As yellow cabs whisked by Madison Ave and pedestrians hurried across glistening pavements with umbrellas held high above their heads, we ducked inside the Todd Synder Cafe at our Madison Square flagship to chat with Bryan Atienza.
Tell us about your journey; starting from your upbringing to where you are today. Both of my parents are from the Philippines. They first immigrated to New York, where I was born, then later moved to the suburbs in New Jersey. Growing up biculturally was really hard. My parents ruled with an iron fist. They were very disciplined and very Catholic ( laughs) . Being raised with those values while also being in an environment that exposed me to so much more caused me to struggle.
Was there a defining moment of struggle during those formative years? Yea. I had my first child at 20 years old. And that became a driving point in my life.
How did having a child at such a young age affect your goals? I felt that so many doors were now closed. I had to get a job to support my daughter but I didn’t have a college degree. However, real estate was my saving grace. Having to work solely on commission was super scary but the industry didn’t require years of schooling. I could sell enough property to sustain my livelihood and have the freedom to be a dad.
How’d you get your start in real estate? And how did you become successful at it? This response is kind of funny...I got into real estate because of dancing. My daughter's mother was in the real estate industry when we first met at a dance studio in 2006. When I asked her about real estate, she said, “I don't work a lot and I make a lot of money.” I wondered, ‘How do I do that? How do I feed my art?’ At the time, I was 18, and competing as a ballroom dancer; all the while working various retail jobs that didn’t allow me to travel as often I needed. I realized that I wouldn’t be able to dance forever so I looked at real estate as a viable career option. Working with a popular dance company on Dancing With the Stars led me to jump into real estate working with Million Dollar Listing. That granted me access to a high end clientele in the New York real estate market.
In real estate, would you say that style has a bearing on how you carry out your job? A thousand percent! Putting on a suit and a well-ironed shirt fires me up and gets me into salesman mode. I feel like there was more pressure to look a certain way to sell homes when shows like Million Dollar Listing came out and commercialized the luxury sale industry. Suits got really loud and outlandish. Bright colors, bold stripes and wide lapels.
Did you gravitate toward those wilder styles? Well, I started slicking my hair back! (l aughs). And Robin (of the Kin Room) still makes fun of me because of that. But style wise, I continued to dress in a way that was timeless. I stuck to navy and grey and focused more on the way my suit was fitted. The mindset behind that was, ‘I’m here for business and that’s what I’m about.’ Straight to the point.
You mentioned Robin (Capili) who runs the Kin Room alongside his wife Jaime, here at our flagship store. How long has he been cutting your hair? Since 2012. We were both from Jersey and met through our church community. As he moved from a local barbershop—charging $20 a haircut—to a more elevated experience, I followed. It wasn’t simply about the haircut, there was confidence in the money I was paying. It became less of a question about the cost and more about the value.
And your appreciation for that value brought you here. But I’d like to know what initially made you linger in the store after your haircut? I first came here on my 30th birthday. I hadn’t seen Robin for a haircut in a few months but I knew that he was working on the Kin Room behind the scenes. When I saw the entire space, I thought it was perfect! It’s a full service men shop. A place to shop, to chill, and be educated. The staff was super helpful. On my first visit, I got offered a glass of whiskey and purchased a coat.
With a city as fast paced as NYC, an afternoon whiskey seems apropos.
Are there any other spots in the city that you frequent when you want to wine down? For food, my go-to is this French restaurant right across the street from my apartment called Boucherie. I’ve also been dancing a lot recently; doing about eight to ten hours a week.
Given the weather outside, it’s safe to say that the season’s changing. What says comfort to you in the Fall? A dark pair of jeans, long sleeve shirts and sweaters in basic colors. As well as a cozy peacoat and a rain slicker.
Sounds like the perfect combination. Once again, thank you for taking the time to chat with us!
No, thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.