This is Jean McMillen interviewing Robinson Leech Jr. at his office 318 Main Street, Lakeville Ct. The date is May 1, 2012.
JPM:May I have your full name, please.
RL:Robinson Leech Jr.
JPM:Where were you born?
JPM:Will you give me your birth date?
RL:July 3, 1947
JPM:What were/are the names of your parents?
RL:Was Robinson Leech Sr.: is Elizabeth B. Leech
JPM:Do you have siblings?
RL:I do, one sister Rosalinde B. Leech.
JPM:What is your educational background?
RL:Initial schools were located in Salisbury and included Town Hill School, I apparently was in an earlier school that I do not remember being at. I can’t every give you the name. Then I was at Salisbury Central School, Indian Mountain School, finished local schooling at Salisbury School.
JPM:Then did you go on to college?
RL:From Salisbury School I took a post graduate year abroad in Switzerland at a place called “The American School in Switzerland” and after which I went to Rollins College in Florida.
JPM:Tell me about getting involved with the real estate business.
RL:That happened by chance and probably because my mother was watching over my father who was in the business before me. I was out in Aspen, Colorado, at a winter job following my graduation from college. At some point during that year as spring was coming the question of what I might be doing with myself after Aspen, Colorado, came up in a discussion with my mother, and she popped the question of would I have any potential interest in ever working in real estate with my father. That had not crossed my mind that I can recall to that particular point of conversation. It was a seed that was planted probably quite cleverly in my head, and that seed grew into a positive idea of doing that as the spring of 1971 wore on. The rest is sort of history because I went into work with him for the summer of 1971, and I have no left that business since.
JPM:Was it a business that you father started himself or was it something that he bought from someone else?
RL:The way you start in the real estate business is you usually find a broker who is already in business to tie up with. He (his father) tied in with a brokerage firm that was owned and run by a gentleman named H. Copland Robinson and his wife Orpha B. Robinson. So he started his stint in real estate by being associated with that firm I believe while he was still at Salisbury School as a teacher, but I can’t remember. Then eventually he went out on his own as sales people do when they become brokers and decide to go into it for themselves.
JPM:Do you enjoy what you are doing?
RL:I love it.
RL:Well, I like living here which I think is one of the best places that anybody could wish to live who likes a rural country-type of setting with a country-type of life. It gave me the opportunity to do other things besides doing real estate that I was interested in which was mainly sports and athletics. I could participate in those sports as I have done pretty much continuously since the mid 1970’s as a soccer referee, I was a hockey referee for a couple of seasons in the wintertime, but have been a high school and college referee for most of the rest of the time right through this current interview.
JPM:What in your opinion makes a good real estate broker? What attributes do they have to have?
RL:I would say that a good real estate broker has to have attributes which include extreme patience, the ability to communicate at a lot of different levels of clients’ communication skills, and that is more complex than it may sound. You have to have an innate understanding of people; it is a constant learning business, I learn as much today as I learned in the first year that I was in it, or more so probably. You really have to be dedicated to almost putting the business before most other things in your life if you are going to do it that way I think it should be done.
JPM:Obviously you do it the way you think it should be done.
JPM:Which is a plus in your corner. I know that you do, you didn’t want to say civic activities, but I know that you have been involved in a lot of local organizations. What are some of the local organizations or things that you have done?
RL:I have been on some local town committees: Building & Grounds Committee for the town of Salisbury which I still am on, I am a member of the WPCA which is a Water Pollution Control Authority generically known as the Town Sewer System, I have back in the 1980’s I believe been on the Board of Camp Sloane which is a YMCA camp in Lakeville, I have also avoided positions on some things. I avoided running for selectman back in the 1980’s when I was asked to do so. I have tried to control the number of things; I have been on the Sharon Audubon Board for a number of years back in the ‘80’s as well.
Although volunteerism is pretty important around here, real estate is such a time consuming job that it has precluded my being able to do a whole lot more than those particular things back when I did them and are doing them now.
JPM:You were a soccer ref for college and high school in New England.
RL:I still am.
JPM:Ski instructor at Catamount?
RL:Oh I forgot; I have been a ski instructor at Catamount since 1974 or 73 and working there at nights.
RL:I have been on the Salisbury Highway Beautification Project group that is still going on as it seeks to work on calming traffic through our villages and beautify the Main Street corridor as it goes through the towns of Lakeville and Salisbury.
JPM:Do you have anything that you would like to add to this interview that we haven’t covered?
RL:I don’t know the answer to that question at the moment.
JPM:Has Salisbury changed over the years in your opinion?
RL:Well, it’s changed in my viewpoint blessedly little as compared to towns that might have started out looking like Salisbury and have grown and exploded into larger towns and maybe even city-type towns throughout the state of Connecticut, so yes and no is the answer to that question.
JPM:The people are the same.
RL:The people, well, the local people are certainly the same; the population has changed obviously quite a bit over my period of time in real estate since real estate when my father was involved in it did not cater to outside people buying in to our town for an area for weekend use type of purposes. I think his business was basically involving local people who were buying homes around who were moving in to work in places like the schools, if they didn’t live on campus. The hospital has been around which might have opened up business here.
JPM:When did the change-over come from people who were here permanently with jobs to weekenders primarily?
RL:By the time I got into the business I think we were already into that type of business where we were catering to people, outside buyers coming in primarily from New York City southward as opposed to coming in from Boston or Albany or Hartford even. So I can’t tell you exactly when it happened to him, but I suspect it was happening in the ‘70s in a big way. We have to deal with the fact that the
railroad which had been in place through the ‘60s had sort of gone out of business, and the question really was how were people going to get up from the city to here other than by car. The railway as I recall had sort of shrunk in its area that it served and went south, and they actually took the tracks up. It either went further south and they were using buses almost 45 minutes to an hour south because they kept thinking that the rail service was going to diminish and never come back. In fact it was at a lull for a while, and then it started getting busy again as more and more people were coming up here and buying real estate. They sought alternative means to the car to be able to get to our corner.
JPM:What do you see for the future of real estate in Salisbury?
RL:Well, being 2012 we’ve had a big change since the boom that sort of ended in 2007-08 whereas we were really in a boom period up until that point. I think we are going to see a change that will last for a few years at any rate in terms of shrinkage of people coming from the south and probably less development going on than might have happened if the boom continued to progress through this current period. Salisbury basically has been a town of around 4,000 resident citizens for decades. I decided that figure by not too many hundreds on either side. That has sort of been the case for Sharon, Falls Village; we even have shrinkage going on in term of local residential residence. You can see that because the numbers of school children are diminishing and causing the public schools to sit there and recalibrate how they are going to survive as certain school are losing significant numbers of students in their classrooms.
JPM:If there isn’t anything else that you would like to add?
RL:If there isn’t or if there is?
JPM:If there is?
RL:Well, personally I hope Salisbury not going to grow a whole lot. I am certainly in the minority. Anybody who sells real estate for business should be hoping for growth as opposed to static situation. But I am one of those people who enjoy Salisbury beingquiet as opposed to increasing bustling. It cannot stay any better than it is right now as far as I am concerned.
JPM:You are very much a pro Salisbury person!
JPM:Thank you so much for giving me time out of your busy schedule, and I appreciate the interview.