Commercial real estate brokers are interesting animals. Scratch the surface of one and you’ll likely find a multi-talented individual, whose non-real estate experience is brought to bear on closing interesting deals. Take the example of Ray Bishop. He came to the real estate industry later in life, after stints as a Bank of America officer; founder and CFO of several non-profit organizations; CFO of an economic development company; president of an acute care hospital; state film commissioner; Los Angeles County Commissioner for the Office of Small Business; film and television producer; and CFO and principal of Laserium. But it is the 15 years he owned the L.A. Comedy Club and Restaurant that are most relevant to this story, in addition to his current position as vice president at NAI Capital in Encino. This is the story about an odyssey to fill a restaurant space on Ventura Boulevard. About two years ago, Bishop said, he was asked to meet with the owners of the Shanghai Grill, a 2,400-square-foot Chinese restaurant on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana. “It wasn’t doing so well,” said Bishop. “They were unable to find anyone that could help them get it sold so I took a listing on it.” The restaurant had been around a long time and the owners had poured all of their energies into running the restaurant, and not into upkeep and maintenance. Through his vast network of contacts in the entertainment and food business, Bishop learned that the former owner of The Baker restaurant in Woodland Hills, Guy Zaradez, was looking for a new venue after having sold his previous business. Zaradez and his business partner, Itamar Levy, decided Bishop’s listing was just the right spot for a tapas restaurant they decided to call Nona. The deal closed in 2007 and renovation began. “The new owners took everything to the dump, tore out the roof, installed all new equipment,” said Bishop. “They spent over $400,000 remodeling it.” According to Bishop, everything went swimmingly with the opening of Nona and the restaurant was doing well, but after just a couple of months, Zaradez received a letter from an attorney saying that he was violating a non-compete clause in the sale agreement for his Baker restaurant. Bishop said that although Nona was just on the edge of the boundary defined in the agreement, Zaradez wasn’t the kind of guy to argue with lawyers, and he decided the best thing was to just remove himself from the equation. That left his partner, Itamar Levy, and his wife, Debbie, in charge. Unfortunately, the couple had absolutely zero experience running a restaurant (Levy owns a ceramic tile business) and after just a few months on their own they called Bishop and said, “Ray, get us back our money.” Obviously it was too late for that, so Bishop did the next best thing he went out and found someone to buy the business. Within a week he was in escrow, but the purchasers changed their minds after two months, and he agreed to let them out of the contract. The Levys were getting anxious, telling Bishop they were going to just close the restaurant. As a former restaurateur, he knew that a closed restaurant would be much harder to sell, so he counseled them to hang on and redoubled his efforts. A week later, he got the call he was waiting for. The owners of Zankou Chicken, a Valley food legend, were looking to expand into the West Valley (the chain already has locations in Glendale, Burbank, Van Nuys, Pasadena, West L.A., Hollywood and Anaheim.) “They came in, saw the place, and said ‘we want it,'” said Bishop. Escrow opened immediately and an agreement was made to allow Zankou to take possession while they dealt with the transfer of the liquor license. The date on the purchase agreement is July 4, 2008. Yes, they did all of this on a holiday. This allowed a general contractor to come in and do another remodel, adding the famous Zankou chicken and beef open-fire spits. Yes, there will be a Zankou restaurant opening in Tarzana before the end of October, according to Garen Megian of First Realty Group in Glendale who represented the ownership of Zankou in the deal. “It’s similar to the Burbank location but has a much cozier atmosphere,” said Megian. “It’s more of a dinner-type restaurant. But the food is going to be the same.” That’s great news to those of us for whom Zankou’s garlic sauce is an addiction. Count Bishop among them. He lives in Tarzana, not far from the new restaurant, and his mouth is watering already. He’s also working with the company to find more locations so the gospel of Zankou can be spread even further. “They’re very nice people,” said Bishop, “and that makes business so much better, when you have nice people to work with.” It also makes it easier to buy and sell a restaurant when your broker has been in that business himself. Americana Residences Awarded The Residences at the Americana at Brand has been honored as a 2008 Signature Property by the California Apartment Association of Los Angeles. These are the apartments at the new Glendale mixed-use center that opened earlier this year. It was the only project in the San Fernando Valley out of the eight projects chosen for the annual award, said Tara Bannister, executive director of the CAALA. “We always knew it was unanimously going to be elected,” said Banister, “because it is far superior and just one of the most significant projects created in many of the last years.” Out of 100 apartment projects opened within the past 12 months surveyed, 15 finalist properties were inspected by CAALA members. The organization’s board of directors then determined the final eight winners. Staff Reporter Linda Coburn can be reached at (818) 316-3123 or at email@example.com.