Among the childhood memories of cousins Keith Menin and Jared Galbut is a family chore: painting the walls of the old Gale Hotel on Collins Avenue, a 1941 lodging-turned-assisted living facility owned by their extended family.
These days, the walls of that building bear the photographs and mementos of their long-established Miami Beach clan. And Menin and Galbut are no longer applying the paint.
After forming Menin Hotels in 2009 and growing slowly over the past few years, the young cousins are overseeing a rapid, $100 million-plus expansion. Projects include the recent rebirth of the 87-room Gale South Beach & Regent Hotel, the very recent purchase of a bar in the South of Fifth neighborhood, the Asian restaurant theyre developing next to the bar, an expansion of the Gale that will debut next year, development of a 50-suite hotel on Ocean Drive and a planned move into Atlanta.
And those are just the projects they can talk about, for now, with certainty.
Still unknown is whether theyll be successful in their bid to manage the hotel at Miami International Airport for the county a process that is still in its early stages or whether the developers theyve teamed up with on a proposal for a project off Lincoln Road in Miami Beach will get the citys nod.
Despite those question marks, one thing seems clear: With the backing of a powerful extended family and a track record of their own, the homegrown hoteliers are poised to become the areas next big players.
I am just so proud of them, said Russell Galbut, their first cousin once removed, who considers himself more of a father figure. (They, in turn, refer to him as an uncle.) The family forebears, Abraham and Bessie Galbut, first arrived in Miami Beach in 1929 and later bought a corner store with a restaurant, eventually adding an auto tag agency, travel agency and other retail outlets. Russell Galbut, 60, is managing principal of Miami-based Crescent Heights, a national real estate development company that in the past has employed both Menin, 32, and Jared Galbut, 30.
Both have Crescent Heights training, and Crescent Heights training is almost like boot camp, Russell Galbut said. If you can survive Crescent Heights, you can take any job on.
Menin, principal of Menin Hotels, describes the relationship in sports, not military, terms.
Imagine if youre basketball players just starting out and Michael Jordan wants to hang out with you and coach you and teach you, he said. Its hard to not be successful when you have a coach like that.
Other keys to their success, the cousins say, are picking the right projects, focusing on their strengths, moving into new markets methodically and obsessing over data.
Rather than elbowing other hotel companies aside for high-profile acquisitions, they are turning old apartment buildings, empty shells or vacant lots into their next projects.
We dont fight against the big boys for the big properties, Jared Galbut said.
And unlike investors who have had to depend solely on a tight credit market, Menin Hotels has several sources of capital. Galbut said the company is able to generate cash flow from its operations and has established good relationships with banks, which wasnt easy. It also works with development partners and private investors mainly Russell Galbut.