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Richard’s Almanac: Island realtor selling strong since the ’70s

RICHARD LOMUSCIO PHOTO Georgiana Ketchum, still selling strong after decades in Shelter Island real estate.
Georgiana Ketcham, still selling strong after decades in Shelter Island real estate.

“I just love selling real estate and will keep doing it until I die,” were the words to me from longtime Island broker and octagenarian Georgiana B. Ketcham. She’s been selling real estate on the Island since the ‘70s and is now the owner of “Georgiana B. Ketcham Real Estate” on South Ferry Road.

Georgiana explained that her love of real estate can be traced to when she was very young and was always looking at property with her grandmother “although a very different type of property,” she noted. Her grandmother ran a funeral parlor in Brooklyn and people were always asking to see places where they could be buried. So at three years old she and grandma would traipse around gravesites showing clients the choice spots. “Many people were very fussy about where they were going to be buried,” she added.

She and her husband Jack, a retired Island builder, moved to the Island from Farmingdale in 1968 with their four children.

Prior to their move, they had been coming to the Island for some 10 years looking for property. They liked Shorewood but when they approached Jeanne Garr, Shorewood’s developer, they were told that there was nothing available at the time.

“So she sold us a piece of property near Klenawicus’ Airport and Jack built a spec house there, getting him established on the Island as a builder,” Georgiana said.

The Ketchams spent summers here at King’s Cabins, still looking for property to build their family home. “We were being shown a two-acre parcel on Midway Road but I did not think it was quite right so I asked George Hickey (the real estate broker) if the adjacent meadow was for sale,” she recalled, adding that he said Ruth Wood owned it.

Georgiana said that when they drove into Ruth’s driveway right off 114 and Midway Road, Ruth’s German shepherd greeted them and Ruth told them that the meadow acreage was for sale. So they bought it through Evans Griffing, a real estate broker for whom Ruth worked.

When Jack finished building the house, they settled here.

Soon Jeanne Garr’s real estate office was run by Franklin Hallock. It was in the building where Georgiana’s office is now.

“When I walked in, he was at the typewriter using one finger at a time to copy something,” she said, noting that was the time she told him she was pretty good with the typewriter.

She was in the office when a man came in who was buying a lot. “I told him not to buy it — too swampy. Well, Frank screamed and I thought that was the end of my budding career,” Georgiana explained, adding that the client bought another more suitable piece of land so Frank calmed down.

When Hallock decided to retire, he gave the business to two employees with a $10,000 loan. It was now run by Georgiana and Anne DeStefano. Anne died last year and her husband Bob is now an agent at the office since he retired as GBCC golf pro. The office has 12 agents, all of whom are independent contractors, I learned.

When I asked how long it takes to sell a piece of property, Georgiana told me that “Some houses will take five years while others are sold in a heartbeat.”

Georgiana is probably the longest tenured broker on the Island and her enthusiasm is very evident as I discovered in her office last week.