Photo by Stefan Radtke
Since founding Westchester Choice Realty in 2008, Barry Kramer and John Crittenden’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing. And they have their office number forwarded to their home. “We have had clients call at three in the morning,” Kramer says. They didn’t pick up.
Both their co-op and office are in the same building, on Garth Road in Eastchester. “There used to be the mom-and-pop stores with the apartments upstairs,” says Kramer. “Ours is pop-and-pop.” The couple got married last year after 19 years together; they were the first same-sex couple to file for a marriage license in Eastchester.
Kramer, 56, and Crittenden, 50, met in 1992 at the now-defunct White Plains gay bar Stutz Bar. While neither worked in real estate at the time, both became full-time real estate agents—Kramer in 1997, and Crittenden in 2002—and went to work as a team for the same Scarsdale agency. When they wanted more business than the agency could allow, they jumped ship to start Westchester Choice. Today they have 15 agents, three support staff, and the couple had more co-op sales in Westchester than all other agents every year since 2006.
“The reason we’ve been successful is we have a niche,” Crittenden says. That niche is selling co-ops, most of which are on Garth Road, though they are working to expand as the real estate market rebounds. Crittenden and Kramer are members of The National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals and of Out Professionals, Westchester’s gay networking association. They cater to Westchester’s gay community, “but that’s a very small part of our business,” Crittenden says. “If we were only serving gay couples, we would not survive.”
They say they don’t often face discrimination. “I’m sure there are people who will not call us, but I like to think most people we work with are very comfortable with us,” Kramer says. “If we weren’t successful, it would be a different story,” Crittenden notes.
Setting up an office together, they admit, caused a bit of a power struggle. “We’re both very Type A,” Kramer says. While they both designed the office, Crittenden, a former contractor, did much of the physical work. As Crittenden was hammering away, Kramer would often offer suggestions: “He’d complain about every little thing.” Still, Kramer says, “We’re not a fighting couple; we’re more of a bickering couple.” He continues: “There are days I’m ready to shoot him and he’s ready to shoot me—but working together can only make our relationship stronger.”