A resident of western Massachusetts for the majority of his life, EJ Barkett was once a third-generation owner of a restaurant established in 1939. Throughout his tenure in the restaurant industry, he continually sought ways to improve and expand the business to maximize profit, but more importantly, to find ways to enhance the customer experience. Through the influence and lifelong mentorship of his father and grandfather, EJ honed interpersonal skills that would lead him to success in his next professional chapter.
After nearly 30 years in the restaurant industry, EJ was looking for a career change and seeking a new challenge. After a conversation with his cousin, John Barkett, Broker/Owner, EJ felt encouraged to take up John’s offer to move down to Florida and join his budding brokerage. Although restaurants and real estate may seem worlds apart on the surface, EJ believes that success in both industries is all about the cultivation of relationships and the ability to sustain those relationships over a long period of time. It was this common thread that helped him through the transition.
“I chose Barkett Realty as much as it chose me,” he shares. Cousins in a close-knit family living in the same town, John and EJ knew each other well. “John saw skills in me that could lead to success in real estate and success for Barkett Realty, and at his brokerage, I saw the same business style that I had in my restaurant in Massachusetts. He runs the brokerage like a family business.”
Although Barkett Realty was young when EJ joined the team, it was quickly growing and showing strong success already. At the time, Tampa Bay was in a strong growth period and he felt fortunate to move during the region’s evolution into a residential and commercial hotspot. “Everyone is moving here—individuals, families and businesses. Who would not want to be a part of this?” he shares. If he could go back in time, EJ would advise his past self to expand his sphere of influence as quickly as possible because “the more people you come in contact with, the greater your chance of success.”
In regards to the brokerage today, EJ says, “Barkett Realty is a small, but well-anchored brokerage managing to be a strong presence in a large market. This brokerage is unique in that we have access to years of experience in property valuation, real estate transactions, connections to and involvement in local government and we are not limited to one specific type of real estate.”
The best part of real estate, according to EJ, is getting to meet so many different people with distinct needs and then tackling the challenge of finding what they need, whether it be a purchase, sale, the right tenant or the right space. “Every day is different, every property, every client. Most of all, every deal is different,” he shares.
Listening, guiding and treating all people well are three qualities that EJ feels are paramount to his success, and he harkens back to his interpersonal skills learned in his restaurant industry experience to quickly make connections and plant the seeds for flourishing relationships. “My grandfather told me, ‘Everyone you meet is a potential customer,’ and that stuck with me.” EJ’s attention to detail, organizational skills and proactive mindset also support his success in his career goals.
EJ values being an integral part of local business’ success and supporting those individuals who own and manage them. One of his clients, Sean Shipton of Sean Shipton Physical Therapy, still to this day feels supported by EJ and appreciates his continued relationship with him, even long after closing the deal on his commercial property. Sean reports that EJ maintained constant communication and support throughout the process, was always available to answer questions, possessed the expertise to address different issues that arose and was able to put everyone at ease. Sean shared, “I would not go to another realtor for a commercial realty property in the future. There is no need. EJ still pops in to see how we are doing and it's always a pleasure to see him.”
EJ’s proudest accomplishment in his career thus far involved selling a development site composed of six parcels in the Edge District. With the support of the Barkett Realty team, EJ managed a situation with unique challenges and was able to get the sale back on track a few times when it seemed it would not go through. EJ ended up closing the deal, and a Connecticut-based REIT and developer will be building a multi-level apartment building with ground floor retail.
In addition to his role at Barkett Realty, EJ is a proud member of the Florida Gulf Coast Association of Realtors, a commercial realtor organization. With a continual desire to grow as an agent, he is studying for his broker’s license and has also started working towards his CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member) designation. EJ hopes to complete both certifications in 2023. He enjoys giving back to those in need by participating in the largest athletic fundraiser in the country, the Pan-Mass Challenge, for seven years. The event is a two-day bike ride that spans 211 miles in Massachusetts and raises funds for cancer research. From 1980 through 2021, the Pan-Mass Challenge has raised $831 million.
EJ’s inspiration starts with his faith in God, and is then driven by his wife and children. “Providing for our family in all ways has always been behind our career decisions, and moving to St. Petersburg and building a new career here has further supported that.” EJ emphasizes his use of “our,” because he and his wife, Courtney, make all their decisions together in regards to their family. “I have succeeded in business, as a father and as a husband in most ways because Courtney has been by my side and we have supported each other over the past 29 years.” With all of their kids out of the nest, EJ and Courtney enjoy spending “non-football” Sundays together exploring the hot spots and attractions of Florida’s west coast, from as far north as Tarpon Springs to as south as Naples. Locally, their favorite spots to eat are La Croisette for brunch and 82 Degrees for late lunch or dinner.