When veteran local real estate man Randy Gularte says “the only thing my family knows is real estate,” you had better believe that’s true.
In fact, you probably can’t drive two blocks in the city of Napa without passing a property the Gularte family has sold, owned or helped someone purchase.
“My dad, Loyd, and my mom, Lovina, got into the real estate business here in 1947,” Gularte recalled.
“Dad was a partner with Harry Stover, and then he started Homefinders with Art Bowen. Dad then he went into business with Al Giavanoni, and the two of them formed Gularte/Giavanoni Real Estate.
His father later started his own company called Gularte Real Estate. In the late 1950s, he started Crown Realty and later became affiliated with Gallery of Homes.
“One of the first things my Dad did was sell sub-divisions,” he said, “And, in fact, my sister still has his first little ‘sales house’ in the backyard of his old house that she owns today.
“Now, it’s a pool house,” he said, chuckling.
“Dad was quite the salesperson, and integrity was very important to him as it is to me today,” said Gularte proudly.
“A lot of people would not list with him because they wanted to fiddle around with disclosures and such, and dad was the type that didn’t go for that.”
As the business grew, the Gulartes found themselves looking to upgrade their offices. Originally, the office was down on Clay Street, then later Gularte bought a place up at 1155 Trancas St.
“Everyone asked Dad why he would want to move to north Napa because then there wasn’t much out there,” Gularte said. “And my dad said it was because that’s where the growth will be.”
He was correct about that.
Today, Gularte’s office is located on a piece of property his parents purchased in 1978, at 780 Trancas St.
The Gularte business has changed with the times and has been through several versions and names, allied with various companies and brands.
“In 1992, we joined ReMax and it was called ReMax Napa Valley, and we were with them for 15 years. Then I joined Sotheby’s in 2007,” where he remains an agent today. “Eventually I split my two corporations, so now we have a sales side and Crown Realty Property Management, which is our property management side.”
Today, he is president of Heritage Sotheby’s International Realty.
As a young man, Gularte had not yet acquired the passion for real estate he would carry for the rest of his life.
“At Napa High School, I was not a great student, but I had a blast and it was a fun time,” he said. “Even so, I was sure every college would want Randy Gularte. So I applied everywhere and got denied everywhere, so I went to the JC here.”
“The first year I still struggled, but the second year all of a sudden the light bulb went on,” he said, “It hit me that if I really wanted to be something in life, I was going to have to start studying.”
He got his first real estate license while still a sophomore, and after graduation was accepted at Sacramento State for his junior year.
“They had a good real estate program there and I started studying real hard knowing that the whole thing was real estate, real estate, real estate,” he recalled.
“Then right out of college with my B.S. degree and minor in real estate, I immediately went for my broker’s license and started full time with my dad in 1976, and my whole career has been in Napa ever since,” Gularte said.
Times have changed a lot since then, he said, illustrating the point with one of his favorite stories.
“In 1976, when I would show property to people from out of town, I would put them in the back seat, drive up Silverado Trail to St. Helena, cut across the valley and come back down the highway to Napa,” he said. “And that was the tour of the valley.
“On one of these drives in 1976, I had one of the San Francisco radio stations on as a background and all of a sudden I hear that two Napa wines win a Gold Medal at the Judgment of Paris wine competition, which changed the view of Napa Valley wines forever,” he said. “Across from Stag’s Leap, all I saw were prune orchards. You could buy them for around $25 an acre back then — had we only known.”
“I love to tell that story because it just shows how young we are in this valley as far as our wine industry goes. We don’t have that huge history that France, Italy and Spain have.”
In 1985, he and his wife bought the company from his parents.
“My goal was to retire when I was 35 and here I am 63,” he said. “Over the years, I found out is it’s not the retirement that you shoot for, it’s success and everyone has a different definition. If you love what you are doing, and still have the passion, that’s success.
“I’ve enjoyed every day, well, most days anyway,” he said, laughing. “I never thought about doing anything else. “
And he’s brought a new generation into the business as well.
“My oldest, Danielle, is now in charge of our property management company,” he said. “When she was in middle school, she took one of those aptitude tests to determine what she was going to do when she grew up. When my wife Crystal picked her up from school that day, she was crying because the test said she was going to be a property manager some day. She did not want to do what her dad did! Lo and behold, what is my daughter doing today?
“She has the same drive that I have, she has the same desire to get things done and do them right,” Gularte said.
Gularte said he bought the company when his dad was 63, “which is my age now,” he said. “So would I sell the company to my daughter right now? No way, because I still want to work. I wonder if my dad was that way. But he let me buy the company anyway because he knew that was what I really wanted.”
Even though many in the real estate business work 24/7 and their hours are never their own, Gularte realized 25 years ago that working 24/7 was not a good thing. So he made a deal with my family that he would be home for dinner at 5:30 or 6 o’clock and then if I had to go back out, he would.
“As time went on I was able to explain to my clients that there is a balance of life, and when you balance everything is better in life. I tell my clients now that I work from 8 to 6:30, and I don’t work weekends. If you explain to your clients right up front this is how you work, most clients will understand and accept it,” Gularte said.
A lifetime in the business has given Gularte a lot of status in the local real estate world. “I’m kind of the go-to guy in town for people developing sub-divisions, and I have probably done 60-70 projects like that over the years,” he said.
“When I look at all the properties in the area my family has been involved in, I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, But I still have the passion. I would like to stay in the business another 5-10 years if I can keep my health.”
It wouldn’t be wise to bet against him.