Spotlight on: A Commercial ‘Foodie’ In the Making

Mary Prenon | March 3, 2015

John Lavelle
John Lavelle

John Lavelle, Associate Broker with R.J. Smith Realty in Pine Bush, has had his hand in some delicious deals throughout the Hudson Valley.

He recently finished working on a deal to bring United Natural Foods Inc. to Orange County. The natural foods wholesaler supplies food products to high-end grocery stores like Whole Foods, and is building a more than 600,000-square-foot warehouse in Montgomery.

Lavelle is also working on a deal with Amy’s Kitchen, an organic food manufacturer, to open its first East Coast location in Goshen. “It’s one of the fastest growing organic food companies in the country,” said Lavelle.  “Right now they’re out West, so we’d be delighted to welcome them here as their foray into the East Coast.”

The company would build its own facility there and could bring hundreds of jobs to the area. “We’re starting to see a real food cluster here in the Hudson Valley, and that’s great because we want to see these firms supporting local business and local agriculture,” he added.

A resident of Sullivan County, Lavelle has worked with R.J. Smith since 2001, starting as a salesperson and later earning his broker’s license. His commercial real estate dealings include industrial, office and retail, and about 80% of his business is within Orange County.

He also currently serves as president of the New York State Commercial Association of Realtors (NYSCAR), which provides assistance to any local association. He travels monthly to Albany, Rochester, Binghamton, Buffalo, Syracuse and Long Island to attend NYSCAR meetings.

NYSCAR’s next Hudson Valley region meeting will actually be a two-day conference on April 1 and 2 at the Hyatt House in Fishkill.  Day 1 will be a Professional Education Day offering a seven-hour CE credit course on “Financial Analysis Tools for Commercial Real Estate.”  Day 2 is being billed as a “Million Dollar Marketing Day” with various presentations throughout the day.

Lavelle credits much of his success to his previous position as Director of Business Attraction with the Orange County Partnership, where he spent four years scoping out the best areas for new businesses.  “I was familiar with the sites and the approval processes, so getting into commercial real estate was a natural next step,” he said.

Lavelle began his business career with the Times Herald Record, working in advertising sales and then marketing and special publications for nine years.

While he has noticed local trends of shortages in industrial spaces and good land sites, Lavelle believes the Hudson Valley’s commercial real estate market is a very healthy one. “The business flow is cyclical, and you do need to have a lot of staying power to be a commercial broker. Sometimes it can take five to 10 years for the approval process for a large development, but the average commercial project takes only about a year to get approved,” he explained.

Another exciting project that just received final approval is the new Kikkerfrosch Brewery to be built in Goshen.  “We expect construction to start in late spring, and we’re excited about how it will help the local economy,” he said.

Lavelle has been a member of HGAR’s Commercial & Investment Division (CID) since 2011, and also served as co-chair of the Orange County Alliance for Balanced Growth, the local voice for quality commercial development.   The Alliance is a cooperative effort among area developers, landowners, commercial real estate professionals, engineers, land-use attorneys, construction services and the Orange County Partnership.

When he’s not selling or leasing commercial property, Lavelle enjoys hunting, gardening and vacationing in the Catskills.  He admits he’s a big fan of backpacking and camping. He is married and enjoys spending time with his two grown daughters and three grandchildren who live nearby.

Mary Prenon
HGAR, Director of Communications