Legacy Real Estate opens a new chapter

Legacy Real Estate Firm owner and real estate broker Dinah Pearson stands for a portrait on Tuesday at her office on the second floor of The Plaza mall. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Legacy Real Estate has a long history.

Hence, its name, as it moves into a new chapter for parent company Northway Realty Inc.

Dinah Pearson, who has been with the business for nearly 20 years, assumed ownership April 1.

Since then the real estate company has been in transition, changing the name it does business under from Remax of Ketchikan and moving to The Plaza mall — at the top of the mall's north-end escalator.

The old Remax building has been sold to Residential Youth Care, which has been located next door to the former Remax on First Avenue for years.

“Dinah's helped us be innovative for years,” said Guy Mickel, who solely owned the company under the Remax franchise name for the past four years, in a recent interview.

“She's a forward thinker,” he said of the new owner. “So, she's been helping us for a long time.”

Mickel bought out his business partner, Bill Elberson, in 2015 when the latter decided to retire, although Elberson still remains at the business as an associate broker.

The two became business partners in 1990, three years after Elberson convinced Mickel to join the company.

Mickel chose Northway over Tongass Realty Inc., which his father, Earl, had owned up until 1982. The elder Mickel retired to Pennsylvania.

Guy Mickel, however, didn't start out in real estate. He started as a carpenter, working for his uncle. While on a job, a scaffolding broke, he injured a disc in his back, and it became evident after two months of recovery that he wouldn't be able to return to carpentry.

“When I was released to go back to work,” he continued, “I made it half a day and I was back in the emergency room. So that's when I got a home study course (for a real estate license) …

“I had to fly to Juneau to take the (real estate) test,” he said, noting that back then a prospective agent had to wait six weeks for test results.

While he waited, he continued to work for his uncle. They had a house project on Second Avenue. Mickel had it ready for concrete to be poured at 10 a.m. one day. Those were the days when concrete had to be carried in five-pound buckets.

“The concrete truck was coming at 12:30 or something. … So (my uncle) said to take a long break and be back … at noon. So I went out to the Ward Cove Post Office, and (I get this notice) in the mail and it says: 'You passed.' So I came back and showed my uncle. I said: 'I quit.' He said: 'No, you don't quit until after'” the concrete pour.

Mickel left after the pour and joined Elberson at Northway in a Dock Street location in downtown Ketchikan in 1987.

The business later re-located to the Tongass Avenue address currently occupied by Optimum Fitness near the Tongass and Jackson Street intersection.

Next, Mickel acquired a piece of property at the corner of Jackson and First Avenue and built a Northway building in 1993. In 1995 Northway became a Remax franchise.

Through the franchise, Elberson and Mickel received expertise on new technology for the real estate business, parting with a paper volume of listings and adopting computers and the internet, and eventually presenting the first real estate website in Ketchikan.

Mickel moved into semi-retirement earlier this year and will continue in the business as an associate broker, continuing to do “the fun part that I really enjoy. … helping people get into a house.”

Upon acquiring the business, Pearson said she decided to forgo the inches-thick Remax franchise agreement.

She acknowledged she had spent sufficient time in the business to feel confident without it.

Pearson moved to Ketchikan in 2000 when her ex-husband wanted to fulfill a dream of living in Alaska.

“He said 'if you let me move to Alaska, you can pick between Cordova and Ketchikan,'” Pearson said. “So we got on the computer … (finding that) Cordova didn't have baseball, so we picked Ketchikan.

“The first call we made was to Remax. The second we made was to Bob Norton to see about baseball,” she recalled. She ushered three sons through baseball here.

It was at the baseball field that Mickel, who had a son playing, as well, came to know Pearson. Through that acquaintance, he asked her to apply for employment at Remax. She joined the business in 2000 as the secretary and, about five years later, had acquired her realtor's license.

Pearson remarked about the changes in the business with the advent of the newer technology that came about as the internet expanded. Prospective customers often come to Legacy with the house they want to see already scoped out from a distance.

Many “people have already been on the internet and found a house” by the time they contact an agent, Pearson said. “They've driven by it 47 times. And they are calling because now they're ready to look at the house.”

It might not be the house they buy, she added, but they don't depend on an agent as much to find a house.

Plus, much of the communication between buyers and agents is through emails and text messages, she said, adding that customers email and text at all hours. They want immediate answers.

Pearson said she intends to build on the foundation that Elberson and Mickel have laid for the business through the past few decades.

“It's what kept me with Remax” all this time, she said. “It's a great, great foundation.

“I decided a long time ago that if I didn't work for (this company), I wouldn't sell real estate in Ketchikan.”

Elberson and his wife, Laurie, moved to Ketchikan in 1973. They had been eeking out a living at the Cashmere Valley Record newspaper in Washington state, where they had one employee.

Elberson returned to the office one day to find the employee had left the business' keys on his typewriter with a note saying: “I quit.”

Also on the typewriter sat an envelope from Lew Williams Jr., asking Elberson whether he would be interested in an advertising department sales position at the Ketchikan Daily News. Williams had seen a resume Elberson had composed a couple years earlier when he worked at the Walla Walla Bulletin.

The Elbersons moved to Ketchikan and the Daily News, where Bill worked until he moved into a real estate career in 1978.

Jack Seabolt founded Northway Realty in 1970. Bud Elliot and his wife, Rose, bought it in 1971. Sixteen years later, Elberson, who had worked for the Elliots, bought the business and carried on the Northway Realty, Inc. name for the next approximately 40 years.

While Elberson and Mickel will continue in local real estate with offices at the mall, Pearson will be the one calling the shots.

She said she intends to leave the company staff as it is.

She added that she has a supportive team in agent Jerry Demmert, and agent and business manager Joy Murphy. And, of course, Mickel and Elberson continue to assist customers.

“It's always been about people here first,” Pearson said, with Mickel and Elberson nodding in agreement.

Whether it is customers or accommodating co-workers to be available for family and family events, they agreed it is always about working well with each other and customers.

“Family always comes first,” Pearson said, noting that Legacy in itself is a family that deals honestly and helpfully with its customers.