Amos. Kivel. Long. Each family is a dynasty in the real estate business.
By 1932, each had set up companies in Tucson. Over the years, these first-generation entrepreneurs became well-known throughout the community and have legacies that still thrive through their grandchildren.
“These are three pioneer business families who shaped Tucson as real estate agents, builders and developers. Each company is now in the hands of their third-generation,” said George Larsen, owner of Larsen Baker.
On Feb. 23, the Southern Arizona CCIM Chapter (Certified Commercial Investment Member) honored its “Legends of Real Estate” at Loews Ventana Canyon. Larsen co-hosted the tribute with Jim Marian, principal of Chapman Lindsey Commercial Real Estate.
The Amos family has been involved in Tucson Realty & Trust Company since 1911. The Long Realty Company has roots back to 1926. And the Kivel family is best known as the developers of El Con and Park Place malls.
As Tucson Realty & Trust (TRT) marks its 100th anniversary, George “Hank” Amos III jokes that they have succeeded simply because “grandfather got lucky as one of the first families to come here.”
In 1911, one year before Arizona became a state, three co-owners opened TRT in a converted adobe home downtown. At 17, George Amos Sr. was hired soon after to clean the office and spittoons.
He advanced into rent collections and “led TRT into the insurance business. He sold the first automobile policy in Arizona in 1915,” said Hank.
The origin of the company’s distinct red-target logo is an Arizona Territory legend. One of the owners was a big-time gambler who was gunned down in a card game.
“That’s where our bulls-eye logo came from,” Hank said. “When Target stores came along, they disputed our logo. Look close, we have the real target: one dot, one circle.”
After several mergers, the company was acquired by Consolidated National Bank in the late 1920s. By that time, George was the region’s leading insurance agent and a vice president.
In 1933, the federal government ruled that banks could no longer own real estate companies. For $10,000, George bought half of TRT with a partner and owned it all by 1955.
Over the years, the firm helped develop many Tucson landmarks, including Tucson Country Club, San Clemente Estates, Valley Bank Plaza, Catalina Foothills Estates and Colonia Solana. On the mortgage side, TRT did a $6 million deal with the Kivels to finance the El Con Shopping Center in 1960.
When George died in 1976, his son George “Buddy” Amos Jr. took over. Buddy served as president and Albert Gibson was board chairman.
In 1981, Hank joined the company and became a director in 1986. In 1989, Buddy died and son Hank became the third George Amos to run Tucson Realty. In 1996, Hank bought out all remaining family members and became sole owner. Five years later, the residential division was sold to Long Realty’s corporate parent.
“The most enduring thing about grandfather was that his word was everything,” said Hank.
The Kivel family traces its Tucson roots to 1928, when Simon Kivel arrived for health reasons. By 1932, he had recovered enough to build Tucson’s first supermarket: The Market Spot at Speedway and Park Avenue.
Soon after, younger brother Joseph joined the business. He ran the market’s liquor concession until the two brothers ventured into development. Simon developed the Catalina Shopping Center at Campbell and Grant. Then later with Joe, they developed El Rancho Center at 3360 E. Speedway.
The brothers also owned and operated Korby’s Department Store at 3400 E. Speedway.
“At that time, Speedway and Country Club was out in the suburbs,” said Foster, Joe’s son. “I know Dad really would have appreciated this honor along with Simon.”
In 1951, Simon, Joe and Gus Papanikolas purchased the old El Conquistador Hotel and land along East Broadway. The hotel was torn down, one of the city’s first re-development projects, and El Con Mall was built.
Foster said they really didn’t want to raze the hotel but the consensus was that the site was an eyesore. When it opened in 1960, El Con Mall was a major shopping complex with department stores that heretofore had been downtown.
In the early 1970s, Simon and Joe were developing Park Mall at 5850 E. Broadway, just three miles east of El Con Mall.
Simon died in 1974 and Park Mall was dedicated in 1975, leaving Joe as the sole owner.
Simon’s three sons were Dan, Al and Victor, who continued their family’s real estate interests. Dan and Victor moved to Los Angeles while Al stayed in Tucson. Victor has since passed away.
Joe’s two sons are Foster and Lee. Foster came aboard in the early 1980s and Lee in the early 1990s. Joe died in 1995. Lee became a rabbi and is semi-retired.
The family’s third generation is in the hands of Al’s son Bob and Foster’s daughter Margaret.
They are continuing the Kivel family tradition that has included the development of not only malls and shopping centers, but also restaurants, apartments and hotels.
Like the Amos and Kivel patriarchs, the Long family moved to Tucson in 1920 for health reasons. As a young man, Roy Long Sr. worked for Tucson Realty & Trust.
In 1926, Roy started his own realty company from his home. He focused on selling land and homes on the “far eastside” around Grant Road and Tucson Boulevard.
Among Roy’s many accomplishments, he helped establish Tucson’s first rodeo and combined some “suburban land” for Himmel Park at Speedway and Tucson Boulevard.
“In those early years, he was known around town as Mr. Acreage. To us, they were just Pop and Mimi,” said grandson Russell Long of his grandparents. Russell is a Long Realty third-generation executive.
In the early 1950s, Roy’s sons Bob and Barrington (Barry) took over as he readied for retirement. In 1957, Barry expanded into insurance.
As Barry neared retirement in 1980, he turned the company over to his sons Roy II, Russell and Steve. They added several experienced executives in Robert Piersol, Sam Woods, Lex Sears and Steve Quinlan.
The company thrived and became Tucson’s dominant residential real estate firm. In 1999, Long Realty merged with HomeServices of America, now part of Berkshire Hathaway. Rosey Koberlein is Long Companies current CEO.
“My favorite story about my grandfather was in the late 1920s. He was driving east on Ft. Lowell, which was dirt, towards Craycroft when he saw two geese flying overhead and land in one of those artesian wells,” said Russell. “The only thing around was an old rundown adobe home.”
Roy went to the house and the woman who answered did not speak English. Using awkward flapping arm and hand signals, and acting like a hunter, the two began to “communicate.” The woman smiled, disappeared inside and brought out a gun and two shells.
With those two shells, Roy bagged two geese. He returned the gun and gave the woman one of the birds. She was very gracious, getting food from the odd-acting visitor.
“He took the other goose home for dinner,” Russell laughed.
Tucson Realty’s 100-year legacy was profiled in Inside Tucson Business on Dec. 23, 2011. Read it online at http://www.insidetucsonbusiness.com/news/profiles/george-hank-amos-iii-embraces-the-legacy-of-his-grandfather/article_314ec7f2-2cd9-11e1-9757-0019bb2963f4.html
Contact reporter Roger Yohem at firstname.lastname@example.org or (520) 295-4254.