Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz, too.

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz. (See you.)

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.

Stratton has written op-eds for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post.



The former Brith Emeth temple in Pepper Pike, Ohio, looks like a clam shell or flying saucer.

My kids went to Hebrew school there. It was disorienting; I never knew which way to turn, right or left, to pick them up.

The acoustics in the social hall were bad.  Everything was boomy.

Brith Emeth folded in 1986, and Park Synagogue East took over.  Then Park Synagogue East sold the building to the Ratner School, a Montessori school.  Now Kol HaLev — a Reconstructionist shul — rents from the Ratner School, the owner, for shabbes services.

When my band plays Kol HaLev, I tell my musicians, “We’re playing the clam shell.”  I never say, “We’re playing Ratner Montessori School.” I also don’t say, “We’re playing the old Park East,” which would be confusing because there is a new Park East. I also don’t say, “27575 Shaker Boulevard,” because for a while, shrubs in front of the building obscured the address.

“We’re playing the clam shell, aka the flying saucer, guys.”

On October 17, 1969, Rabbi Philip Horowitz delivered the sermon “Is the Negro Equal?” at the clam shell.

The place still has a very sixties flare.  I travel back in time every time I  enter Brith Emeth. After-burners. The clam shell.  The launch pad.

More on Brith Emeth here.

Yiddishe cup plays First Night Akron (Ohio), 6-8 p.m. Tues., Dec. 31.


For the record . . .


If you get a 3 percent return, on top of the inflation rate, that’s solid, middle of the road. But right now you can only get 1 percent on a CD, with inflation around 1 percent. You can’t get 3 percent without significant risk. If you go for more than 3 percent real growth, you’re taking a risk.

Risk in business is integral, part of the equation. Can’t be avoided.

You’re a genius; the stock market is booming. You weren’t a genius in 2008.

I know a woman who lost with Madoff, and now she’s doing the 1 percent CDs. I talked to another Madoff investor who said she had found a short-term investment that paid 20 percent. But for only 90 days. Twenty percent is 20 percent, doesn’t matter how long a period. Twenty percent is crazy. “That’s a lot of risk!” I said.

I have a friend who went in for CDOs (Collaterized Debt Obligation) and lost. He said he was getting 15 percent on them. But it only lasted a month. Then the whole thing collapsed.

We are here today to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Madoff debacle . . . Another Madoff investor I know — enough with the Madoff! — this Cleveland schoolteacher said she didn’t think she was greedy when she was pulling in 10-12 percent a year from Madoff. She just thought she had made a good investment. I would have thought likewise. Madoff returned the schoolteacher’s original investment minus the paper gains. A small-timer, she got national TV attention for being a salt-of-the-earth Madoff victim.

The stock market typically clocks 9 percent per year, but that’s meaningless because the figure doesn’t take into account human behavior, known in the biz as “investors returns.” Most people buy and sell at the wrong time.

My father went all in on real estate 1965, and that’s why I’m in real estate now. He went in at the right time, luckily, and leveraged himself to the hilt. Our house was leveraged; he had second mortgages. He was gutsy, smart and fortunate.  (He flopped at some other businesses.)

I’ve bought two buildings. The first building, I put down 25 percent and got a 10 ¾-percent mortgage. That was the going rate in 1987.

The second building, I put down 15 percent. I bought it from an old guy who was dying. I was dying too!  The old guy lived another 21 years.  The seller financed the deal; I didn’t have to go to the bank for a mortgage. I paid him off 17 years later. It worked out.

The first building — the one with the 10 ¾-percent mortgage —  I paid off as quickly as possible.  Took 7 1/2 years.

Win more than lose, hopefully.

And don’t chase 20 percent returns!

Hey, did my kids read this far?

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1 Ken G. { 12.25.13 at 10:36 am }

Wow – I just spent a good seven hours reading your two posts. I could have been doing eBay….
Where are you getting CD’s with as high a rate as one percent, and how long do they take to mature? I generally don’t go beyond six or eight months, always hoping the rates will go up. I’ve been hoping and hoping…. That “O” administration….

2 Ken G. { 12.25.13 at 10:48 am }

For the record, I like the former Brith Emeth – particularly the exterior. Of course, its smooth design was compromised with the Ratner addition. I like almost all of Edward Durell Stone’s projects, even though he was often lambasted by art historians in “my era” – i.e. when I was majoring in Art History. He designed the extremely original, extremely distinctive S.U.N.Y. Albany campus where Aaron went for a year and a half. Rotten, crummy shame his Jewish Federation Building will probably be only a memory by late Spring. Rotten shame.

Incidentally, regarding that Luxottica-emphasized YouTube I posted [on Facebook] and its follow-up comment, my response to it was purchasing 36 share of Luxottica stock! I’ve found a lot of opticians who deal a lot with the Luxottica brands and designers, or whose chain is actually owned by Luxottica, were not at all happy with the “60 Minutes” episode. But also many “non-Luxottica” opticians/companies weren’t too happy with it either in that they felt the non-Luxottica – and they feel superior, in general – designers/brands aren’t being honored and respected enough. Or paid enough attention to.

3 Seth { 12.26.13 at 1:17 pm }

Well, did they read that far? What was their perspective? Sometimes they lose interest on talks about interest, I’ve found.

4 Bert Stratton { 12.26.13 at 4:56 pm }

To Seth:

They haven’t read that far, that I know of.

5 Jeff Moss { 12.30.13 at 9:20 am }

my parents were married at Brith Emeth!

6 Nancy Kane { 01.01.14 at 9:36 am }

Forget CDs–just get a nice Vanguard account. I like the Star Fund. You only need $1000 to get in, and it has moderate risk. Generally does pretty well, certainly above 3%!

7 Mark Schilling { 01.04.14 at 7:16 am }

That temple reminds me of the all-plastic Monsanto House of the Future, which amazed me when I saw it at Disneyland in 1960. Today it looks like a wheel of cheese:

8 Theo { 12.31.15 at 4:15 pm }

For the record, I’m a “kid”, and I read the whole thing. Keep it coming, Bert!

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