Shelly Tretter Lynch lights up the great room at the Indian Harbor Yacht Club on an overcast, late autumn day.
Her smile, sparkling eyes and warm demeanor disarm you.
But it’s more than her manner that has carried her to the top ranks of real estate professionals nationwide.
It’s discretion, honesty and innovation – not just mere words but rather the standard by which she abides. It has helped propel and sustain her career for 25 years.
Lynch is considered one of the top brokers with Sotheby’s International Realty in Greenwich as well as in the U.S. (She was among the top 50 agents in the nation for dollar volume in 2007 as noted by The Wall Street Journal.)
A gracious hostess, she politely asks if I had been at this stately Greenwich Harbor club before. No, I reply. She asks the maitre d’ to seat us by a window in the dining room so I can take in the sailboats plying the gray waters.
In a conversation over golden sole served on a bed of orzo and spinach, Tretter Lynch speaks softly and soothingly with no hint of braggadocio as she recounts the mostly highs of working in the financially rarefied, intensely competitive Greenwich real estate market.
The Darien native attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where she thought communications would be her future. Then a stint writing ads at radio station “B100” made her think about a career in advertising. But she found advertising cutthroat and decided to pursue real estate. Her father, Gene Simms, was a commercial developer who created condominium complexes in New York City, Westchester County and Florida. She initially entered the development end of the business in the late ’80s, but the market changed dramatically due to the economy. So she decided on selling residential real estate.
She obtained a great amount of knowledge at the firm of Sammis & Chadsey in Greenwich. Jesse Sammis told her, “‘It’s not who you know, it’s what you know. It’s not what you wear, it’s what you know.’ He pounded that into my head,” Tretter Lynch says, along with the many facets and components – law, finance – that make up real estate.
“I worked hard on being innovative. Being in your early 20s in this business, you’re in the minority.” (The average age for a real estate broker today is 57.)
So she had to work harder than everyone else. Tretter Lynch sought out bank-owned properties she might be able to sell. That was no easy task in the pre-computerized world. She went to Greenwich Town Hall and went through the paper files researching land records.
She acknowledges that the entry level to real estate is relatively easy. But to make a career, “that takes a tremendous amount of time and integrity and you learn that early on.”
She prefers working independently, except for her valued assistant, Anne Franscioni. At the Sotheby’s Global Networking Event (offices in 53 countries) in Miami in September, Tretter Lynch was asked by another real estate agent what her total sales were so far this year. She replied $80 million. The woman asked, “How many people are in your group? You’re looking at her,” Tretter Lynch says with a laugh. (If sales progress as they have, she could end the year at the $90 million mark. (And keep in mind, that’s a lot of trades – not like Manhattan with its high-priced real estate.)
Stirring her cappuccino with a demitasse rock candy stick, Tretter Lynch switches from real estate to talk about some personally fulfilling work with the Greenwich YWCA. This year she was asked to join the executive board of directors of the Y as vice chair of development.
Tretter Lynch can’t say enough about the YWCA’s campaign against domestic violence with counselors available 24/7, emergency housing, crisis intervention and a host of other services.
“The statistics nationally are very high,” she says. “One in every three people are affected by domestic violence.”
She says that while Greenwich is a vibrant community, there’s a lot of stress and a lot of lost business deals that add up to a high-octane environment. Domestic violence is prevalent, but it’s not an issue a lot of people are aware of, she says.
One of the events that she has co-chaired to raise money for a safe house for victims of domestic violence as well as preventative programs is The Persimmon Ball, a black-tie dinner dance that 600 people attended earlier this year. In addition to anti-domestic violence programs, the money raised is used for YWCA scholarships, seminars and subsidies for various programs not covered by dues.
In addition to The Persimmon Ball, Tretter Lynch has been a co-chair of the Old Bags Luncheon, which also raises funds for the YWCA’s domestic violence programs. Founded in 1961 in Palm Beach, the Old Bags concept was adopted by the Greenwich Y in 2006. It has been a sellout ever since, Tretter Lynch says. Designer bags, whether new from the manufacturers or gently used and donated by individuals, are auctioned off at a luncheon at the Belle Haven Club.
Listening to Tretter Lynch about her nonstop days, you wonder when she rests.
Short answer: She doesn’t.
A few years ago, Tretter Lynch put the finishing touches on a deal in Greenwich while in Africa with her sister, Holly Simms, who was on a medical mission there.
Sometimes working hard can land you not only a deal but a life partner.
A senior managing director of Credit Suisse was moving from London to Greenwich and was in need of a home. Five years later, Ralph Lynch and Shelly would be sharing a home and family.
As far as advice, Tretter Lynch says, “I never take anything for granted. Whatever success I’ve had… you’re only as good as your last deal.”