(Above: a 1920s scene from the San Leandro Plaza, taken roughly where the post office stands, shows how the city looked when this local firm began.)
As independent real estate agencies tumble like dominoes, gobbled up in corporate takeovers, San Leandro’s , remains standing after 89 years in business.
For four generations the agency, now located at 581 East 14th Street, has been serving the communities of San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Oakland, Castro Valley and Hayward.
Founded in 1923 by John A. Deadrich, Jr. with his wife, Grace, the company was originally located at East 14th Street and Peralta on a site now occupied by a city-owned parking lot.
Here is a look back at the history of the company and current owner Hank Deadrich’s predictions for where the local real estate market is headed and his take on what lies ahead for San Leandro, as a whole.
John Deadrich Jr. (Founder & Owner 1923)
Company founder, John Deadrich Jr. sold Underwood typewriters and his wife Grace was a teacher in Richmond when he started to sell real estate in Oakland’s Elmhurst and Fruitvale neighborhoods for the Fred T. Woods Company. It was the Roaring 20's and a period of sustained prosperity.
The couple decided San Leandro was a good place to do business and set up their own agency in town. Deadrich Real Estate remained in its original location until 1937 when it moved to its present site, nearby.
The agency forged strategic relationships with builders and came to be known as one of the premier boutique general brokerages in the area.
Meanwhile, the couple immersed themselves in San Leandro civic life, an ethos they would pass on to subsequent generations. (John became a charter member of the San Leandro Rotary Club and served as San Leandro Chamber of Commerce President in 1940. His son John Deadrich, III would go on to become Chamber President in 1960 and his grandson, Hank, would fill the same role in 1988.)
John Deadrich, III (Son and Owner 1949)
John Deadrich III and his wife, Doris, acquired the firm from his parents in 1949. These second-generation owners enjoyed the post-war boom of the 1950s when the GI Bill fueled home ownership. Affordable tract housing sprouted up almost overnight. Fruit orchards and other agricultural land were developed into suburban neighborhoods and the real estate business took off (For another , see "Lunch Bucket Paradise," a fictional account of San Leandro's Wasgington Manor neighborhood.)
During the boom, realtors realized they could work more efficiently and prosper together if they collaborated and shared information about their listings.
John was part of the original group that began working with other realtors to share listings – a practice that evolved into the creation of what is now known as the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
He also co-founded and served as president of the Southern Alameda County Board of Realtors (since renamed the Bay East Association of Realtors) and was an active member of the San Leandro Lions Club.
Henry P. (Hank) Deadrich (Grandson and Owner 1985)
Hank Deadrich, current owner of the firm with his wife Joanne, became immersed in the family business while still in high school, performing janitorial tasks, clerical work and later accounting. He obtained his real estate license in 1962, began running the business in 1983 and formally took over its operation a couple years later.
Like his father and grandfather, Hank has served as a director on the board of the real estate association in addition to playing an important role on the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce. He was an active member of the San Leandro Kiwanis Club, serving as its president in 1975 and being named Kiwanian of the Year in 1999.
He was also a founding member and past president of the San Leandro Scholarship Foundation and has been the President of and a board member of Eden Affordable Housing.
“Giving back to the community has been so important to our family,” said Hank, who continues, at age 72, to oversee the realty firm’s commercial and residential transactions and be involved with his many civic endeavors.
Wife, Joanne, a former teacher, continues to assist in the office helping handle its busy property management division and its bookkeeping.
Melissa Deadrich (Great-granddaughter of founder)
Fourth generation family member and only-child, Melissa Deadrich, graduated from Mills College and became a licensed real estate broker in 1992. She started at the family real estate agency, then left to gain experience in the corporate world. She worked as a manager of a Northern California commercial construction lending division for a bank and accrued 10 years experience in real estate financing and construction lending.
Melissa later returned to the family business and is now helping bring it into the 21st Century. (It now has a website, you can become a fan of it on Facebook, follow it on Twitter, read its blog, and subscribe to its RSS Feed.)
Melissa is married to Mario Albert, an attorney who works for a commercial real estate development company. The couple has a 14-month-old daughter (and presumably potential fifth generation real estate pro), named Gwyneth.
High rises on the horizon?
Hank Deadrich says it is difficult to know where to begin to talk about all the changes San Leandro has undergone since his family’s business was established nearly 90 years ago.
He personally experienced San Leandro’s growth burst in growth in the 40s and 50s and remembers the community then being tightly knit because its local business people lived in the community and were very invested in its well-being.
"The bankers and the business owners lived here, they were neighbors, they attended church together and knew each other from civic organizations. They truly felt a part of the city," he said.
“Today, many people who own businesses live elsewhere,” said Hank, “so we have to work harder at building that sense of community.”
With the advent of big box stores and franchise businesses and the creation of Bay Fair Center, he said, the downtown area, like many others in the country, has floundered.
He said the community must figure out what its true needs are and try to attract businesses to locate in the downtown area that will meet those needs.
He said San Leandro should think realistically about its socio-economic and demographic make-up and figure out how to serve its current population with stores and services downtown it will patronize.
“The residential areas have been maintained and held up well,” he said, “but we have work that remains on the downtown commercial areas.”
He said he has high hopes that a proposed will attract additional high-tech firms to locate in the city’s industrial area and that workers from those companies will help fuel renewed growth in the downtown area as they shop and dine at local businesses.
Hank says San Leandro has room to grow in the future, but up in terms of density rather than out with new tracts.
“We cannot create more land for housing without sacrificing commercial or industrial real estate,” he said.
Hank said rezoning such land for residential use would siphon off the employment opportunities and revenue streams such businesses can provide.
Instead, he sees high-rise housing developments as the eventual wave of the future in San Leandro and the East Bay.
As for San Leandro's shifting demographics over the years, Hank said he thinks the city's increased diversity has and will continue to strengthen it. He hopes that its disparate citizens will come together around their shared concern for the community and work more readily together.
“Unlike some larger neighboring cities, we still have an ability to be a small town” he said.
Hank is encouraged that neighborhood associations still thrive here and sees them as an important conduit to keeping San Leandrans connected with one another.
San Leandro Real Estate Market
Hank predicts as bank lending eases up that projects in the city will start to awaken again and real estate sales will be revived.
“Last year 63 percent of the Multiple Listing Service properties were considered distressed sales and this year that has been reduced to 40 percent,” he said, “so that is some improvement.”
While the number of home sales in the area have increased over last year, he said, prices have not necessarily followed. Still, he said, there are glimmers of hope. “Last year 10 percent of the market sold for under $100,000. This year only 1 percent will.” He predicts there will be improvement in the bottom of the market by the end of the year.
Hank is recommending prospective buyers purchase now because interest rates remain low and current property prices will likely rise.
He is suggesting sellers who have to sell because they are distressed and just cannot hang on to their home get out now via a short sale or foreclosure.
Those who still have equity in their homes may want to wait five years to sell, he said, until the market more fully rebounds.
“It depends on the seller’s circumstance,” said Hank, “do they need to get out from under their house now or can they wait. If they can wait, for how long?”
He said he believes there is an accelerating need for residential development in the Bay Area. “We have gone negative on building any new housing for the past four years,” he said, “and that pent-up demand will only build over time.”
“Jobs will return, the population is going to grow and we will need housing to serve that employment base,” he said.
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