Federal Realty Investment Trust, based in Rockville, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer, and the company has involved its employees in this milestone in a unique way.
Employees were asked to write an essay about their work experience with the company. Employees who contributed were invited to go to New York City to participate in a two-day celebration culminating with the ringing of the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) to mark the anniversary. More than 70 employees, along with the company’s executives, will stand together at the NYSE bell ringing on Monday, June 18.
Their stories not only serve as testaments to Federal Realty’s growth and success, but they also detail how the company has positively affected their careers and their lives. Below are a few of these letters from local Federal Realty employees who reside in Rockville and Chevy Chase.
I would like to attend the anniversary trip to New York. Here is my story…
I was born in Bethesda in the early '60s and as long as I can remember, I loved shopping at Federal Realty Shopping Centers. One of my first memories was shopping for bell bottom pants in the Husky Department of J.C. Penney’s at Congressional Plaza.
Although the J.C. Penney experience was OK, the true joy came when we dined (remember—the Husky Department) at Eddie Leonard’s Sandwich Shop. This was often followed by a trip to Kemp Mill records (I still remember the commercial where they demonstrated low prices by smashing a record with a sledge hammer) to buy the latest Motown sounds.
The weekends often brought us back to Congressional to do some serious exercise, Duck Pin Bowling! Ah yes, that dungeon of a bowling alley, now my office, was where the good times rolled. There was also the fine dining of burgers and fries—I looked sharp in my psychedelic husky pants. Yes, there were many very wonderful memories associated with Congressional Plaza, however there were other Federal Realty shopping centers in my life.
The first five-speed banana seat bike that I had was from E.J. Korvette, now Mid-Pike and soon to be Pike & Rose. The trips to Korvette were often paired with trips to Super Giant, now Montrose Crossing. The Super Giant was always special—especially the annual tent sale. But, the best Federal Realty Shopping Center of all was Wildwood, where we would ride our banana seat bikes to buy donuts from the tiny store that was Montgomery Donuts. We would push by all of the Montgomery County police officers to get our hands on the world famous MoDo’s Chocolate Glazed Donuts.
The Federal Realty shopping centers were home and the memories were many. As I became an adult and became aware of commercial real estate as a business, I appreciated the properties and the reputation of Federal Realty, so when I decided to pursue commercial real estate as my career three years ago, Federal Realty was the only company that I approached. I was delighted when I was offered the position with Federal Realty. It meant a great deal to me to work for a company that I felt a connection to since childhood.
Now that I have been with Federal Realty for three years, I can appreciate the thought that was behind the making of my childhood memories—the attention to detail, the quality locations and the sense of place. I now know that it is no accident that my shopping trips meant so much to me growing up, and that the only place that I could begin a professional real estate career was at Federal Realty.
That position that I have today is much more than a job. I see this as an opportunity to learn from one of the most reputable teams of retail real estate professionals about the largest industry (after government) in Washington, DC. The impact of learning the Federal Realty culture and the understanding of how the basic blocking and tackling (property operations the Federal way) of our industry impacts the futures of our retailers, their customers and our stockholders is truly an awesome realization.
During my workday, I routinely receive calls and emails from people who have shopped at our properties. Some of my favorite calls are from those who ultimately identify themselves as stockholders.
They appreciate me listening to what they have to say and solving the issue that they have called about. Many times they tell me about how long they have been shoppers and stockholders of Federal Realty and it reminds me again of my long-term association with the company.
I have been an investor now for many years and have always been in awe of Wall Street. I have felt firsthand the ups and downs of the stock market. I have also, at times, been very disappointed at the decisions that employees of companies that I have invested in have made, and that is why I do take the time to listen to the feedback of our shoppers who may also be stockholders. The fact that the decisions that I make daily impact so many investors who believe in our company is a responsibility that I take very seriously. It would be a huge honor to be a part of the 50th anniversary experience on Wall Street—this has always been a place that I have wanted to visit and it will mean even more now, knowing that my company is being recognized on this occasion.
Being at the closing bell of Wall Street is also on my bucket list—as is getting out of my husky pants.
STEPHANIE HAREN BEELER
Federal Realty is my family in Maryland.
As many of you know, I’m from Canton, OH. I love my state, and I never miss an opportunity to describe my hometown, my beautiful family and my amazing friends. What you may not know, is that whenever I’m in Canton, or when Canton comes to me, they hear all about Federal Realty. They go on tours of our properties, dine in our restaurants, and shop in our stores. I am a proud tour guide of our properties and our office building—my Grandpa loves that we converted an old bowling alley.
I’ve lived in Maryland for nine years now. I guess you could say a large part of me is still homesick. If you’ve ever been homesick, you might understand why that feeling causes me to hold on tight whenever I find something meaningful in my new life. Federal Realty is where I come to work and learn, and I couldn’t ask for better teachers; Rich Abruscato is an incredible mentor and friend, someone who understands loyalty on every level, who succeeds in business, but ultimately, will go down in history as an amazing father. Ralph Ours is sincere and eloquent, Stuart Biel is passionate and creative, and Chris Weilminster and Wendy Seher, so on-task and hardworking, somehow always see the big picture and make everyone feel like an important part of it. My office is my favorite room—though not an official part of my house, it is the place where I most often feel a sense of accomplishment. I am perhaps my favorite version of myself here, working within a fast-paced, multifaceted, exciting industry, doing my part to get the deals done. I’m also blessed to work with some dear friends, who always know when to offer a dark chocolate square or a helping hand. Federal provides stability to my Maryland life—I am proud to be a part of a successful and strong company.
I have distinct memories of my Grandparents’ retirements. After dedicating their majority of their working lives to a single company, they retired as beloved and respected members of a team. I find it sad that in today’s world, individuals tend to jump from job to job. Sometimes relocation can’t be helped, but I like the idea of a commitment—between an employee and a company—that is mutually beneficial and long-lasting. I hope that someday I can look back and see that I made a lasting and positive impact at this company; I hope to make a difference, and I hope to be remembered. On a daily basis, Federal Realty gives me a home away from home, and I’ll always be grateful for that.
Congrats on 50 years, Federal Realty! I’m truly honored to be a part of this celebratory year.
“You did what?!” This was my reaction when my dad told me in passing that I was going to have a job for the summer after my sophomore year of high school. “I was in Motophoto, and filled out the paperwork for you. Don’t worry, I have already called your school to get you a student work permit (he knew that this was my only move to get out of this). You start on Monday.”
As I sat there in shock, my vision of my summer flew out the window. Following through with my father’s commitment, I started my first day of work at Motophoto on Bethesda Avenue, one week after school let out. This marked the beginning of my unknowing and long-lasting relationship with Federal Realty.
Forty hours a week. It seemed like a never-ending marathon that summer that continued into the school year, and ALMOST continued into the next summer. Every day, I was at Bethesda Row (even on my days off). It quickly became community. All six of my siblings were also employed at Bethesda Row that summer, as well. I would grab lunch with my brother at Rio Grande, stop by to see my sister bartending at Centro, and visit with my other sister, while she sold her artwork in the frame shop. Over the years, Bethesda Row has become the common thread that ran through my family memories. We celebrated my sister’s wedding at Redwood. We had Christmas Eve dinner at Centro. I hosted my sweet 16 birthday party at Rio Grande. What I didn’t understand then, but what I understand now, is WHY Bethesda Row feels like a community.
A year and a half ago, I walked through the front doors at the Federal Realty for my first interview. I sat down in the interview room, waiting for Jill Powell to come in. After interviewing for an hour, I thought to myself, “I think this is going well. DON’T BLOW!” I was ecstatic when I received the call the next day asking for a second interview.
Since starting at Federal Realty, I have gained invaluable experience. I feel blessed that my first job in the “real world” has been fulfilling. With each event and experience we create, I feel an overwhelming sense of pride at the end. I feel accomplished for what I have done, but the real accomplishment is what we have done for the community. This job is more than a job because I feel that I am able to contribute to others’ lasting memories. The crowd might not see me running behind the scenes, but I see their smiles, I hear their laughter, and feel the happiness that is there.
More importantly, I understand how I fit into the big picture. How marketing can create a sense of place and makes a direct impact on all parties at Federal Realty, from the tenants to the shareholders to the executives to the departments to ourselves. There is a feeling of loyalty at this company that is felt by everyone. Jill has said many times “you’ll have to excuse me for gushing, but I am the unofficial Federal Realty cheerleader.” Well, I think that I am starting to rival her with that sentiment as I happily tell my friends and family about my day and how I am able to contribute to the company and thoroughly enjoy myself at the same time. FRIT has given me a priceless foundation for my career, and I look forward to the years to come.
I will always remember the expression my dad had when I showed him my offer letter—he smiled and said, “You did what?!”
MARY JANE SHAFER
One of the only statements I remember from the commencement speech at my college graduation was that the time I spent at college was one of many threads making up the tapestry of my life. Threads of the past, threads of the present and threads of the future all work together to build a unique pattern and picture of my life. Of course, immediate “past threads” that come to mind are particular birthdays, that first day of driving in driver’s ed (thank goodness for the brake on the teachers side), my first paycheck (and the subsequent realization of being a taxpayer...yikes), and other major, yet scattered, milestones in life.
When I consider “present threads,” I cannot ignore FRIT’s influence on my life for the past two and a half years. During that time, I’ve certainly grown professionally—in my understanding of nitty-gritty accounting rules (thankfully, debits still equal credits in every situation…hallelujah). And I’ve also come to understand the importance of entities working as a team. However, more importantly, I’ve come to believe in taking time to recognize milestones reached in the process of working hard, succeeding or failing. In the quarterly meetings, I so enjoy that FRIT, as a company, takes time to recognize “milestones” and “threads,” for example: Find a Better Way Award winners, transformation of centers due to radical developments, consistently (over decades mind you) distributing dividends, and the humorous videos and pictures that give opportunities to share and see glimpses of “FRIT life” beyond our own piles of paperwork and issues.
One of the reasons I considered FRIT as an employer was so I wouldn’t get lost in the “accounting world”—only interacting with other accountants (my co-workers and heaven-forbid…auditors). What I was hoping for was a workplace where, in the midst of doing my job, I would interact with people using their talents, their relative nerdy book knowledge and their energy to produce quality work and create a respected business environment…an environment where I could learn how my job is “one thread” in the greater tapestry of a company. In the time I’ve been here, I’ve directly interacted with approximately 50 percent of the people employed with FRIT (based on rough estimation with phone list…I’m an accountant, had to throw in a "percent" somewhere). Due to those interactions, I’ve learned about lien laws, recovering tax expenses, IT software coding (very minimally mind you), and all other sorts of things, including the reality of the “FRIT family.”
Hypothesizing on what I might remember from the “FRIT thread” years in the future, I know I’ll remember things like the swamp of gnats in 2009, the broken air-conditioner in 2010, the winter storm of 2011, but, most of all, I will remember friendships built, lessons learned and sharing in milestones of FRIT’s life. Getting to ring the bell at the NY stock exchange will be a huge milestone for FRIT—and since I’m part of the FRIT family—I would like to share in its milestone moment of recognizing 50 years of business well done and being part of the even greater family of “corporate America."