Jay Winer, A.J. Properties

Professional life for Jay Winer started early. His family founded the National Plastic Products Co., which relocated from Baltimore to Odenton in 1943. The company was later known as Nevamar, which was Anne Arundel County’s largest employer at that time. In 1961, the company was sold to the Humble Oil Co., which became Exxon.

In the 1940’s, Winer’s family bought the land that was originally intended to house Nevamar workers and became Piney Orchard. Later Savage Mill was added.

Winer graduated from college in 1969 and founded A.J. Properties in 1983 as he and his family developed Odenton Town Center and worked on other projects. Today, he’s transitioning toward “working less, but staying involved in our business community.”

Will we see positive changes as the world moves out of COVID-19?

I certainly hope so, though it is going to be a difficult and painful time for a while to come. We will all need to embrace creative and flexible solutions for each other. The need for large office space in particular may well be changed forever, given the ability of much of the workforce to work from home. There will be a need to accommodate and nurture new start-up businesses for many workers who became displaced from their jobs due to the pandemic.

How has A.J. Properties worked with tenants since the pandemic shutdown?

Almost all of our tenants and small businesses are hurting. Our team has worked with every tenant individually, first to help with garnering resources and assistance from federal, state, and local loan and grant programs. This helped many receive payroll and rent assistance.

Have you made allowances for your tenants?

We’ve allowed for rent payment according to ability to pay, without penalty. Since every tenant will be able to open and operate on different schedules, we will be establishing individually-tailored payments going forward. We have a unique relationship with our tenants and their long-term success is essential to our own. It’s been appalling to see some landlords be inflexible and threatening if full rent is not collected during the pandemic.

What are your plans for Savage Mill?

We have a vibrant, varied mix of more than 65 tenants at the Mill. The property is a true business incubator for so many types of businesses that help us continue to be a strong destination for visitors. Many of our tenants are now able to operate in some fashion.

Is there an upside to the exit Rams Head Tavern?

The available restaurant space is a fully-renovated, three-level restaurant space, with multiple outdoor dining areas, a completely-outfitted kitchen and dining room equipment, fixtures and furniture in place. We’ve received great interest already and we look forward to an exciting food and bar offering there very soon to add to our other restaurant and bakery offerings at Historic Savage Mill.

What do you think of the progress of Odenton Town Center (OTC)?

We’ve come a long way in the last almost 30 years since the very first serious plans were created for the project. Residential development has brought a sense of community to the area we always hoped for. Unfortunately, during this same time, commercial development took place in surrounding areas and the plan for OTC as a major commercial hub had to be adjusted.

To be the town center that was envisioned and planned, the “core” area still needs services and retail for the local community. For that to occur successfully, the MARC Station parking garages still need to be funded and constructed. Recently, progress appears to be at a standstill.

How are you working with the Anne Arundel County Department of Planning & Zoning?

Permitting and plans processing have been making a valiant effort to get through the work they have to do daily in this challenging time. Previously, however, timely processing of development projects was even slower than the historically slow levels of past years.

After having served as president of the Anne Arundel Community College Foundation board, what are your thoughts?

What a fabulous institution. I served on that board for 12 years and worked with amazing people dedicated to expanding ways to provide scholarship aid for students of all ages who might not otherwise get the chance at that level of education. It was truly rewarding for me to be involved.

Has your son, Adam, moved into management at A.J. Properties?

Adam is director of business development. He’s become involved in every aspect of development, marketing and property management. He is helping to expand our tenant representation business as we deal with so many businesses that are starting up or relocating. He’s expanding the reach and exposure of our company and fits perfectly with our team.

Your older son, Jason, is a director and co-executive producer of the ABC-TV hit Modern Family. What’s he working on now?

Jason has also developed and brought to air, as director and executive producer, many shows such as Single Parents (ABC) and most recently Perfect Harmony (NBC). He recently wrapped up an independent movie called “Ode to Joy”, starring Martin Freeman, that just screened on Showtime. He has his own production company now called Small Dog Picture Company. He loves doing work that “comes from the heart.”

What was the greatest challenge of your career?

This once-in-a-lifetime pandemic is certainly among them because of the sheer scale and impact on every single aspect of our lives and the economy. However, the greatest challenge for me was the real estate “depression” of the early 1990s. Banks pursued owners of buildings irrespective of their ability to pay and were willing to foreclose on properties for less-than-valid reasons. We struggled and fought to maintain ownership of our portfolio and succeeded. Only the strength we gained from that ordeal helped us better handle the impacts of this pandemic.

What has been your greatest success?

My family as well as the family we’ve built within our companies to support each other, stay creative and stay in business all these years. I’m immensely proud of my sons and grandchildren. Longevity is about surviving times like these and to thrive later.

By Mark R. Smith | Senior Writer | The Business Monthly | July 2020 Issue