Occasionally, a neighbor’s roof needs to be repaired, so you start a construction firm.
At least that’s what happens in Ryan Ogle’s world. Ogle launched the residential real estate brokerage Blu House Properties in 2008, launched a property management firm in 2009 and the construction leg in 2012. Ogle now is pursuing development.
“It’s been a slow process, we don’t bite off more than we can chew,” Ogle said. “Each piece grows out of the last one so much we have to make it an official company.”
Initially, Blu House managed 15 homes on the side, before it became too much to do without operating independently. Now, the company manages more than 300 buildings. Ogle said he always has maintained a small construction crew to do repairs and projects on the company’s properties.
“But then, you catch yourself doing a neighbor’s roof, because there’s a guy working on a house and they (come) over,” Ogle said. “We’d usually say no, but there’s an opportunity there.”
With all three separate entities doing well, Ogle formalized it and created Blu Holdings, a parent company that can perform all the accounting, payroll and human resources work for the subsidiaries and their 22 employees.
With the parent company comes the opportunity to dive into commercial real estate development. Ogle said he initially followed the real estate path because there are so many opportunities to play different roles in the industry, and his intentions were always to wear all the different hats.
Now, with the development hat, he can play an integral part in the redevelopment of some of the neighborhoods in Grand Rapids, including his home neighborhood of Eastown, and Bridge Street.
“When I was a kid in Eastown, I always told people Wealthy Street will be the area,” Ogle said. “I didn’t have the money or know-how to buy stuff up, but I knew I was right. Now, I really wish I had the money when I was 18.”
His first redevelopment opportunity came when he purchased a property on Bridge Street, which now houses One Bourbon, a restaurant and bar.
Ogle also recently leased a building in Eastown at 1422 Wealthy St. SE to Jonas Paul Eyewear.
“I spent 20 years of my life in Eastown, so to own a place here is personal,” he said.
Ogle said he believes there is a space for him in the commercial development realm, despite all the developers already active in the city. He knew it wouldn’t make sense for a company, such as Rockford Construction, to buy up all the buildings on Bridge Street, so he took hold of the opportunity.
When Blu House Properties listed a building on Bridge Street and it didn’t sell, he found an out-of-state investor and bought it himself. He won’t, however, go after a big fish and get caught unable to finish a $10-million project he couldn’t afford in the first place.
“When I saw that Rockford built their headquarters on the West Side, I knew they weren’t dumb,” Ogle said. “I knew Bridge Street would be like Wealthy, and this time, I was in the position to maybe buy something. It’s been great, and it’s almost like every month since I bought it, something else in the area is announced.
“I can’t compete with Rockford, but I can pick up a nice little mixed-use building and play around in the shadows and see what happens.”
Ogle is out planting seeds to keep his business churning and sees plenty of room for his firms to grow in the coming years.
“We go after it, we door knock and create relationships and that’s where our opportunities come from,” Ogle said. “When you door knock, those opportunities sometimes don’t come for three years, but we’re young and we’ll be around.”