It’s been quite a journey for Front Street to become the company you see today. The first steps of this journey took place on a walk along the waterfront in Wilmington, North Carolina in 2002. Nick Banks, founder and managing director of Front Street, resided in South Florida at the time and was director of finance at Stiles Corporation, a large commercial real estate development firm. His role at Stiles was somewhat high-profile and entrepreneurial, but deep down he had a vision of one day owning his own company. On a beautiful, warm day while on vacation in Wilmington, Nick decided to take a stroll. It was the perfect setting to reflect and do some soul-searching. He passed by quaint shops along the waterside, bicycle riders zipped by, and families paused to enjoy ice cream cones in the warm sun. All of a sudden Nick came upon a sign that read “Front Street” marking the path along the river he was enjoying that day. The nostalgia of the moment, the flawlessness of the surroundings, and the timing could not have been more perfect. “What a great name for a company,” Nick thought, and so it was.
Nick returned back to work once the vacation came to an end, but spent much of his time thinking about the walk he took that day and how he could fulfill his dream to do something truly unique with his life. A few months later Nick “walked the walk” so to speak, and founded Front Street Capital Group. This company, which was founded in 2002, didn't exactly resemble the Front Street we see today.
In 2004 Nick took the next steps on this journey when he decided to move to Gainesville, where he had attended the University of Florida. Returning to his college city brought back that same sense of nostalgia he felt that day in Wilmington on his walk down Front Street. Gainesville felt alive, it was proud but humble, subtle but powerful, and the perfect place to grow a business and raise a family. And so he did.
If you drive around Gainesville today it’s hard to miss the iconic green signs with the Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group “F,” the company’s logo. But back in 2002, Front Street Capital Group was a bit different. Over the years the company has grown, and accordingly, the logo has also evolved to become something more reflective of what you’d expect to see in a national brand. But the logo wasn't the only difference. Front Street actually had a different focus as well. From 2002 to 2008, the company’s focus on real estate development meant the majority of business actually did not take place in Gainesville. Then came the recession halt in 2008, and Nick had to get creative once more. He was attempting to make deals, but macro-economic forces hindered the ability to source new development projects.
It was time for another walk. So one crisp Sunday morning in 2010, Nick set out for a walk in his Gainesville neighborhood. Nick decided on that walk to pursue an opportunity he recognized in Gainesville to create a company focused solely on commercial real estate brokerage and management. The walk that day created the foundation which helped build Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group into the company it is today. A company that specializes in commercial real estate and works as a team to achieve better results. A company that is connected through broad relationships throughout Florida and the Southeast. A company that is INVESTED in its community, clients, and industry. A company that was a true expression of the life Nick wanted to lead based on his faith, his personal beliefs, and a genuine desire to give back.
What started as a one-person office, making not only the tough business decisions but also the every-day errand runs, quickly grew to become a business invested in its staff and its community. Unlike most business leaders, Nick does not keep his work life, his faith and his social life separated. Instead he chooses to make them one. When he founded Front Street, Nick wanted to find a way for the company to achieve the very same thing. This is where the company’s INVESTED program was born. If you ask Nick to describe what it truly means to be invested, he will tell you there are an infinite number of ways. But he narrows it down to this: he is invested in his team and in their lives, in the real estate business, in his client’s success, and in the communities in which Front Street does business.
Since 2010, Front Street has seen incredible growth within the team and the structure with which it does business. Nick believes this growth is due to a few key clients believing in Front Street early on and the chance those first clients took on the company before it had a proven track record. This has allowed the business to grow organically. Those initial relationships are literally the foundation upon which Front Street was built.
Front Street’s foundation isn't just clients. Nick believes the company’s core values are the framework of the business. Nick emphasizes the importance of making those values loftier. “It’s not just about saying we value integrity and trust,” He said. “It’s a given that any organization should at least have those values.” Nick believes Front Street sets itself apart from other businesses by focusing on values like challenging the status quo, knowing when to say no, and believing in the power of teams, which extends to the unique structure of the company. Nick looks for inspiration in a variety of ways and runs his business in a manner more closely resembling an advisory firm or ad agency than a typical real estate brokerage firm. At Front Street, all brokers and team members work together on behalf of clients, which gives the client several points of contact within the firm. There aren't any names on the company’s signs because Nick likes to emphasize, “You’re not getting just a single broker; you’re getting the entire company.”
Front Street continues on with its journey to this very day, on a mission to impact its community, clients and industry by doing commercial real estate differently. Who knows where the next walk will lead?