BUYING INTO TRADITION: Local real estate firm builds business on family name

COLUMBIA CITY — In her early 30s, Angela Grable-Garcia may appear too young to own a real estate company, but the business runs in her blood. Grable & Associates Realty is a three-generation real estate firm serving Whitley County and surrounding areas.In 1984, Richard Grable, Angela’s grandfather, and Steve Bohn started Bohn and Grable.When Bohn passed away in 1986, Richard purchased his share of the business from Bohn’s widow, Ruby Bohn, now Ruby Brower.Angela’s father, Rick Grable, was waiting in the wings to jump in on the business. “He joined Richard in late 1986, early 1987 and then took over the company fully in 1996 when grandpa passed away,” said Angela. The company’s name changed in 1991 from Bohn and Grable to Grable & Associates Realty. Angela said, “I was around 10 at the time and Dad actually let me design the logo. In 1999, I joined Grable & Associates as an agent and received my brokers license in 2001.” In 2008, the family owned real estate firm was again reinventing itself. Rick and Angela, now the duo in charge, formed Grable & Associates Realty, LLC and Angela became a partner. In two short years, the company was making way for new signs that now incorporated a company mascot.“We adopted Fernando the Frog as our new mascot and added in our slogan ‘dedicated to finding you the perfect pad,’” Angela said.“In October of 2010 I took over full ownership of the company and was blessed enough to have my Dad work for me for a few months before he became to ill to work anymore.”Rick passed away in April of 2011. But business wasn’t just about the dollar for these giants in Angela’s life. Although the company has evolved time and time again, one thing remains the same, Angela said, and that is the heart behind the business.“All of the owners had huge hearts. I can remember the love from my grandfather as I actually lived with him when he passed,” Angela said. In keeping with the family values, Angela said her dad was a servant and reached out to help those wanting to break the bondage of alcoholism through sponsoring people in the Alcoholics Anonymous program.“I will ever forget Dad’s funeral when my uncle, Pastor Tim Grable, asked those in attendance to stand up if Dad had helped them to get sober. I stood with them even though I was never an alcoholic, because he used this same program to introduce me to God,” Angela said.“I got to know God for about four years with Dad’s help before he passed, but I still say that I never really knew God until Dad was gone. That was the first time in my life that I had ever fallen down to the point where I couldn’t get back up. I needed God to intervene and pick me up off the floor after so many nights of tears.”Angela said she now has the same servant’s heart her father had after going through the grief of losing him.“I have chosen to help as many others as possible to find, understand and accept God’s love as it is completely life changing,” said Angela.Making the moveWith the company growing, Angela was faced with the pains of needing to expand. She was ready to make the move to Fort Wayne, but a divine encounter made her rethink her plan.“I was in the Prayer Room here in Columbia City and I drove by this building. I felt like I got hit by a truck. I hadn’t been looking for anything, but I knew I was supposed to get this property,” said Angela about the former Chamber of Commerce building on Line Street.“Actually they were pulling it off the market. So I came, looked at it and wrote them an offer right away. My husband hadn’t even seen it until after we closed.”The move was a big leap of faith for Angela, but she said she felt the company had good agents that would make the move financially rewarding.“Its been a total blessing. It wasn’t my plan to expand in Columbia City, but I have faith that our agents can do a good job in the area. They are good agents, have good heats and great integrity,” Angela said.“It was a scary thing to do in this market,” Angela said about buying the new property. “The payment is a lot bigger, but I moved here on faith.”She is quick to say, “Everything in life and the blessings in life come from God. The publicity that this building has gotten us leaves me thinking, ‘Wow. God really knows what he is doing. This is not something I would have done on my own.”Leadership under fireIn the middle of a shifting economy and a real estate market that is ever changing, the Grable name has longevity. Angela attributes that sustained success to the right kind of leadership.“I try to let God make company choices. I try to listen,” said Angela. “I like to think that God leads our company because God leads me and I lead our company.”With the support of her team, Angela walked through the death of her father and kept the business he helped build alive. But she is very clear about those long and emotional months. It was her team that helped her through.“When Dad passed, some of the agents stepped up and supported me. I have those mentors that would say, ‘Your Dad would have thought that or done that.’”Angela said, “My Dad was everything to me. He was my partner and my best friend. It was tough when he died.”In April 2011, when Rick died, Angela had only held the company reigns for six months. Up to that point, Rick was still commanding the accounting. His death meant that Angela had to take over facets of the business that were somewhat foreign for her.“That first year I was beyond overwhelmed,” said Angela. “I kept praying for some kind of partner to come along because I felt so alone. Someone through church said, ‘You get a hold of Lisa Osborn-Gomez. She’s a really good personal and business coach.’ I started meeting with her and she helped me so much that I now have my agents work with her.”The strains of working the business without her partner made Angela lean on her faith. That in turn added depth to her as a person and as a business woman.“I felt God has held my hand through all this and he made sure I got though all this. He sent me the help I needed,” Angela said. “The agents here have been given the opportunity to hold me up. They were all really supportive. In the past, I was the one holding all of them up. So it gave them the opportunity to carry me and care for me.”Business isn’t boringThe real estate business can be full of deadlines, dollars and deals. At Grable Realty & Associates, Angela’s team takes time to relieve the stress and have fun as a family. Richard was a “silly” guy, according to Angela, and that silliness is still alive in the halls at Grable & Associates Realty.“If there is no one in the office, we might have ‘Vanilla Ice’ playing and I am doing the ‘running man.’ We are silly behind closed doors and we try to keep it fun and spirits up,” Angela said. “We support each other and don’t cut the throats of our own people. We work as a team and have fun as a team.”Moving to a new location left the old office building, on Chicago St., empty. Angela said she her sense of nostalgia made her not want to sell the property. Just as she was wondering what to do with the building, another idea came. “I knew I was supposed to give my church the old office. New Hope Wesleyan will be using that for a food bank,” said Angela. But with a mortgage on the old building, Angela was not sure how to make the money work. Cue Star Bank.A small office space is being rented by Star Bank’s mortgage banker, Michelle Miller at the real estate firm’s new location.“The payment at the old office is exactly what Star Bank is going to be paying us to rent this one room here,” said Angela. “My husband reminded me that God had worked it out. How did I not see that? Of course God had a plan with that.”Hanging on Angela said that things are a little different now that she sits at the head of the company. Things are more organized and she faces problems with more control than her dad, so she said. “We laugh now at how Dad would have handled situations because he would have went into it roaring, but I handle it differently.”But there is still a part of her that longs to share the business with her dad.“I miss him, I am going to always miss him. I am glad that God can take that horrible thing in my life and turn it into a blessing for me, the agents and our customers,” said Angela.“When I get really busy, I think, ‘If Dad was here we could partner together.’ We would both be here until midnight. We’d be doing it together, drinking coffee and giggling about stuff and making it fun. I wouldn’t be here alone.”Angela said she misses her Dad when something exciting happens in the business. “I want to pick up the phone and tell him because he would always get so excited for it. I lost my mom when I was seven, so Dad was all that I had.”However, the two didn’t always see eye-to-eye. “There are times I am glad I don’t have to argue with him over a business decision, but really, I’d give anything to have a nice big argument with Dad.”There have been many changes within the company, but Angela said her dad would be proud and excited about where the company is headed.Angela said, “Dad would have been right in the middle of all of this. He would have loved it. He would have been nervous, but he would have loved it.”With the move to its new location, 201 N. Line St., the company and its 12 agents will celebrate with an open house Friday from 4 to 8 p.m.