EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Sitting out on the deck at Harbor Pines Golf Club, Edward Gurwicz and his son, Mitchell, are all smiles.
On a cool spring day, with 150 golfers out on the course for a tournament, the view of the green is tranquil. If you didn’t know any better, you would think you were overlooking a private course somewhere in the Carolinas. Although the course is tucked in a residential community off Ocean Heights Avenue, it’s open to the public.
It has been for 25 years.
“It’s amazing,” said Ed, 90. “I don’t know where the time went.”
Edward and his two sons, Joseph, 61, and Mitchell, 50, run Max Gurwicz Enterprises, a more than 60-years-old real estate and development firm founded by Ed’s father, Max.
While the family mostly owns residential properties, hotels and shopping centers, it decided 25 years ago to open a golf course with a residential community built around it.
“One of the main focuses of our company, and our origins of the company, come from homebuilding,” Mitchell said. “In the late ’80s, early ’90s, there was a big emphasis on golf course communities. They exploded in the late ’90s ... but we were keeping up with the trends and the market needs, and we got in on the earlier side of that.”
The Harbor Pines property is more than 650 acres and includes the golf course, a residential neighborhood and the forests and wetlands around it.
Max acquired the land, which was a farm at the time, because there was a certain radish grown there that he liked.
“We were at the point that we were buying properties and developing them as businesses,” Mitchell said. “My grandfather offered to buy the property with the proviso that (the farmer) had to stay on and live there for free for two years, but farm those radishes.”
Today, homes are still going up on the property, being built by both the Gurwicz family and a third-party home builder.
“I think it helps contribute to the 25 years,” Mitchell said. “It’s one business, one owner, one family. In the golf business, that’s actually rare.”
The family’s newest project is the Cresson Hill rental apartments in Northfield. The project is more than 50% complete.
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But of all the projects the family has built, it’s hard to nail down a favorite.
It’s easy for Edward, though.
“The one where I can make money,” he said with a laugh.
“My favorite project is that I’m lucky enough to be able to work in a family business that is lucky enough to have continual projects,” Mitchell said. “It’s funny. Even to this day when we either complete a project or sell a project, there’s always a little bit of a remorse that goes along with it because we like to be busy. We like to be busy and also develop here in this area. We love them all.”
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Diversifying your business is one lesson that Mitchell has learned over time and that his father and grandfather instilled in him.
“We were able to sustain ourselves by being diversified, and that’s never been truer than in the last 10 years when the housing market tanked,” he said. “While we are a pretty conservative company with how we operate, I believe that it was more important to be diversified, even in a small area like South Jersey.”
For Edward, his favorite part about the business is seeing a project through the process and become successful, but it doesn’t come without hard work.
“You have to please the public; that’s where you get paid,” he said. “If you build a hotel, you’ve got to be involved, see it started, see it go forward. Give them what they need ... what the public needs.”
At 90, Edward has no plans of slowing down. He’s in the office every day putting in work just like everybody else.
“If I don’t go in, they won’t pay me,” he said jokingly.
He gets that work ethic from his father. Mitchell said he hopes to match that same work ethic.
As for the future, Mitchell couldn’t name an area of real estate he wanted to get into that the family hasn’t touched yet, but if an opportunity arises, he said the family wouldn’t be opposed.
“One of the lessons that the third generation gets to learn is to know what you do and do what you do well,” he said. “So we stay in our wheelhouse, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t look.”
What’s next is to continue to improve and build upon what they’re already doing, like making changes at the golf course.
“Twenty-five years is not a time to rest. It’s time to expand,” Mitchell said.
The club’s pro shop is moving to a new location in the building, banquet facilities are being updated, the outside deck is being expanded and a tavern-style grill room is in the works.
After 60-plus years in real estate, Edward said the key to success is having a good standing name with both customers and the community. Reputation is everything.
“You won’t be able to make a sale,” Mitchell said. “My grandfather taught us the most important thing in business is your name. We hope that in Atlantic County we’ve done a good job to have a good name and hopefully continue to.”
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