Margaret Steele’s first job at Harborside Realty was to answer phones on the weekend. In those days, indispensable office technology consisted of a copy machine, a coffee maker, and an answering machine for when Ms. Steel wasn’t there.
This year, she will celebrate the firm’s 50th anniversary. She still answers the phones, but now she co-owns Harborside Realty.
“A positive image,” Ms. Steele says, when she’s asked how the firm has managed to endure the booms, busts, and wholesale changes of the real estate industry. That “and the local connection. People just want a company that has roots, and knows the territory.”
The company certainly has Island roots. Leo Convery founded the real estate firm. The first office was next to the Harborside Inn, which Mr. Convery’s family managed after expanding the former rooming house to a grand hotel.
Now the office is located in the Edgartown Triangle at the entrance to downtown. Ms. Steele bought her share of the company from the Convery family. She now co-owns the trimmed down, four-person firm, with Bill Leroyer.
Innovation is one of the traits that kept the company in business for half a century. “Harborside Realty was the one that started sharing listings on the Island,” Ms. Steele said. “In the ’60s, you got a listing and sat on it until you sold it.” What started as a new way to broaden the firm’s reach now encompasses a computer network that brings local, national, and international buyers in the electronic front door.
“The changes are good,” Ms. Steele said. “The exposure we can now get for a listing is just amazing. Before, you had to call a local broker, and trust he was going to show you everything he has. Now a buyer sitting at home can see everything.”
Mr. Leroyer bought his share of the firm a decade ago. He brought with him organizational skills and a list of people in the market for large equestrian properties, when he left his job promoting and managing horse events to become a broker. He still keeps an eye out for equestrian farm buyers, but nearly all of Harborside Realty’s sales are residential property, and most of those are second homes.
He says the industry has a bad reputation for aggressive, pushy sales people. “That’s not our style at all,” Mr. Leroyer said. “We let the clients decide what they want to buy. We guide and advise them.”
The owners are still planning how to mark the 50-year milestone, but Ms. Steele said she hopes to include some of the many people who worked at Harborside Realty over the years.
“There are Harborside alumni all over the real estate community,” she said. “I’d like to have a reunion party.”