- By Alexandra Clough Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Earlier this week, Pebb Enterprises became the owner of the empty Gander Mountain store at Interstate 95 and Northlake Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens.
Pebb also just finished building Tesla’s new showroom and service center, at 5544 Okeechobee Blvd., just east of the Turnpike. The next step is interior construction of the electric car dealership, which will be a flagship Tesla location, one of a new breed of standalone Tesla centers being built. (The location will replace a small, out-of-the-way dealership and service center at 4651 Dyer Rd. in West Palm Beach. Tesla also has small showrooms at The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens and the Town Center mall in Boca Raton.)
The West Palm Beach Tesla showroom, combined with other prominent real estate deals, mark a fresh approach for Pebb in more than one way.
In November 2015, a chartered airplane in Akron, Ohio, carrying seven Pebb employees crashed into an apartment building.
Although no one on the ground was injured, everyone aboard the flight perished, including Pebb principals Jared Weiner and Ori Rom.
News of the crash shocked the Palm Beach County real estate community and those who knew the tight-knit family and its business. The National Transportation Safety Board later ruled the two-man flight crew was to blame for the crash.
Pebb is a family business with roots in South Florida that go back 40 years. It was founded by the late Paul Weiner, who named the company using the first letters of his name, his late wife Eleanor’s name and the names of his two children, Barbara and Bruce.
At the time of the plane crash, Bruce, also a principal, had handed over day-to-day operations to his sons, Jared and Ian. Their brother-in-law, Rom, handled leasing and property management.
Pebb officials had been looking to invest in the Midwest after the sale of several Palm Beach County properties. Pebb was known as a savvy investor, builder and turn-around firm for neglected buildings.
After the crash, Pebb Enterprises — family and employees — grew even closer and worked to finish existing projects, including a shopping plaza on State Road 7 in Royal Palm Beach. Ian Weiner, a principal and in-house counsel, took over as president and chief executive.
Then, with fresh staff and energy, Pebb decided to sell its Midwest holdings and reinvest the money in new deals.
The company didn’t have to search far. South Florida, particularly Palm Beach County, once again looked like the right move.
“The demographics and the growth are here. Plus, it’s in our own backyard,” said Rob Truett, chief investment officer.
Their most recent plum purchase was the Gander Mountain building. Once home to the outdoors retailer, it’s now an empty space on some very valuable land facing Interstate 95.
Truett said Pebb took title to the property by acquiring, and then foreclosing, on the debt.
The 120,000-square-foot building sits on 12 acres with 1,200 feet of frontage on I-95, said Eric Hochman, Pebb’s chief development officer. Interest in the site from potential tenants already is strong, Hochman said. He didn’t rule out another use, such as an office building, but said ideas still are being weighed.
Pebb’s first high-profile local deal was the June acquisition of 1501 Yamato Road in Boca Raton, where security company ADT has its headquarters. Pebb and Chicago-based Tortoise Properties bought the property for $42 million.
While Pebb plans to keep ADT in the space for the time being, Truett said the company has other potential options.
“We’re long-term holders, and this property is right down the fairway for us,” Truett said. “Over time, it could be redeveloped into something with mixed-use components,” such as homes or shops.
Of course, money around the world is chasing deals in Palm Beach County, which continues to attract residents and businesses drawn to its lifestyle, amenities and job opportunities, as well as the absence of a state income tax.
But Hochman, Truett and Weiner acknowledge a slight edge: All in their late 30s, they are old enough to know what they are doing, but still young enough to speak the language of companies seeking to lure millennial customers and tenants.
And, on some level, perhaps everyone is rooting for the aggressive young executives, led by a will to rebound from an unthinkable loss.
Ian Weiner, for one, expressed pride in his firm’s accomplishments. “Jared was very inspirational, and we’ve kept up his spirit,” he said. “We haven’t missed a beat.”
The hard-working Jared told this reporter in a 2012 interview that the secret to success is no secret. “You’ve got to be aggressive,” he said. “You’ve got to talk to people and be ahead of the game.”
Today, Pebb has a new vice president of acquisitions and a new analyst, too, plus employment of more than 20 people — all positive steps toward moving forward, after the difficult times of the past couple of years, Weiner said.
And with its recent deals, including the Tesla showroom, the firm’s profile continues to rise.
“We’re an ambitious, driven group, but we’re a fun group,” Hochman said, “And, we’re excited about the future.”
The Tesla showroom is a former Volvo dealership, which Pebb bought two years ago, demolished and then built new for Tesla. All sales and service will move to this location from a small, hard-to-find Tesla dealership now at 4651 Dyer Blvd. in Riviera Beach.
Truett said the site, the only standalone Tesla dealership in Palm Beach County, will have a 23,000-square-foot sales and service center. The large space will allow Tesla to showcase a range of its clean-energy cars.
The 3.4-acre site will be able to accommodate almost 300 cars, providing plenty of room for inventory of used vehicles and space for customers who want to zip over to the dealership from points north or south of the site, Truett said.
Tesla is keeping mum about the new dealership, for now. A Telsa spokeswoman declined to comment.