Having been in real estate your entire working life, how do you stay energized about what you do?
I suppose the customary answer is that every project has its own set of challenges, possibilities and people. So even after 30+ years, that’s energizing in itself. But since we formed Omni Senior Living in 2016, I have an additional layer of motivation: the stimulation of defining our mission, developing strategies and hiring and helping train an exceptional team of young, talented people.
Have you always been entrepreneurial?
I have. Maybe my brother Pat and I are just wired that way, or maybe our parents signaled something to us about the satisfaction of working for yourself and pride in "paying your way." Then, when Pat became a property owner in college, I thought, "I can do that." I bought a three-bedroom home near Akron U, totally reconstructed it into six units, and I was in business. Literally. That enabled me to fund my education.
After I graduated from Walsh University––in North Canton, Ohio––in my first position I focused on mixed-use development and managed a luxury condominium association. Next, I was in charge of 25 properties totaling 1 million square feet of retail space in three states, and with my third company I served as vice president of commercial development and construction. In my last stint before joining my brother I handled real estate brokerage and sales.
Is that when you teamed up with your brother?
Yes, around 25 years ago. We had always hoped to work together, and by then I had constructed, leased and managed 25 commercial properties totaling 3 million square feet in five states, so we knew our skills would complement each other. He’s more of a visionary, and I’m a hands-on guy. I often say I "specialize as a generalist."
About a decade later, the recession hit. How did it affect your company?
It was devastating, but we never lost our resolve. We bought vacant space, we secured new investors for office complexes, we leased, we sold, we flipped. We were really scrambling, but we emerged from that period more resourceful than ever and more confident as strategists.
Did the turmoil of that period lead to the formation of Omni Senior Living?
Not really. We regained our footing and enjoyed success again as a commercial real estate company. But then, a few years ago, we became acutely aware of the demographic trends in Northeast Ohio and convinced that building senior living communities was our future. That’s when we partnered with Mario for his expertise in that area, and right out of the gate we constructed two 103-unit communities in Strongsville and Westlake. Now, as Vitalia Active Living Communities, we are rapidly expanding our horizons, extending far beyond Ohio.
How do you now reflect on your journey from becoming a landlord in college to what you are engaged in today?
I consider myself extremely fortunate for a lot of reasons:
First, all those early experiences are serving me well.
Second, the trust between Pat, Mario and me runs deep. We trust each other’s business instincts and individual capabilities, and we share a real estate approach that combines opportunism with caution.
And third, I love that for a few days almost every week I’m a "prospector," traveling to various sites, mainly east of the Mississippi, to look for available land. That’s rewarding because of the creativity involved, seeing as the land is usually not for sale; it’s land that might be an ideal setting for a senior community and that the owner never thought of selling. If the acquisition and development materialize, everyone wins. We’ve enriched someone monetarily and we’re enriching the lives of seniors who become our residents.
Career and Volunteer Highlights
Volunteer, Hudson Local Schools Business Club
Volunteer, Hudson youth lacrosse
Volunteer, court-appointed special advocate, Summit County Juvenile Court
- Scuba diving
Tom and his wife Mary Beth live in Hudson and have two adult children, Chelsea and Evan.