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Why Capstone Managing Partner A.J. Klenk Is One Of Commercial Real Estate's Next Market Leaders

At 34, Andrew “A.J.” Klenk is not just the co-founder and managing partner of Capstone Apartment Partners, a multifamily investment brokerage firm. He is also shaking up the short-term property management sector with his new company, Air Hospitality

A.J. Klenk in front of an old mill house in Charlotte that will be transformed into a farm-to-table restaurant. The office for Air Hospitality, another of Klenk's businesses, is shown in the background.
A.J. Klenk in front of an old mill house in Charlotte that will be transformed into a farm-to-table restaurant. The office for Air Hospitality, another of Klenk's businesses, is in the background.

With a personal portfolio composed of more than 40 properties, including a farm-to-table restaurant and a water tower, Klenk has many accomplishments, though talking about them is not his style.

In fact, by the time he turns 40, Klenk hopes to be independently wealthy enough to realize the dream that brought him to commercial real estate in the first place: building schools around the world for those in need.

“My main sort of guiding light is an ambition to focus on philanthropy full time in my life because that’s what brings me the most enjoyment and sense of purpose,” Klenk said.

Why Capstone Managing Partner A.J. Klenk Is One Of Commercial Real Estate's Next Market Leaders

An investment sales broker specializing in existing multifamily assets and multifamily land development sites, Klenk in 2017 alone sold more than $255M in apartment complexes and multifamily development sites. The deals included more than 4,500 units for Capstone with 16 transactions across North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina and Ohio.

Capstone started out small, with Klenk and co-founders Brian Ford and Beau McIntosh paving a lot of the groundwork from their Charlotte office, where the business originated.

“I knew I wanted to be in commercial real estate. I had an opportunity to do retail with a big firm, but I wanted to be in investment sales,” Klenk said. “The three of us just put our heads together, and we put our heads down and we just worked really hard.”

Klenk said Capstone now competes with the industry’s biggest players in the commercial brokerage space, including JLL and CBRE. They have 40 employees in Charlotte, Cincinnati, Fayetteville, NashvilleOrlando, Raleigh, Richmond and Tampa. Out of their Orlando office, their firm is the fourth-largest manufactured housing brokerage firm in the country, specializing in selling mobile home and RV parks.

Co-founders of Capstone, from left: George Chmiel, an entrepreneur in San Diego, Beau McIntosh, now a partner with Dominion Realty Partners, A.J. Klenk and Brian Ford.
Capstone co-founders George Chmiel, an entrepreneur in San Diego; Beau McIntosh, now a partner with Dominion Realty Partners; A.J. Klenk and Brian Ford.

McIntosh, who has left Capstone and is now a partner with Dominion Realty Partners, said he and Klenk still work together, just in different ways.

They own properties together, have ownership interests in other development projects together and their families just spent time together at the Isle of Palms in South Carolina a few weeks ago.

“Andrew’s a born entrepreneur,” McIntosh said. “The wheels are always turning.”

Joining In The Shared Economy

Additionally, Klenk founded Air Hospitality in September, a property management business in Charlotte that works with short-term rental properties including Airbnb.

Air Hospitality exists to make life easier for Airbnb hosts, from clients who have one rental to those who have multiple listings. The company gives their properties a hospitable-feel that resembles that of a boutique hotel. From washing sheets and refilling shampoo containers to stocking coffee filters and toilet paper in the homes, Air Hospitality handles it all. Klenk’s wife, Caitlin, provides interior design services, including the furnishing of properties. The company also takes care of maintenance needs and landscaping upkeep.

JLL Director of Research for the Carolinas Paul Hendershot called Air Hospitality “defiantly a market disruptor” in a “cool, edgy type of business.”

Air Hospitality provides services including interior design, cleaning, maintenance, guest relations and landscaping for short-term rentals.
Air Hospitality provides services including interior design, cleaning, maintenance, guest relations and landscaping for short-term rentals.

“As is the case with many market disruptors, Air Hospitality has incorporated the latest technology to create an overlooked opportunity in the market,” Hendershot said. “Traditionally, rental properties typically would be judged by the stability created by a long-term tenant. This model provides increased flexibility with greater returns.”

Air Hospitality was born out of Charlotte, and the company has plans to expand to Chattanooga, Nashville and Philadelphia over the next 12 months — and perhaps Boone and Wilmington after that.

Air Hospitality co-founder Jake Koferl said that when Klenk invited him to come on board, it was an easy sell. The two met at Amélie’s, a French bakery in Charlotte, about 14 months ago to talk shop for the first time.

“We just started talking, having a good conversation, and he’s telling me about what he was working on. He started running through some of the numbers and what he was seeing was really positive on the Air Hospitality side,” Koferl said.

“I was impressed by A.J. and what he was doing and the idea, especially seeing how fast Airbnb and these short-term rentals are growing, and then I also was in a place where I knew I wanted to do something for myself as well. He’s very straightforward and very truthful, and that’s something I really respect. He kind of shoots it straight at all times, so that just leads you to be very trusting from the get-go. He’s great in teaching as well as pushing you along the way.”

A Desire To Help Others

From left, Caitlin, Harrison and A.J. Klenk in the NoDa neighborhood of Charlotte
From left, Caitlin, Harrison and A.J. Klenk in the NoDa neighborhood of Charlotte

Klenk grew up in his own spectacular piece of real estate: in 1982, his parents purchased a castle to raise their family in Jackson, Michigan.

“Growing up here, running around in the woods, building forts, rappelling down our tower was my childhood,” he said. The castle is currently on the market for $619K.

Everything Klenk has done he credits to the guidance of his parents and their insistence that anything was possible if he put his mind to it. He learned from them to treat everyone with respect, from the highest ranking exec in a company to the janitorial staff or homeless individuals. Klenk said he was taught to help others when he could and to work harder than anybody else. He learned to set his sights high, have goals and then attain them — and all the while, to have a positive impact along the way.

After graduating from the University of Michigan in 2007 with a degree in biopsychology and cognitive science, real estate seemed an easy enough fit.

“I realized that I just wanted to create my own path, what I thought was a path of least resistance to having some financial freedom,” he said. “I went to a get-rich-quick seminar, started devouring books, and I started a company.”

His real estate training came during the recession. While he was learning the industry, he worked for $12 an hour at a psychiatric facility, bringing patients their lunches and taking them on smoke breaks. Patients had physical altercations with him almost daily, but Klenk said he loved the job because he was helping people.

Restaurants, Water Towers — And Giving It All Up 

A.J. Klenk bought a water tower in Charlotte after neighbors voiced concerns about developers tearing it down.
A.J. Klenk bought a water tower in Charlotte after neighbors voiced concerns about developers tearing it down to build apartments.

In addition to Capstone and Air Hospitality, he has a personal portfolio of more than 40 properties. His farm-to-table restaurant in Charlotte will be called The Goodyear House, named after homes that farmers would add onto room-by-room when they had a “good year.” He wants to turn one of his Airbnb houses into a rooftop bar overlooking Charlotte’s skyline. He owns the rights to four Duck Donuts franchises, one in Newport, Rhode Island, and three in Boston.

The Air Hospitality founder also owns a water tower in Charlotte whose occupants include hornets and bees. He bought it after hearing developers were planning to tear it down, and he knew the Arts District neighborhood known as NoDa loved it.

“The Neighborhood Business Association had a meeting where they’re talking about the water tower, about hustling developers who were planning to tear it down and build apartments there. It was weird for me because I’m in real estate, I just kind of do stuff if I see that it needs to be done. I wanted to save it from the developers, which is funny since I’m a developer.”

He is considering having it painted each year by different artists — after he figures out how to evict the current tenants.

“Think about it: How the hell do you get rid of bees 150 feet in the air? It’s not as easy as it would seem.”

Klenk is also working to put an antenna on the water tower that would give residents in the neighborhood free WiFi.

In the next few years, Klenk plans to step away from his daily responsibilities to pursue his real dream — building schools for families in need, a project that touched his heart as a child when he helped build schools in Bolivia. He and his wife have already begun raising money to build a house in Nepal for a family.

“I want to hang everything up by the time I’m 40,” Klenk said. “That’s why I’m doing all this.”

CORRECTION, JUNE 21, 12:08 P.M. ET: A previous version of this story misstated Klenk's future plan to build schools for those in need. The story has been updated.