It’s not uncommon for Georgia Malone to preface something she’s about to say with, “This is going to sound so weird, but …” or “This sounds nutty, but …”
Weird. Nutty. Outside the box. Eccentric. Call it what you want, but Ms. Malone’s property at 30 W. Main St. in downtown Riverhead — a commercial real estate enterprise that’s an extension of her own personal style — is at capacity. And a second building next door, which she purchased in the middle of last year, is expected to open at the beginning of May.
“That’s why it’s nice to own things,” she said Friday morning while walking around 20 West Main. “You can be as crazy as you want.”
For Ms. Malone, crazy seems to have worked out just fine.
Her history in real estate goes back decades. After making her way up to partner in a New York City law firm and, later, after a bout with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, she quit the law practice and went without a job. She then created a niche that’s essentially her own in the rich real estate market of the country’s biggest city.
In the field of commercial real estate, where sellers traditionally offer their assets at auction, Ms. Malone found a way around the arduous process by selling “off market.” She would pair buyers with sellers and avoid the months-long bidding process that often left potential purchasers frustrated because only one of them would ultimately be picked.
She still runs the off-market real estate company Georgia Malone & Co. But in 2005, she bought a waterfront home in Westhampton Beach and, as an animal lover, found herself calling — and calling, and calling again — the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation to report the stranded seals she’d find washed up on the shore. Eventually, she found herself at a black tie gala at the Hyatt Place and caught a glimpse of an “up-and-coming” area in Riverhead.
Now, she works in Manhattan two or three days a week and spends the rest of her time creating her next shared office space project at 20 West Main St. The top two of the building’s three stories are scheduled to open May 1.
That building was long known to locals as the home of Allied Optical Plan. Ms. Malone purchased it from Allied’s owner, Jerry Steiner, who had taken over his father’s business in 2005. Allied Optical closed in 2014 after 40 years.
Mr. Steiner, a self-described “dinosaur” who still misses Main Street so much he comes back downtown twice a week, said he was “blown away” when he stepped inside the building a couple of weeks ago.
“She’s doing everything right,” he said. “It’s drop-dead gorgeous in there. I hope she rents the whole place out.”
Eric Alexander is the executive director of Vision Long Island, which, according to its website, works to “promote more livable, economically sustainable, and environmentally responsible growth on Long Island.”
He said Ms. Malone is one of only three developers he can think of — and the only one east of Huntington — who offers shared workspace environments like those she’s creating in downtown Riverhead. At her current space at 30 West Main, rents for smaller to mid-size units range from $338 to $2,188 per month for a fully-furnished workspace, utilities included. The units at 20 West Main will be larger, as only 12 will be available compared to the 28 next door. One will even have a kitchenette.
“There’s definitely a market for this,” said Mr. Alexander. “There’s not a lot of overhead. People want amenities. They don’t need as much big space as they used to. Now, instead of file cabinets, everything is backed up on a server or in the cloud somewhere … This is a niche industry that’s growing. There’s definitely interest in other downtowns.”
The ground floor at 20 West Main is still down to the studs, but Ms. Malone foresees firming up plans for that level — two units or three? — in the not-too-distant future. She also hopes to attract a café there — something that could use the open space in the rear of the property that currently includes a walkway into the adjacent Uncle Joe’s.
According to Mr. Steiner, making a final decision shouldn’t be too hard.
“She’s just kind of a take-charge kind of woman,” he said. “She’s a helluva lot smarter than I am.”
Photos: Georgia Malone explains the process that she and her painter uses to pick the right color tone for the offices in her building; 20 West Main’s second and third floors are expected to be open by May 1; Billy Suesser of William Suesser Painting of Shoreham adds brick accent design to one of the office’s walls.