Larry Robbins: From textile owner to real estate VP
Photo: Courtesy Larry Robbins
Larry Robbins loves getting deals done for his Capstone Commercial Real Estate clients.

By Amy W. Sorter

In 2008, Dallas resident Larry Robbins took a leap of faith into a new occupation. Specifically, he joined Capstone Commercial, launching an official career in commercial real estate.

On the surface, this might have seemed to be a dubious move, taking place as it did in the middle of the Great Recession. “My wife thought I was crazy,” Robbins laughed. But for him, the shift made sense, fulfilling a longtime dream.

“Over the years, I learned that real estate was an interesting career,” he said. “I found out that people involved with it did well, as long as they put the work into it.”

More than a decade and a half later, Robbins has found his place and is happy in it. As a vice president with Capstone, he handles commercial property purchase, sale and leasing throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area, working with clients he likes and respects.

However, there were a few detours in getting to where he is now.

A background in fabric

Born in Montreal, Robbins relocated to Odessa, Texas, with his family when he was 9. His father, Albert Robbins, a survivor of the Russian labor camps in Siberia, always had a fascination with Texas. Additionally, the Robbins family had relatives in Odessa. Once they arrived, the Robbinses were among only a few West Texas Jewish families.

“A traveling rabbi would set up shop in Abilene for two weeks and all the Jewish families in the area would travel to Abilene for High Holidays services,” Robbins recalled.

Four years later, the family moved to Dallas and a larger Jewish community. Albert Robbins joined Tiferet Israel; the family was also affiliated with Temple Emanu-El and Congregation Shearith Israel over the years.

Albert Robbins met Serge Haber. The two shook hands and opened Miracle Fabrics, a 3,000-square-foot retail fabrics shop. Over the next 30 years, the business morphed from retail sales to textile distribution. “We became the largest textile distribution business in the country,” Robbins said. Space grew and the retail business became a wholesaler, moving to 300,000 square feet in Carrollton. During the process, the name changed to Haber Fabrics.

When Serge Haber left Dallas, Albert Robbins remained in charge. Son Larry was also involved and had been so as a young child, where he started from “the bottom, where I learned to roll fabric on tables,” he said.

But the younger Robbins didn’t want to own and run a textile business. After graduating from high school, he attended SMU, where, he said, “I took every real estate course offered.”

A hand in real estate

When Robbins graduated from SMU, he planned to join Henry S. Miller. But Dad had other ideas.

“Dad and I made a deal,” Robbins said. “He said if I stayed with the business, I could buy and manage buildings to help the business.” Robbins agreed. In addition to his growing roster of duties on the textile side, he added real estate activities.

Between the 1980s and the 2000s, Robbins acquired 35 buildings, primarily for storage. As the company grew, more storage facilities were bought, while the older ones were renovated and then leased or sold. “I also oversaw all sales, leasing, construction and marketing of the buildings,” he said.

The more involved he was with the real estate nuts and bolts, the more he was hooked. When the opportunity came to sell Haber Fabrics in 2006, he took it.

Taking the leap

Following the sale, Robbins interviewed for jobs at real estate companies, including Cushman & Wakefield and Colliers.

But Capstone kept coming up on his radar. “I already had a relationship with them, as they helped us with the 300,000-square-foot lease on Hayden Drive in Carrollton in 2003,” Robbins explained. Furthermore, he wasn’t interested in working with a large brokerage firm. “Capstone was more a boutique real estate firm, which was more of what I was looking for,” he said.

However, a career in real estate during the late 2000s was far from optimal. The economy was in a free fall and business was scarce. “Me and the company’s principal, Steve Burris, would knock on doors,” Robbins said. “People would say they had nothing to buy or sell and to check back in a couple of years.”

Still, Robbins kept at it and in 2011, he handled one of the largest industrial deals in DFW at the time, the sale of an 87,555-square-foot industrial complex in Farmers Branch. “It was three years in,” Robbins said. “I had to pay my dues and stick with it.” From that point on, the business grew. The rest, as they say, is history.

Merging past and present

Close to six decades after his family departed from Canada and landed in Texas, Robbins is settled in his personal life.

He’s married to Stacey Robbins; the couple just celebrated 40 years together. Robbins has two children in the Dallas area: Son Mitchell is married to Haley Glauben, granddaughter of Frieda and the late Max Glauben, while daughter Lauren is married to Zach Horn. His sister, Karen Knobler, is also nearby, while his brother, Stephen Robbins, resides in Kentucky. Three grandchildren have been added to the familial mix.

Robbins is also settled in his career as Capstone’s vice president. Though his roots were in fabric, he’s succeeded in commercial real estate. Thanks to his background in textiles, he has a unique perspective. “As a broker, I represent clients who own buildings for many years,” he explained. “I know what it’s like from both sides of the fence. I know what those owners are going through.” Participating in and running a family business also helped. “Many of my clients are in the same situation,” he said.

Though buying, selling and leasing buildings are a large part of real estate deals, Robbins knows this is also a people-centered business. “When I tell someone I’ll do something, I do it,” he said. “Putting their interests ahead of mine means deals get done.”

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