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.



My father, Toby, was interested in family, money and Ohio State football, in that order. He wanted financial security, and he got it, but not before losing a lot of money on a cosmetics firm, postage-stamp machines, race horses, and a New Mexico real estate gamble. The cosmetics firm was in the basement. Like Mary Kay but not pink. Red.

Toby’s “day job” was at a key company. Car keys. The plant was right next to the King Musical Instruments factory. I got a student-model alto sax, at a steep discount, out of the proximity. The sax model was “Cleveland.” (Cool. Like my ping pong table, which is a “Detroiter.”)

Toby Stratton 1984, age 67.

When my dad escaped the key company — after 17 years — he became self-employed (in real estate). The only way to go, he claimed, even with all the aggravation. Aggravation was one of my dad’s favorite themes. Like he’d say to me, “You’re aggravating me. You ever shave anymore? If you dress like a bum, your tenants will treat your building like trash.”

It took me a while to find the rhythm of property management.

Property management is not for the fainthearted. It’s city building inspectors trying to nail you with violations; put a lens cover on that fluorescent light in the basement. What’s a lens cover? It’s the plastic thing that shields the fluorescent tube, which is screwed into a metal holder called a troffer.

Tear down that 11-car garage. Why? Because the wall is 20 degrees out of plumb (and will last another hundred years). The inspector says tear it down. And get a structural engineer to do some drawings. My father used to give the city building commissioner a fifth of whiskey at Christmas. Those were the days. We thought they’d never end. And they haven’t.

Here’s the link to my essay, “Turn off the AC and soak up Cleveland’s summer,” in last Sunday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer. Luckily for me, Sunday was a cool day, weather-wise.

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1 comment

1 Ken Goldberg { 07.26.23 at 3:18 pm }

My father managed family real estate – some were “Samdor Properties,” which involved family shares (first property my grandfather bought in 1938 or so) (before that my grandfather kept losing houses and other buildings whereby they had resided), some were my grandfather’s alone, and some were my father’s alone. Properties ranged from old houses divided into apartments to commercial buildings with apartments. The best was a historic, 1850s commercial block in Canandaigua, NY with storefronts and offices, and it once had had a live theater on the third floor like a now-demolished building on Ontario Street in downtown Cleveland (all the others were in the city of Rochester). Once my father sold the farm in 1943 and got involved they purchased properties and the chain did okay for many years. They also had the bedding business but once that closed in 1975 my father was f.t. real estate manager and eorked from his basement. Eventually a realtor got involved and managed some and later all the properties; he was supposed to look for buyers but didn’t have much incentive to do so. It had all gotten very difficult for my father, many properties were losing money, and by the time my father passed away, in 2005, all or almost all the properties were sold.

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