Egg House hatched a Real Estate Empire
Pasco Times February 21st 1999 written by Logan S. Mabe
Land O’ Lakes, FL – She started out working out of an egg house, right next to the chicken coops, way down a dirt road out in the middle of nowhere. Juanita Dennis began her quarter century Career in real estate so far off the beaten path, it took more than the multiple listings to make a name for herself. It took drive, determination and a lot dues paying.
“She’s a real motivator” said Vince Arcuri, one of the top-selling agents at Dennis ERA Realty in Land O Lakes, who has known his boss since he was 7 years old. “She’s one of those rah-rah types of people. Real estate is really a cut-throat business, but through the years, she has really maintained an impeccable reputation.” “She’s done a wonderful job here,” said Land O Lakes development attorney Tim Hayes “She’s one of our Lutz- Land O Lakes success stories. She’s one very hard worker, very organized, and has set very lofty goals, many of which she has already accomplished.” “I knew she would be a success.” Said Brenda Landis, owner and president of All Realty Title in Lutz. “She’s a very aggressive, very shrewd businesswoman. She broke ground in real estate when it wasn’t fashionable for women to be in real estate. Twenty Five years ago, it was a man’s profession.”
Dennis, a mother of two, moved to Lutz with her husband Robert in 1964. That’s when Robert got his broker’s license and begin moving properties. In 1973, he formed Dennis Realty and Investment Corp. Two years later, Juanita got her real estate license and got busy. “We started with a name, a license and worked out a little egg house next to our home,” Dennis said “There was a sign off Crenshaw Lake Road, but you had to go down a dirt road to get to the office. It was a 10 acre chicken farm and we had two huge 135 foot chicken coops. Then there was this little house where they kept the eggs cool.” Out of that small, concrete building Dennis launched her empire. She celebrated her 25th anniversary in real estate last month with a big bash at Avila, not that far from the old Egg house, but light years away from it in terms of success. Out of ERA’s more than 3,500 officers, Dennis ERA is consistently in the top 100, finishing in 68th position last year, Dennis said. The office with about 60 agents on board, Did $61.5 million in business last year, she said. For Dennis, those numbers aren’t peaks but bigger steps at the career ladder that seems to lead nowhere but up.
You hear a lot about goals in the real estate business. Agents and brokers have goals, office managers have goals, agency presidents have goals. Despite having reached a rather lofty position in the industry, Dennis has never stopped setting goals for herself.
“The first year I was in business, 1975, my income at that time was $11,500, which was actually very good.” said Dennis a Nashville Tennessee native whose rolling Southern drawl wraps itself easily around such matter of fact statements. “I exceeded my goal. I was a top producer. I didn’t realize I was, but I sold and listed a lot of property.” Dennis said she learned her trade mostly through trial and error, picking up pointers here and there from other pros. The daughter of a minister and a homemaker, Dennis found an easy alliance with Robert, who specialized in land sales while she focused on home sales. “I basically took the company and ran with it,” Dennis said. Quickly, Dennis carve out a niche for herself in the sleepy suburbs of North Tampa, Lutz and Land O’ Lakes, which bore little resemblance then to the boom-town the area has become. “There was no gas stations, absolutely no grocery stores, and very little business,” Dennis said. “You had to go down to Bearss Avenue, and there wasn’t much there either. To get groceries, you had to go down even further south.” Dennis concentrated her efforts in Lutz home sales, and as the area prospered so did she.
In 1980, the Dennises moved from the Egg house to a 1,200 square-foot building on U.S. 41. “We thought we’d died and gone to heaven,” she said. Then, in 1988, they added a second story to the building and joined the ERA Realty organization. In 1996, they moved a little further north into Land O’ Lakes, building another two-story office, the home of only the second elevator in Land O’ Lakes. (The first is at the Pasco County Government building on U.S. 41 North.)
Nowadays, Robert runs the couple’s insurance and mortgage companies. Juanita has moved beyond listing and showing houses to managing the growing agency, which now does business throughout Tampa and Central Pasco. “Agents have to have the right kind of direction and training or they won’t make it,” she said. “Only two out of 100 will make it. But if they have the desire, commitment and direction and training, they definitely are going to make it.” That was the case with Arcuri, a former fuel handler with Tampa Electric, whose blue-collar job had him plodding home every day toolbox in hand, covered in coal dust. “Juanita really encouraged me to get into real estate, so in 1991 I did,” Acura said. “And I’ve done pretty well. They just sent me a letter saying that I was ranked in the top one-fifteenth of 1 percent among all the ERA agents in the world.” Through the odds of realizing that kind of success are long, Dennis said there’s no great secret to the business she excelled in.
“Commitment, working with a goal and prosperity… that’s probably the secret to success,” she said. “It’s just talking to people who want to sell or buy real estate. The rest of it is not too hard.”
Juanita Dennis and Carl Stratton