Executive Profile: Stiles Realty's Julie Berry on the resilience of the marine industry

Editor's Note: Executive Profiles offer insights into the management styles, hobbies and inspirations of the South Florida's c-suite. These Q&A's are featured in our weekly print edition.

JULIE BERRY

Birthplace: Fort Lauderdale

Residence: Fort Lauderdale

Current position: Principal of Marina Investments Group and Senior VP, Stiles Realty

Current boards: Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County, Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, Seafarers' House

Education: Nova Southeastern University

Favorite book: "The Winds of War" by Herman Wouk

Julie Berry is the businesswoman behind some of the major marine real estate deals happening in the "Yachting Capital of the World."

During her decades at Fort Lauderdale-based Stiles Realty, she has brokered more than $300 million in marine-related transactions. Those transactions include Lauderdale Marine Center, the nation's largest yacht repair facility, which was sold in 2015 to investment giant The Carlyle Group for an undisclosed amount.

She's currently working on trades between $150 million and $175 million in value. She searches for buyers and sellers who share her vision in strengthening South Florida's $12 billion marine sector. Those deals include the sale of Billfish Marina in Dania Beach, which closed in recent weeks despite the economic downturn. She sold the property to the same operators who acquired Bradford Marine in a large transaction in 2019.

Despite the economic uncertainties brought on by the coronavirus, Berry says her clients show continued interest in South Florida's resilient marine industry, for which she is a steady advocate. Recovery, she says, will come quickly.

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When you were studying pre-law and accounting in college, did you know you wanted to go into the real estate business? I got my broker's license just days after I turned 19, but I always thought I would go to law school. I worked at my dad's real estate office while I was going to college. He gave me a property in Collier County that wasn't accessible by land. He said, "go sell it." It was probably the best thing he ever did for me. I ended up exchanging the property for a waterfront house in Lighthouse Point. That was my first real estate transaction.

What was growing up in South Florida like? My dad had a boat, so we went to the ocean all the time since I was about 3 years old. My family moved to Massachusetts when I was younger, and we went to Cape Cod during the summers. We were always around the water, and I loved it. When I got into commercial real estate and joined Stiles, it was a natural progression into marine transactions because I spoke their language.

What was it like working with Terry Stiles? He was definitely a mentor to me. He always told me, "Loose lips sink ships," as in: Make sure to always keep a client's confidentiality. I've always held that close. I learned a lot from him from being in meetings with him, dealing with people like Wayne Huizenga, and Steve Halmos. I learned that if you don't know something, say so. Be direct.

Why is being a mentor important to you? I've had several mentors in my life who have set me on the right path. When I help mentor people at the Business Journal's Mentoring Mondays, some of them are looking for a path. It's really important to convey certain aspects of business to them, similar to what I've done on the marine industry panels I've served on. I still talk to some of the Mentoring Monday mentees; we continue to communicate.

How do you balance work and family life in these times? My son is attending University of Florida, studying pre-med microbiology and when he was home because of the coronavirus, we sectioned off a separate part of the house for him so he could study and do his exams. I had a separate section of the house to operate my business. It worked out very well for us. It was nonstop and intense because of his exams, but it was wonderful having him home for a month. He loves the water as much as I do. We have two golden retrievers, a nine-year-old named Juno and a four-month-old puppy named Kodi we just adopted, who has made life very interesting.

How has it been working from home because of Covid-19? It's not abnormal for me because I have a home office set up and, because of the confidential nature of my deals, I worked from home often before. I do miss the interaction with the team, and being able to work on certain aspects of my business with the team, especially when we're doing marketing. We have to do all of that remotely, so it's a little tough. I'm very social.

What do you do in your free time during quarantine? I'm doing a refresher course on French. I've studied French all my life, but I've been able to spend a little more time on it recently. Honestly, I've been very, very busy. It's not slowed down at all. Before all this started, I was thinking about doing a weeklong immersion course in France, just for the fun of it.

Has the coronavirus slowed anything down in your world? I was scheduled to attend the American Boating Congress in Washington, D.C., to advocate for the marine industry, but it was canceled. The Palm Beach International Boat Show was canceled, too, and we typically get a lot of interest during that and other boat shows. People are usually flying into town and they want to have meetings.

From your view, how will Covid-19 affect South Florida's marine industry? I think everybody knows this will pass. Even though businesses were affected by the shutdown, I've seen a positive attitude with many of the owners. The closing of marinas and ramps did affect business, and it affected some of the marine businesses because they couldn't access their clients, but I expect it to remain strong in the near future.