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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

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Bayside Realty Celebrates Move – From Weathered Wawa To New, Loft-Style Office

By C.M. Mattessich

VILLAS – Broker/owner Cynthia Wand Braswell knows how to make a house into a home, and an old Wawa into an airy new real estate office that serves as a home-away-from-home for a team of agents she considers a “family.”
A year ago, Braswell learned that Wawa was planning to abandon its long-standing Villas store on Bayshore Road in favor of a new super-store nearby.  Braswell, who had operated Bayside Real Estate Agency across the street from the old Wawa for several years, immediately submitted a purchase offer.
“They didn’t negotiate,” Braswell explained.  “It was pretty much ‘take it or leave it.'”
She took it.
When Wawa finally exited its old haunts in October, there was much work to be done.
In fact, it took the past five months to turn the well-worn structure into an airy and bright space, but Braswell was up to the task.  She estimated that she did 70 percent of the work by herself.
“With a sledgehammer and some very good friends,” she added with a laugh.  “And I was here New Years Eve night with a power washer.”
On Sunday, April 2, she finally had the opportunity to relax and watch as hundreds of visitors enjoyed the agency’s grand opening. 
Guests were greeted by a lengthy, cascading rock fountain at the center of the new interior (pictured).  Above the fountain, a wall mural bears what has become a sort of logo for the agency:  a seaside ensemble of colorful umbrella and beach chairs.
The mural and other paintings throughout the building were done by Braswell’s daughter Kandice Braswell, a California artist.
Behind the fountain is a large conference room, and to either side are smartly designed work areas for nine full-time agents,  three part-time agents, and support staff.
While it’s open-floor design all the way, small details abound.  A sign proclaims that “Friends Gather Here”;  a miniature lifeguard boat holds small racks of business cards;  a small bar of driftwood, attached to a wall, supports strings knotted with baby horseshoe crab shells and exotic silver and colored beads.  Those are just a few of many beautifully placed items throughout the new office.
It’s hard to envision hordes of customers waiting impatiently for hoagies and cigarettes in that same space.
Braswell is no stranger to such transformations.  Since age 23, she said, she has renovated and “flipped” a home almost every two years.
 “I’ve flipped houses forever,” she said.  “Well, since 1973,” she added, with the precision apparent in her design elements.
Born in North Carolina, she moved to Cape May County during childhood.  She graduated from Lower Cape May Regional before attending college.
She is unreservedly committed to her market.
“The Villas is going to explode,” Braswell told the Herald.  There and throughout Lower Township, she said, market inventory is “varied” and the pace of transactions “steady.”
According to Braswell, the median price range for two-bedroom single family homes in the Villas currently is around $210,000-$229,000, and those prices offer some special opportunities.
“It’s wonderful to help a new couple get their first home,” Braswell said.  “Or to help people who are getting their first second home, or who want to retire here.”
Braswell was pleased to note that today’s buyers are “very, very seasoned.”
“They know what things are worth.  They’re constantly watching media, keeping up with interest rates and so forth.”
Since 1997, both Braswell and agent James Simcox consistently have placed in the Million Dollar Club or Circle of Excellence.  But that’s not necessarily Braswell’s yardstick for success.
Her management philosophy, she said, is that “we are like a family.”
“It’s not so much about what you produce,” she explained, “it’s about your personality.”
Braswell noted, too, that she makes an effort to accommodate individual needs.  “If a child is sick, I’m comfortable with an agent not coming to work,” she said.  “If a babysitter is out and you’d rather bring the kids to work, fine.”
“But if an agent comes in and upsets our apple cart,” she said, “I don’t care if they are making us millions of dollars, they don’t stay long.”
Braswell noted that she anticipates adding to her staff in upcoming months.  There’s a whole second floor that can be renovated to accommodate them.
“That can wait a little while, of course,” Braswell said, with the look of a woman taking a deep breath for the first time in a long while.
“But it will happen,” she added.  “Once I make up my mind, I just go for it.  That’s how I am about life.”

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