SPOTLIGHT ON: Bonnie Koff - Passionate About Helping the Area's Needy
Mary Prenon | August 2016
Bonnie Koff may be best known among HGAR members for orchestrating the annual Fashion Show for the Women’s Council of Realtors or for presiding over the HG Realtor Foundation’s fundraising committee. However, one thing is certain about this petite woman from Chicago—when it comes to fundraising, Koff will never take “no” for an answer!
An Associate Broker with William Raveis Legends Realty Group in Briarcliff and Tarrytown, Koff led the newly re-launched Realtor Foundation though three successful “Pub Night” events, raising more than $10,000. She’s already planning a fourth event for the fall, following the September 15 “Monte Carlo Night” Gala at Glen Island Harbour Club in New Rochelle. “This is going to be a fantastic event and we’re hoping to raise even more than we did last year,” she said.
Over the years, Koff has raised thousands of dollars for local charities, including the Westchester Coalition for the Hungry and Homeless and many others. The last Fashion Show brought in more than $23,000. Years ago, she chaired the “Hearts for the Homeless” and “Hope for the Homeless,” bringing in more than $30,000. “I’m very passionate about helping those in need,” she said. “I just love doing this, and yes, I’m a beggar when it comes to asking for donations,” she joked.
Born and raised in the “Windy City,” Koff studied Art at Drake University in Iowa and later received a B.A. in Fine Arts from the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. After graduating, she worked with an advertising agency in Chicago, doing catalog illustrations. Later, she married, started a family and became a “stay at home” Mom.
It wasn’t long before she found her fundraising passion, becoming the Northern Illinois Chair for the Women’s American Orientation for Rehabilitation Through Training. The organization, which began in Israel, provides education and helps people to live independently.
In 1968, Koff made the big move to New York and settled in Scarsdale. In her experience, the winters here are much milder that in the Midwest. “Yes, the weather was really an issue in Chicago,” she explained. “We had some really bad winters and I have to laugh when people here complain about the snow.”
Putting her arts background to work once again, Koff opened an art gallery in Mamaroneck, featuring paintings, etchings and woodworks by young American artists. The shop, called “Imperator,” also offered unique framing.
“Imperator” flourished from 1969 through 1975, with people from all over the New York metro area shopping there. She later sold the gallery, and in 1975, she joined the staff of the Sarah Neuman Nursing Home in arts and recreation therapy. “My mother hated that I was working there,” she admitted. “She always told me ‘you’re going to get old working there’. Instead it was a great experience.”
Her next career was the owner of Nails, Etc, the first nail salon in Westchester. “I remember seeing a ‘for rent’ sign in the Colonial Village Shopping Center in Scarsdale and I asked someone what business was coming in there” she recalled. When she found out the space was up for grabs, she immediately wrote a check for $500 to hold it for 24 hours. “I always wanted to open a nail salon and when I told my husband, he thought I was talking about nails and hammers!”
The shop offered manicures, pedicures, facials and waxing. Koff grew the business for 17 years. When she sold it in 1995, she had five locations—Scarsdale, Armonk, and Briarcliff in Westchester County, and two in the State of Minnesota. Koff met her Minnesota business partner while vacationing in Turks and Caicos.
Her foray into real estate came shortly afterward. “My father always said I could sell a lot on the ocean,” she quipped, “so I thought, why not go into real estate.” After earning her license, she met J.P. Endres and joined the David Endres Realty Group in Scarsdale. “It was a wonderful beginning,” said Koff.
She received her broker’s license in 1997, worked with various firms in Westchester and then landed at William Raveis Legends in 2008. “I just love what I do,” she said. “Helping people get to their next plateau in their lives is very rewarding.”
Koff credits Endres with getting her involved with the Women’s Council of Realtors. “She literally pushed me into becoming a member,” she said. “It was fun and exciting.” Koff made her way through the ranks of the WCR, becoming president of the local chapter and also serving on the state level. In addition, she has served as a member of the Communications Committee for the New York State Association of Realtors.
She has been included in Westchester Magazine’s Top Realtors list for the past six years and has been named a top producer throughout her 20-year real estate career. Koff also served on the Board of Directors for the Westchester Coalition for the Hungry and Homeless (which has since merged with the Food Bank for Westchester) from 2012 to 2014.
Currently, she lives in Port Chester and has three grown children and eight grandchildren. She recalls introducing her 11-year old granddaughter to her world of fundraising. She asked for help selling raffles to benefit local charities at the Affordable Housing Expo. “I was so proud of her—she sold $600 worth of raffles in just a half an hour,” said Koff. “It was a great life lesson.”