners and developers drawn to the surrounding stretch of SH 121.
Larry tells us Venture had heard rumors about Nebraska Furniture Mart being on the hunt for a new location. He garnered an introduction to Nebraska Furniture Mart chief strategy and development officer Jeff Lind and began talking with him in earnest. There was no exclusive representation, but Larry says his team gave its heart and soul to the project. Larry (along with Venture’s Jonathan Cooper, Bob Moore and David Davidson Jr) very quietly assembled the land without leaking out what it was for to keep the land prices low. The Colony’s reps also made monumental efforts to attract the retail giant.
Larry (left, with Bob, Jonathan and David pre-opening) says Nebraska Furniture Mart had back-up tracts in other cities that were tossing some heavy incentives at the mammoth retailer. But, they weren’t as vibrant as the DFW market. With the new home growth and job growth, it was logical to pick DFW for the fourth (and largest) Nebraska Furniture Mart in the company’s portfolio. The destination retailer is also planning for its Grandscape retail, restaurant and entertainment complex to surround the store. The Venture team is still bringing in new ideas for one-of-a-kind restaurants and exceptional users for Grandscape, too. Since Nebraska Furniture Mart’s announcement and opening, Larry says land prices in the area have doubled and tripled and truly put The Colony on the national radar.
Like so many people in DFW commercial real estate, Larry started at Henry S Miller before moving to corporate real estate for an apparel chain and then he started the first tenant rep brokerage in DFW, Leon and Associates. He joined Mike Geisler at Venture (where there are six partners.) There, Larry has formed the Venturetainment group, representing some fun clients including Pinstripes, an upscale Chicago-based bowling and bocce chain—it's coming to Wade Park in Frisco, he tells us. And, he did the Eureka at West Village. He walked into the restaurant while attending ICSC in California and asked the owners if they wanted to be in Texas. It turns out they did. “Sometimes you get lucky,” he tells us.
Larry (with his wife, Lori) tells us his passion lies in the personal growth world. He’s spent many hours training and coaching himself and others. He’s also a part of the conscious business movement through two organizations, Social Venture Network and Conscious Capitalism. It’s all about purpose-driven companies (like the Container Store and Whole Foods) that are about something more than just making money. His mantra is to consider people, planets and profit. A good example is avoiding polluting rivers to make a buck, he says. It’s about considering all your stakeholders when making decisions. “We’re very polarized in this country to the right or to the left; we need a new conversation examining how to invent new economic models…so we can solve the world’s problems through conscious businesses,” Larry says. He and his wife are foodies and love to travel. They’re also likely to be found on a dance floor somewhere, which is natural since his wife is a former modern dancer and choreographer.