Red Robin REALTORS will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary in Ormewood Park in 2017! Often recognized for their catchy marketing (A little birdie told us you might need a Realtor soon...) and large yard signs throughout the neighborhood, there’s no question who to call when it’s time to buy or sell a home in Ormewood Park. Owner and Principal Broker, Melissa Wakamo, has been a resident of the neighborhood since 1996 and has long been a supporter of the schools, parks, small businesses and families that make up the neighborhood.
Why did you pick Ormewood Park, over all the other great neighborhoods in Atlanta?
Well, in 1996 when I bought my first house, I had a similar conversation with my Realtor that I find myself having now with my clients who are first-time home buyers. She said, “Here are the two best neighborhoods you can afford. Both are up and coming, and would be a good investment for someone on your budget.” That’s the polite way of saying here’s the two transitional neighborhoods you can afford!
Those two neighborhoods were Ormewood Park and East Lake. Both were pretty rough back then, but I chose Ormewood Park because it was closer to downtown and, at the time, I worked at Grady Health System. I feel like I got very lucky that I chose Ormewood – it has been an amazing neighborhood for the last 20 years!
Wow, so you made the switch from healthcare to real estate. What prompted that?
Well, it wasn’t too big of a leap, actually. I had been working in healthcare marketing for about 15 years. And, I just grew tired of the healthcare industry and needed a change. Around that time I had met my husband, Rob (also a long-time resident of Ormewood and an employee of Zoo Atlanta!) and he was a contractor. So, we had this big idea to go into business together flipping houses! That was in 2004, when the house-flipping gig was becoming so popular. I felt like my marketing background would translate well to selling homes.
So, I got my real estate license and we did flip a couple of houses. But, I realized very quickly that I enjoyed working with buyers and sellers and my real estate career just took off. That was in the heat of the real estate “bubble”, so I guess a lot of agents’ careers took off!
What made you decide to go from being a very successful real estate agent, to starting Red Robin REALTORS?
It’s been a long and winding road that has led me here. But, briefly, Red Robin started as a small team at a larger brokerage in 2007. In 2010, I decided to leave the large company and start my own boutique brokerage – I had started my career with a small company and that’s really where I felt more comfortable. Red Robin had built such strong brand recognition in our local neighborhoods, that it was an easy transition.
Now, coming up on the company’s 10-year anniversary, we have 25 agents working with buyers and sellers in many neighborhoods all over intown Atlanta. We’re still very “local”. We’re still boutique. We’re still very involved in the communities we serve. We’ll never be a large, corporate brokerage.
That brings to mind a very important point. Red Robin has always been very supportive of the community, right?
Yes, from day one, my philosophy has been that a real estate brokerage firm is key to the development of communities. Naturally, agents and brokers help facilitate the residential and commercial transactions that develop neighborhoods. But, I believe there is a lot more to developing a community besides just selling houses.
In particular, I have been very supportive of the schools in my community. Good schools are paramount to creating a neighborhood that attracts families. It has been nothing short of incredible how much our schools have improved in the last 20 years. Starting with the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, which was really the first push in this area, followed by Wesley International Academy. And now the focus on Atlanta Public Schools in our Maynard Jackson High School Cluster is impressive. How can you not be excited about that and provide support?
You’ll see our Red Robin REALTORS name as sponsors of many events, organizations and movements in the community. And, we’re super excited to be the Presenting Sponsor of the Meet the Makers Festival on March 25! It is most fitting that we help bring this festival to life, in the neighborhood that started it all for me personally and professionally.
What would you say to someone thinking of buying a home in Ormewood Park?
I know I’m biased, but Ormewood Park has enjoyed being one of the best kept secrets in Atlanta for many years. It’s close to everything, but isn’t a “destination”, in the absence of a park, large business district, etc. It’s home to baby strollers, dog walkers, biking enthusiasts, urban gardeners and good neighbors who are fun to hang out with. There’s a handful a great small businesses that are just a quick walk away.
We’re really excited about what the Beltline will bring to Ormewood Park, along with continued improvement in the public schools. I have a feeling we won’t be Atlanta’s best kept secret for much longer – especially not when people get to see our neighborhood at the Festival this spring!