By Maureen Werther
As Jeff and Deane Pfeil prepare to transition out of their commercial real estate and development careers and into their new lives on Bainbridge Island in Washington state, they have a lot to be proud of and a lot to be grateful for.
The husband-and-wife team created Pfeil & Co. Real Estate and moved to Saratoga Springs from Westchester in 1994. Both were commercial real estate brokers and they started out managing shopping center developments, moving into doing historic restorations and adaptive re-use apartments. Deane was born and raised in Troy, while Jeff comes from the small town of Carmel, in Putnam County.
Looking back on their careers, Deane recalls that there was no internet when they first began and it took a lot of cold-calling to develop a client base, something at which she excelled.
“We liked to joke that I would get them on the line and Jeff would reel them in,” she said.
The Pfeils first major project in Saratoga Springs was the office building at 340 Broadway.
“The property had been sitting vacant since 1969, and we kept asking ourselves why nothing had been done with it,” she said. Deane zeroed in on Eddie Bauer and “barraged” them with flyers, mailings, and information about Saratoga Springs.
“I did this for more than a year, usually faxing them information about the city,” she said.
She finally managed to get the attention of a corporate leasing agent at Eddie Bauer. He agreed to come for a visit and Deane remembers that he arrived in downtown Saratoga on a cold, wet and miserable February day in 1996.
“Keep in mind that downtown Saratoga Springs in 1996 did not look the way it does today,” she said. But, the agent was willing to take a chance on the city.
“We built the building in six months,” she said, adding that Jeff coordinated the entire construction process. It was the first new office building to go up on Broadway in 50 years. From there, Pfeil & Co. handled all the leasing for Congress Park Center, bringing in stores like Gap, Ann Taylor and Banana Republic.
“I’m very proud of that. We really brought that part of Broadway alive,” said Deane.
She said Jeff excels at getting projects off the ground, and he had great successes over the years in getting difficult projects completed. Those projects included some major restorations in Troy.
The Powers Park Loft Condominiums in Lansingburgh is another of Deane’s favorite projects.
“The building was an old collar and cuffs factory and, as with all old buildings, it had a very interesting history, as well as some serious issues,” she said. “But Jeff is really good at solving problems and we ended up building a beautiful project, one I’m really proud of.”
Jeff called their early years getting started in Saratoga and some of the hurdles they had to overcome on their development projects. When 340 Broadway and the Congress Park Center were being leased, there was pushback from local business owners.
“I remember going to Downtown Business Association meetings,” he said. There were people who were against bringing in “chain” stores to downtown.
“But, the smaller local businesses ended up getting more business because of it,” said Jeff.
The Pfeils are also proud of their work in the community and grateful for the satisfaction it gave them. For Jeff, it was Universal Preservation Hall. He became involved in the effort to save the run-down building from being demolished. He and Tom Lewis, a Skidmore professor, were instrumental in raising funds, getting materials donated and transforming the former Methodist Church into the arts venue it has become today.
Deane said her greatest accomplishment was her service on the board of directors at Saratoga Hospital.
After completing the Leadership Saratoga program through the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce in 1996, she became involved in local boards. Between 1998 and 2012, she served first on the Hospital Foundation board and then on the main board of trustees.
“It was one of the most fulfilling and satisfying experiences ever,” said Deane. “We had a phenomenal board, with so many important contributors. Unlike many other boards, this board was actually listened to. It was a very high caliber of board members and I think of it as the highlight of my career as a volunteer.”